Cardoness Castle

Visiting Cardoness Castle

Cardoness Castle is a beautifully restored tower in Gatehouse of Fleet overlooking the water. It contains a pit prison, climbable tower, fireplaces, windows, and storage cabinets. Nowadays, it’s a listed Historic Environment Scotland site and open to the public in the summer. 


There is free parking on-site near the castle entrance


Members of Historic Environment Scotland and Explorer Pass holders - Free 

Adults: £6.00

Children (5- 15 years old) - £3.60

Children under five years old - Free

Concession (People 60+ years old or unemployed with verification) - £4.80


Cardoness Castle is open daily from 1 April to 30 September, 9:30 am to 5:30 pm

Location and Access

Cardoness Castle is located at Gatehouse of Fleet, Castle Douglas DG7 2EH, United Kingdom. 

The Castle is one mile southwest of Gatehouse of Fleet, accessible on A75. 

Know Before You Go

  • Cardoness Castle is accessible, with a level car park, wheelchair-accessible facilities, and Blue Badge parking spots. 
  • The Castle is on top of a steep hill, so take care when you visit. 
  • Dogs are allowed on-site but not in any of the buildings. They must be kept on a leash at all times. 
  • There are facilities at the visitor centre near the castle entrance. 
  • There is a gift shop at the visitor centre. 

Places To Stay Nearby

The Ship Inn

0.7 miles (1.13 km) northeast of the Castle in the heart of Gatehouse of Fleet, visit the Ship Inn, a 4-star hotel with a long history. The Ship Inn has been in service since 1794, but you would hardly believe it with its modern, clean accommodations.

The Inn offers complimentary wifi and breakfast. They also have a restaurant and bar on the first storey of the Inn, and they offer room service. So, you won’t go hungry here! 

If you want to bring your furry friends on holiday, stay here! The Ship Inn allows pets for a small extra charge.


Cally Palace Hotel

The Cally Palace Hotel, only 0.6 miles (1 km) from Cardoness Castle, is the place to stay if you want luxury. Their estate, an 18th-century country mansion, is stunning, and they often host special events like weddings and parties. They offer an 18-hole golf course, pool, hot tub, spa, full-service laundry, and fitness centre. So, you won’t be missing anything here. 

The Cally palace also has an excellent restaurant and bar, so don’t miss their great food while you are here!


Woodlyn Guest House

Woodlyn Guest House is a clean, lovely, and cosy Bed and Breakfast in the Gatehouse of Fleet, and it’s just 1 mile (1.6 km) away from the Castle. They offer complimentary wifi, parking, tea and coffee, and a lovely free English or Irish breakfast. 

They also have en-suite facilities supplied with toiletries for your comfort. When you want to get out and enjoy the day, walk just a few metres to the nearby tennis courts and golf course or wander around the beautiful town of Gatehouse of Fleet.


History of Castle Cardoness

The history of Cardoness Castle dates back to the 12th century, when the original motte and bailey was built on the site. This 15th-century tower house known today is believed by historians to have originally been built by the noble and infamous McCulloch family.

Time Line

1165 (First Recorded Mention of Cardoness Estate)

King Malcolm IV gave Cardoness Estate to a man named David Fitz Teri. David Fitz Teri was a lord of Denton in Cumberland. He built a motte and bailey (a keep on top of a mound) in Boreland, several meters from the later site of Cardoness Castle. 

1220 (The Territory Passes to the Kerdenes family)

David Fitz’s son-in-law, Nicholas de Kerdenes (later spelt Nicholas Cardoness), went to Dundrennan Abbey to petition to inherit the motte and bailey constructed in Boreland. Eventually, the pope voted in favour of Kerdenes, granting the territory to the family. 

1466-1499 (Construction of Cardoness Castle by the McCulloch Family)

By 1466, the Cardoness Estate belonged to Gilbert McCulloch. According to legend, Gilbert gained the territory through marriage after the last Cardoness laird drowned himself and the rest of his family, except for one daughter, in the nearby loch.

Historians and archaeologists are still unsure when Cardoness castle was built. Still, they believe that Gilbert or his son James ordered its construction. In addition, based on the architectural features original to the tower, it can be securely dated to the second half of the 15th century. 


James McCulloch died, leaving the Castle to his son Ninian. Now, the McCulloch family was renowned for their lawlessness and harshness. 

Since the recent construction of the elaborate 9-storey Castle put the family in debt, Ninian joined a band of thieves who stole from neighbouring lands. At one point in 1505, he even stole more than 1500 farm animals from his neighbours. 


