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The Many Lives Of Mugdock

Once the ancient stronghold for the powerful Graham family, then a
country residence for merchants and historians, Mugdock Castle has now
been embraced by Hollywood.


As I stand below the looming remains of 14th-century Mugdock Castle, strands of history become oddly intertwined -- the record of centuries laced with personal reminiscence.

Situated outside Milngavie, a small town northwest of Glasgow, Mugdock Castle was once a stronghold for the powerful Graham family...its more recent neighbouring mansions are country residences for the wealthy...while, over the past century, it has overlooked Second World War anti-aircraft batteries and even a zoo. And that's where I come in, having grown up in Milngavie (pronounced "mull-guy"), visited the short-lived zoo as a toddler and romped through these ruinous grounds as an inquisitive youngster.

Most recently, however, the castle and its surrounding 600-acre country park have gained international exposure as the site of a bloody battle in the Netflix historical blockbuster, The Outlaw King.

Perhaps, though, we should deal with the real history before we get on to the Hollywood version. Perched on a rocky rise that falls away steeply to what is today a small loch on its east and marshland to the north, the castle is first recorded in an agreement over land ownership between Sir Patrick Graham and Angus Hawinroyss, written on a vellum document and signed at Mugdock in 1372.

The castle was a forbidding fortification with four massive corner towers connected by a high masonry wall and with a portcullis gate on its south side. It was naturally defended on three sides by the loch -- much larger then than it is today. Only the South West Tower remains, though still a commanding edifice, flanked by walls sporting gun loops and enclosing the remains of a courtyard and outbuildings.

In its heyday as a fortress for the Grahams, the castle contained a courtroom and a jail from which summary justice would sometimes be dealt on the nearby Gallow Hill.

The full text of this article is available in the Spring 2019 issue of Scottish Life.

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Main photo © Iain McLean/Scottish Viewpoint; small photos © Mugdock Country Park