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Sir John de Graham Castle is a fine example of a relatively rare type of medieval earthwork - the square motte.

The site is thought to have been the residence of Sir John de Graham, who was killed at the battle of Falkirk in 1298 - however, the castle itself may be of earlier date, probably the principal stronghold of the Barony of Dundaff (on record in 1237).

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Instead of heaping up an artificial mound, a natural knoll was chosen and defended by a broad flat-bottomed ditch, 11 metres in width overall and up to 3 metres in depth. The ditch is continuous and access to the castle must have been via a wooden drawbridge on the north east side. The central platform is almost square and measures about 23 metres in length. To the north east  of the ditch there are traces of a lime-mortared wall and fragments of banks, all suggesting ancillary buildings or enclosures.

Early earthwork castles

Many earthwork castles were built during the 12th and 13th centuries as mounds with ditches or water-filled moats (often described as mottes). These were built in different styles, some using existing glacial knolls. The slope, the shape and the defining ditch are key elements in helping identify these as defensive features. They would once have been topped by a timber or even stone fort and are often found in association with an outer enclosure (the bailey).

These castles were built to defend the focus of a feudal estate. Both earlier and later earthen defended enclosures also survive and can take many varied forms, including moated homesteads, ring works and block works.

Visiting Sir John de Graham Castle

The exact location of Sir John de Graham Castle is grid reference NS 681 858.

Travel along the B818 Denny to Fintry road for nine miles. At the west end of Carron Valley Reservoir, turn north onto the single track road. The entrance to the site is the first turning on the right, about a quarter of a mile up the road.

All sites managed by Forestry and Land Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.

Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.

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