brendabtaylor Uncategorized Castles, Part 2

Castles, Part 2

Historical Heartbeats is featuring part two of the blog on Castles. The chiefs of Clan Munro in the Highland Treasures series made their home in Fàrdach Castle. Fàrdach was of the typical motte and bailey type castle with the keep being the residence of the chief and his family. Guards and the luchd-taighe (chief’s household men and body guards) resided in the inner bailey’s barracks. Smaller outer buildings housing support personnel and their shops were located in the outer bailey with the village of Drumainn close by.

The villagers and castle personnel worked the chief’s estate, paid him rent in the form of food and clothing, and supplied all the necessities to maintain his lifestyle. The chief was expected to protect his clansmen from invading maurders and reivers. He entertained lavishly and fed his people in times of need from the castle storerooms. The chief and his family were the celebraties of the day. The clansmen held him in high esteem and discussed his comings and goings in great detail. The Munro chiefs in the Highland Treasures series were mighty warriors, capable of governing well, and worthy of their clan’s fealty (loyalty).


Castle’s Keep and Bailey


Bailey and Enceinte

A bailey, also called a ward, was a fortified enclosure. It was a common feature of castles, and most had at least one. The keep on top of the motte was the domicile of the lord in charge of the castle and a bastion of last defense, while the bailey was the home of the rest of the lord’s household and gave them protection. The barracks for the garrison, stables, workshops, and storage facilities were often found in the bailey. Water was supplied by a well or cistern. Over time the focus of high status accommodation shifted from the keep to the bailey; this resulted in the creation of another bailey that separated the high status buildings – such as the lord’s chambers and the chapel – from the everyday structures such as the workshops and barracks.

From the late 12th century there was a trend for knights to move out of the small houses they had previously occupied within the bailey to live in fortified houses in the countryside. Although often associated with the motte-and-bailey type of castle, baileys could also be found as independent defensive structures. These simple fortifications were called ring works. The enceinte was the castle’s main defensive enclosure, and the terms “bailey” and “enceinte” are linked. A castle could have several baileys but only one enceinte. Castles with no keep, which relied on their outer defenses for protection, are sometimes called enceinte castles; these were the earliest form of castles, before the keep was introduced in the 10th century.


A Castle’s Keep


The Keep

A keep was a great tower and usually the most strongly defended point of a castle before the introduction of concentric defense. “Keep” was not a term used in the medieval period – the term was applied from the 16th century onwards – instead “donjon” was used to refer to great towers, or turris in Latin. In motte-and-bailey castles, the keep sat atop the motte.”Dungeon” is a corrupted form of “donjon” and means a dark, unwelcoming prison. Often the strongest part of a castle and a last place of refuge if the outer defenses fell, the keep became the residence by the lord who owned the castle, or his guests or representatives. At first this was used only in England, when after the Norman Conquest of 1066 the “conquerors lived for a long time in a constant state of alert”. The Lord’s wife presided over a separate residence (domus, aula or mansio in Latin) close to the keep, and the donjon was a barracks and headquarters. Gradually, the two functions merged into the same building, and the highest residential stories had large windows. The massive internal spaces seen in many surviving donjons can be misleading. They would have been divided into several rooms by light partitions, as in a modern office building. Even in some large castles the great hall was separated only by a partition from the laird’s “chamber”, his bedroom and to some extent his office.


Castle’s Curtain Wall


Curtain Wall

Curtain walls were defensive walls enclosing a bailey. They had to be high enough to make scaling the walls with ladders difficult and thick enough to withstand bombardment from siege engines which, from the 15th century onwards, included gunpowder artillery. A typical wall could be 10 ft thick and 39 ft tall, although sizes varied greatly between castles. To protect them from undermining, curtain walls were sometimes given a stone skirt around their bases. Walkways along the tops of the curtain walls allowed defenders to rain missiles on enemies below, and battlements gave them further protection. Curtain walls were studded with towers to allow enfilading fire along the wall. Arrowslits in the walls did not become common in Europe until the 13th century, for fear that they might compromise the wall’s strength.



Aine MacLean is forced into an arranged marriage with Sir William, Chief of Clan Munro, yet her heart belongs to a handsome young warrior in her father’s guard. She must leave Durant Castle, the home of her birth on the Isle of Mull, and travel across Scotland in a perilous journey to her husband’s home on Cromarty Firth. William agrees to a year and day of handfasting, giving Aine an opportunity to accept him and his clan. He promises her the protection of Clan Munro, however, Aine experiences kidnapping, pirates, and almost loses her life in the River Moriston. She doubts the sincerity of William’s promises and decides to return to Durant Castle when the handfasting ends. William determines to win Aine’s heart. Will the brave knight triumph in his fight for the bonnie lass?


A Highland Emerald is the third book in the award-winning Highland Treasures series. The novel tells the story of Aine MacLean and William Munro and is the prequel to A Highland Pearl.



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