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Scottish Castles: Towers of Power

The castles of Scotland are tangible evidence of the country’s evolution from violent feudalism towards a more settled and centralised nation state. David C. Weinczok explores a land of hill forts, towerhouses and châteaux. 

Edinburgh Castle from the west

Not a single aspect of medieval society escaped the shadows cast by Scotland’s castle walls and the schemes unfolding within them. Scotland is a land of castles, with more than 1,500 still standing. Ranging from mostly vanished mounds to fully restored keeps, a survey of these structures holds tremendous potential to reveal the formative forces behind Scottish, as well as British and European, history and politics.

A castle is a fortified dwelling that functions as both a domestic and martial structure to a satisfactory, if not exactly equal, measure and is therefore a product of the feudal world. If it bristles with guns but cannot work as a day-to-day residence for a lord and his household, then it is a fortress. Structures leaning too heavily towards the domestic side of the scales can be thought of as a bit like the wealthiest house on the modern block, sporting a gated entry and security alarm; it will deter and possibly prevent the mischief of a casual intruder, but it would barely inconvenience a SWAT team. 

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