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Castle puzzles experts

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By Fiona Reid
Lockerbie and Lochmaben
Castle puzzles experts

‘ONE of the most puzzling of all Scottish castles’. That’s how Lochmaben Castle is described by Historic Environment Scotland (HES) in their Statement of Significance on the site.

The document, which was first published in 2018 and updated last year, outlines the history and development of the property and highlights the key features that make it special.

Now a ruin, it has an illustrious and important past with HES recognising the ‘immense archaeological potential’ of the entire castle complex and the Castle Loch area.

One artefact they believe is buried and yet to be found are the fine machicolated parapets that crowned the castle’s wall heads in the 15th century.

However, overall excavations so far have proved difficult, with HES saying: “ Unfortunately, this whole area had been extensively cleared up in Victorian times, badly degrading the archaeology and making analysis difficult.

And they view the castle as ‘one of the most puzzling castles in Scotland in terms of its building history’, with the south front said to be ‘one of the most intriguing, and puzzling, structures in medieval secular building in Scotland’ with high archaeological potential.

It is a formidable U-shaped forework that was added to the outside of an existing castle to create an impregnable face. Its walls still stand 12m high and were faced in high quality red sandstone ashlar work.

HES believe further excavations could cast light on what they describe as ‘a fascinating historical conundrum’.

Other unique features listed in the report include a dock for vessels that patrolled the loch; and wing walls said to be almost unparalleled in Britain.

The HES statement concludes: “It is difficult for visitors to comprehend the huge size of the castle complex, for the outer ditches are now difficult to make out. The southern platform is heavily overgrown and badly maintained by Historic Scotland, even though it is most probably the only Edwardian Scottish pele to survive. The masonry castle has lost most of its original high quality red sandstone ashlar, and the resulting rubble core renders it almost formless and uninspiring.”

The full statement can be viewed via the HES website.