Ninian died, leaving the Castle to his young son Thomas and his ward, Alexander “Sandy” McCulloch. Alexander was a close friend of James IV, but he was just as reckless as his forebears. He frequently robbed his neighbours but was pardoned twice by King James. 


Thomas McCulloch died, leaving the Cardoness Estate to his brother, Alexander. According to Historic Environment Scotland, Alexander was known as the ‘Cutlar McCulloch.’ Alexander led a ruthless attack on the Isle of Man in the 1530s. He terrorised the people of the Island, and eventually, the inhabitants began to use the prayer:

“Keep me, my good corn, and my sheep and bullocks

From Satan, from Sin, and those thievish McCullochs.”


During border tension Between Scotland and England, the English crown sent a spy to Cardoness Castle to live with the McCullochs. 

1628 (Castle is sold to John Gordon)

William McCulloch was in debt, and he had to mortgage Cardoness Castle. John Gordon, a neighbour of the Castle with whom the McCullouchs often feuded, bought the Castle, but he never lived there. 

1668 (Godfrey McCulloch leads an Attack on the Castle)

The McCullough family led an attack on the Castle and regained it. John Gordon was shot in the conflict by Godfrey McCulloch. Then, Godfrey took Gordon’s wife from her sickbed and threw her into a dung heap. Due to the disgrace of his behaviour, Godfrey immediately fled Scotland. 


Godfrey was discovered in a church. He was tried for his crimes and promptly killed. Interestingly, he was one of the last people to be executed on “the Maiden,” an early form of a guillotine. After that, the Castle lay abandoned for many years and passed from owner to owner. 

1927 (Cardoness Castle Becomes a Heritage Site)

After 230 years of abandonment, the owner of the castle, Lady Maxwell, gave the court to the Ministry of Works. The Ministry conducted many restoration projects for the Castle, and eventually, it became a popular tourist site. 

Cardoness Castle Occupants

15th Century Residents

  • 1420-1468: Gilbert McCulloch
  • 1445-1500: James McCulloch

16th Century Residents

  • 1470-1509: Ninian McCulloch
  • d. 1516: Thomas McCulloch
  • d. 1513: Alexander “Sandy” McCulloch
  • 1440-1532: Alexander McCulloch “The Cutlar McCulloch”

17th Century Residents

  • 1640-1697: Godfrey McCulloch

Images of Cardoness Castle

Cardoness Castle Cardoness Castle
Cardoness Castle Cardoness Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Cardoness Castle Facts

  • The Pit Prison in the Castle is one of the best-preserved examples that still stands today. 
  • From atop the tower, you can see the Solway of Firth’s head and the Waters of Fleet. 

Cardoness Castle Q & A

Is the Castle Accessible for People with Disabilities? 

Parts of the Castle are accessible, such as the car park and the visitor centre. Still, the court is dark, uneven and features a narrow spiral staircase that leads to the dungeon. The Castle grounds are primarily grassy, and they are set on a steep hill. 

How Did Cardoness Castle Originally Look? 

Originally boasting nine storeys, service accommodations, and many more walls, the court must have been a superb sight to see in its heyday. The Castle is much smaller and shorter nowadays. Now, you can visit the dungeons, the main floor, which once housed the main banquet hall, and a small portion of the first floor, which held chambers for the Castle’s lairds

Location of Cardoness Castle

Situated about a mile southwest of Gatehouse of Fleet proper, the Castle stands atop a steep hill overlooking the Waters of Fleet and the Solway of Firth. To the East, the mountains paint the horizon in shades of blue and green. 

The Castle is only about a metre from A75, so you can’t miss it. 

Other Places To Visit Near Cardoness Castle

The Mill on the Fleet

Back in the 18th century, Gatehouse of Fleet was a booming industrial town. To learn more about the city and its history, visit the Mill on the Fleet, 0.9 miles (1.4 km) north of the Castle on High Street.

The Mill on the Fleet is a cotton mill constructed in 1795. Featuring a superb museum, valley tours, and field tours, this is a must-see attraction if you are interested in understanding how the Gatehouse of Fleet got to where it is today. 

They also have exhibitions from upcoming artists, music events, craft fairies, and an excellent cafe, so this is the perfect place for a relaxed visit after touring the castle grounds. Afterwards, take a stroll around town for some shopping. 

Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns

Take a trip back in history and visit Cairn Holy Chambered Cairns 4.6 miles (7.4 km) from the Castle. Erected in the 5000s BCE, this neolithic funerary monument is unforgettable. Supposedly, the tomb houses the mythical king of Scotland, Galdus. Take a stroll around the prehistoric monument and enjoy the lovely Scottish countryside that surrounds it.