There’s no castle I’ve visited over the years that possesses a more dramatic presence than Dunnottar.  Located to the south of Aberdeen, Scotland, Dunnottar is dramatically perched on a massive flat topped rock of sheer proportions that end into the crashing sea. The visual effect of its physical presence is definitely an outward representation of its ‘colorful’ history.

Four hundred years after the birth of Christ, St. Ninian established Dunnottar as a religious site for his followers, most likely because of its extremely remote location that exuded peace at the time.  However in the years that followed, Dunnottar was to forfeit this peace, becoming a miniature reflection of Scotland’s turbulent history that included dramas around William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots and the Marquis of Montrose to name a few.

Within this reflection are two events that particularly standout:  Dunnottar as the hiding place for the Scottish Honours (Crown Jewels) when Cromwell’s troops were advancing north of Edinburgh to capture them.  Fortunately Cromwell did not get his hands on the jewels, an outcome that would have secured his place as Scotland’s ruler…how they were hidden and where is a story worthy of a modern day thriller.






Even less honorable was the most inhumane imprisonment of 144 men and women by Charles II’s soldiers in a chamber known as the Whigs Vault.  For ninety days these individuals were deprived of water, food and sanitation because they refused to embrace the King’s promotion of Episcopacy, outlawing their own religion of Protestantism.  Many died from starvation and disease; several fell to their deaths in an effort to escape over the cliffs.  Those who survived the vault were shipped to the west indies…many not making landfall.   These stories a clear contrast between glory and dishonor.

As fascinating as this castle is, getting up to it is not for the faint of heart…the easy part is the parking lot.  From there, it’s a long and steep downward and then upward climb(I didn’t count the steps-it is fortress after all) and that’s before you even get to the castle itself.  Once you do, the stone steps are slippery and narrow through the rabbit warren of chambers up and down(no doubt to accommodate the size 2 feet in those days)…so being relatively fit is helpful…the good news is you won’t need to go to the gym for about 3 weeks…but, all worth the trip!

Photography©gaye f. mack,inc.