If you haven't been to Doune Castle, you might still be strangely familiar with it, depending on your taste in film and TV. A popular filming location over the years, Doune Castle has featured in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Game of Thrones and Outlander - to name a few.
In this famous British comedy film we see a parody of the legends of King Arthur. Filmed on location in Scotland, in 1974, the film producers had gained permission from the National Trust for Scotland to film scenes at various castles around Scotland. They had also gained permission from Lord Moray to film at Doune Castle.
Unfortunately the National Trust later withdrew their permission, which left the producers with little time to find new filming locations, however they managed to improvise. They still had permission to use Doune Castle so they used different parts of the building to depict various fictional castles in the film.
Game of Thrones
When Game of Thrones producers were looking for locations to film the famous Winterfell they came across Doune Castle and fell in love. Much more than just the seat of the ruler of The North from Game of Thrones, Doune Castle is a real fortress located in central Scotland near the Stirling district. The castle brings in more than 25,000 visitors every year.
Doune Castle's most recent appearance is in the Outlander series, where it features as Castle Leoch - home to the MacKenzie clan in the 18th century. If you take a trip to Castle Doune, as an Outlander fan, you can walk the halls of the royal residence and picture the grand banquets that were once held here both fictional and historical.
Now we've heard of Doune Castle's fictional history, let's take a look at the real thing.
With a long history of fortification, there is a roman fort nearby. There are also parts of the present castle that are evidence of an earlier castle that once stood there. Built as the home of the 1st Duke of Albany (Robert Stewart), 'Scotland's uncrowned king', his rich tastes can be seen clearly in the architecture of the medieval courtyard castle. Albany was often described as a 'big spender'. No expense was spared on Doune and even in its ruined state, the castle inspires awe in visitors today. Making a show of one's wealth and status was vital to maintain authority and good governance in Albany's age. Doune was fitting accommodation for a man of royal blood in 14th-century Scotland.
The younger brother of Robbert III, Albany became govenor and the effective ruler of the kingdom due to his brother being politically weak and physically infirm after an injury. For all, but two years Albany effectively ruled until his death in 1420. when the future king James I was taken prisoner in England in 1406, Albany was left as both governor and Guardian of Scotland.
Despite its residents, Castle Doune only officially became a royal castle after the death of Albany and his son Murdoch. Although the castle provided secure lodgings, it had a reputation for being neither as well organised or comfortable as Edinburgh or Sterling Castle. These days there is the sense that there may have been more castle than is obvious. Whether this is the case or it was that the castle was never finished is up for debate. Appearing to be missing something, the castle doesn't have south and west ranges of buildings. The 'tusks' on the kitchen tower and impressive windows in the south wall are telling signs that either the two ranges were planned and not completed or did in fact exist at one stage, but were later taken down and left very little trace. When James VI left Castle Doune for London, in 1603, the castles role as royal retreat came to an end
There are historical records that show just how great a number of Lords and Ladies came to be residents at Castle Doune, which would support the case for the castle not being as big as it once was. There has been architectural analysis and archaeological excavation at Doune, which suggests there were earlier stages of fortification. There is also an ill-fitting kitchen and odd shaped courtyard which suggest there is a lot more to be discovered at Doune.