Craignethan Castle is a ruined castle in South Lanarkshire, Scotland. It is located above the River Nethan, a tributary of the River Clyde, at NS816464. The castle is two miles west of the village of Crossford, and 4.5 miles north-west of Lanark. Built in the first half of the 16th century, Craignethan is recognised as an excellent early example of a sophisticated artillery fortification, although its defences were never fully tested.
The barony of Draffane, in which Craignethan was located, was a property of the Black Douglases until their forfeiture in 1455. The land was granted to the Hamilton family, and in 1530 was given by James Hamilton, 1st Earl of Arran to his illegitimate son James Hamilton of Finnart.
James Hamilton of Finnart had travelled in Europe, and had become an accomplished architect and military engineer. Appointed Kings Master of Works, he was responsible for the defences at Blackness Castle, as well as the renaissance facades of Linlithgow Palace. At Craignethan, he set out to build a “showcase” to display his talents in both domestic and military architecture.
Despite his earlier Royal favour, Hamilton was executed for treason in 1540, and his properties were forfeit to the crown. The Hamilton family, in the person of the 2nd Earl of Arran, regained Craignethan Castle two years later. The second earl added a large outer courtyard to the west of the castle. Arran, who became Duc de Châtellerault following Mary, Queen of Scots’ marriage to the French Dauphin, served as regent in her infancy. However, he later opposed Mary’s second marriage to Lord Darnley, and was forced to surrender his castles at Craignethan and Cadzow.
The situation was reversed once more following Mary’s abdication, when Arran aided her escape from Loch Leven Castle, and regained his castles. Arran’s son, Lord Claud Hamilton, is said to have entertained Mary at Craignethan on the night before the Battle of Langside in 1568. The battle, at which the Hamiltons fought the forces of Regent Moray, ended in defeat, and Mary was forced to flee to England. Craignethan and Cadzow were surrendered again, Moray came in person to the castle to receive the keys on 15 May 1568. Lord Claud attempted to recover the castle by force in October, and his brother Lord John began to starve out Moray’s soldiers in November. The Hamiltons regained the castle by March.
Feuding continued between the Hamiltons and the opponents of Mary. In 1570, Moray was shot in Linlithgow by James Hamilton of Bothwellhaugh. After an English army assisting in the Marian civil war went to Glasgow in May 1570 the Hamiltons withdrew to Craignethan, and the Earl of Sussex was informed of Craignethan’s defensive shortcomings;
“Draffin, a strong house of the Duke’s, but situate in a hole, so that it is commanded on every part, and has no ordnance.”
In the same month Lord Sempill now a King’s man was captured and imprisoned in the castle.
A treaty was signed between the King and Queen’s parties in 1573, but by 1579 the Hamiltons were outlawed, and Lord Claud fled to France. Levies of troops were raised to capture Craignethan and Cadzow, and both surrendered to government forces in May 1579. Claud’s older brother the 3rd Earl of Arran, who had been confined at Craignethan since 1575, their younger brother David, and mother were captured and taken to Linlithgow. Six soldiers of the Hamilton family who had defended the Hamilton strongholds were taken to stand trial for Moray’s murder at Stirling.
By royal authority, Craignethan was slighted by James Hamilton of Libertoun, this involved the demolition of the north-west tower and the massive west wall, the ‘inner barmkin’, which was tumbled into the ditch, rendering the castle relatively defenceless.
Craignethan was regained by the Hamiltons, but was sold by Duchess Anne in 1659. The new owner, Andrew Hay, a covenanting laird, built himself a two-storey house in the south-west corner of the outer courtyard. In 1730 Craignethan was sold to Archibald Douglas, Duke of Douglas. The property passed to his supposed collateral descendants, the Earls of Home, and the ruins were stabilised by the 12th earl in the late 19th century. The property was given into state care by the 14th Earl in 1949, and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument managed by Historic Scotland.