Cadzow, in the High Parks of Hamilton, is one of the most spectacular castles in Lowland Scotland yet one of the most enigmatic – so enigmatic that its original name is lost to us. Teetering on the sheer cliffs above the River Avon far below, for most of the last two hundred years the landscaped ruins have been shrouded in trees. The Dukes of Hamilton amplified this air of romantic mystery to create a sublime Gothick ruin as a counterpoint to the pure classicism of Hamilton Palace and their nearby lodge at Chatelherault.
With the demise of the Palace in the 20th century, the ruins of the castle, now in the care of Historic Scotland, stand as a testament to the ambitions of the mighty Hamilton family in the 16th century. Excavations from 2000 to 2003 were aimed at unravelling the mysteries of the site, to inform a major programme of conservation. This revealed the complexity of its fortifications as well as its turbulent history, while providing glimpses of a once lavish residence, with tiled floors emblazoned with heraldry, and painted plaster interiors.
Cadzow’s part in the power politics of 16th century Scotland can now be better understood – a world of courtly pursuits and vicious factional conflicts, of high art and military power, of lordly ambition and high treason.
Thanks to its association with one of the most powerful families in Scotland, the history of this innovative and spectacular castle is interwoven with the lives of great men and great events.