440 Million years ago, this 3-sided, 160 foot rock, surrounded by the North Sea, was formed.
5000 BC – 700 AD: Evidence of Picts living on the sea stack of Dunnicaer, just north of where the Castle is situated today, has been found by archaeologists from the University of Aberdeen.
Carbon dating shows this to be the oldest Pictish fort ever discovered, in fact the name ‘dun’ is Pictish for ‘fort’.
400 AD: Saint Ninian, an early Christian missionary, establishes a place of worship on the site where the Castle now stands and converts the Picts of Dunnottar to Christianity.
900 AD: King Donald II of Scotland is killed at Dunnottar by an invading Viking force which went on to destroy the buildings here.
1276: William Wishart, Bishop of St Andrews, consecrates a stone chapel at Dunnottar, parts of which remain.
1297: In the first of these struggles, after the invasion of Scotland by English forces, William Wallace attacks an English garrison at Dunnottar, taking it back under Scottish control. Legend has it that Wallace showed no mercy to the soldiers and set fire to the Chapel where they had taken refuge, condemning all inside to a terrible death. Others were driven over the cliff edges, with no survivors.
1336: The Second War of Independence saw English forces seize Dunnottar Castle again in support of Edward Balliol’s bid for the Scottish throne.
1392: Sir William Keith, Great Marischal of Scotland, builds the first stone castle at Dunnottar, now known as The Keep.
1562: Mary Queen of Scots visits the Castle for the first time. Returning two years later and spending two nights there in September 1564.
1593: George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal, continues to add buildings to Dunnottar. A pet lion is brought to the Castle and is housed in what we know as The Lion’s Den. He also founds Marischal College in the City of Aberdeen, the second of Scotland’s post-medieval ‘civic universities’, following the University of Edinburgh.
1645: As civil war develops, James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose marches at the head of Royalist Army to attempt negotiation with the 7th Earl Marischal. The Earl repeatedly refuses and when diplomacy fails, Montrose and his army lays waste to Stonehaven and the barony of Dunnottar.
During the war between Scotland, England and Ireland in the mid-1640s, known as the War of Three Nations, King Charles II is a guest of the 7th Earl Marischal. The young King’s arrival to Scotland prompts an invasion by the Parliamentary Army, led by Oliver Cromwell. Dunnottar Castle plays a vital role in the safekeeping of the Scottish crown jewels, the Honours of Scotland. The Honours of Scotland are on display at Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh.
1685: Over 167 Covenanters and Whigs are imprisoned within a cellar in terrible conditions at Dunnottar for refusing to acknowledge religious reforms imposed by King Charles II.
1715-16: George Keith, 10th Earl Marischal, is a key figure in the failed Jacobite Rising to overthrow King George I. As a result of his service to the Jacobite cause, he forfeits his title and estates, including Dunnottar Castle.
1717: Dunnottar sold- Following the 10th Earl Marischal’s forfeiture of his title and lands and after 400 years of Dunnottar being the seat of Clan Keith, it is sold by the Government to the York Mining Company. Everything of any value was removed including, floors, ceilings and all furniture leaving just a shell.
1919: Lord and Lady Cowdray purchase the Castle and begin an extensive programme of conservation and restoration works, protecting it from further damage and deterioration. The Castle is re-opened to the public following these works. It remains in the same family and open to this day.
2019: The Duke and Duchess of Rothesay, as The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall are known when in Scotland, a tour of the Castle
2022: I tour the castle. And LOVED every minute of it. When I passed back down by the exit, the woman at the ticket counter said she wished she had an audio recording of my response the first time I saw it. Apparently I gasped. Loudly.
For more info: https://www.dunnottarcastle.co.uk/history