During the month of May, Historical Heartbeats is publishing a series of posts on the characteristics of castles. Castles are fasinating structures and the featured residence of clan chiefs in the Highland Treasures series; however, castle terminology in the stories may be foreign to a reader. I visited several intriguing castles and the ruins of others while touring Scotland.

The fortifications became outdated with the development of cannon and artillery warfare. Their walls could be destroyed by the heavy bombardment. However, they still hold a romantic, mysterious element to be included in the settings of historical romance novels.


Edinburgh Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland


Some castles like Edinburgh Castle are still in use, especially as a tourist attraction, or  restored as a family residence and ocassionally opened to the public. The family of the chief of Clan Munro resides in Foulis Castle, Ross-shire, Scotland. The original Foulis Castle was burned during the Jacobite uprising in 1745 AD. Sir Harry Munro began rebuilding the same year. It now has the appearance of a large manor house, but is still considered a castle.


Foulis Castle Front View


Chiefs of a Scottish Highland clan usually made a castle his residence and seat of the clan. Scholars debate the scope of the word castle, but typically consider it to be the private fortified residence of a lord or noble. This is distinct from a palace, which is not fortified; from a fortress, which was not always a residence for nobility; and from a fortified settlement, which was a public defense – though there are many similarities among these types of construction. Usage of the term varied over time and was applied to structures as diverse as hill forts and country houses. Over the approximately 900 years that castles were built, they took on a great many forms with many different features, although some, such as curtain walls and arrow slits, were commonplace.


A winter morning at Dunnottar Castle, Sonehaven, near Aberdeen, North East Scotland


The chief of Clan Munro in the Highland Treasures series resides and governs the clan from Fàrdach Castle. In the stories, the castle was located in Easter Ross, now the county of Ross and Cromarty, Scotland. The clan lands called Fearan Domhnuill (Gaelic) or Ferindonald (English) meansDonald’s Land. Donald was the ancient progenitor of the clan who ventured to Scotland from Ireland to assist King Malcolm in defending his land against the Vikings. The king awarded arable land on the north shore of Cromarty Firth to Donald for his service.


Most castles had common characteristics.


Motte and Bailey Castle


Motte and Moat

A motte was oftenan artificial earthen mound with a flat top, although sometimes it incorporated a pre-existing feature of the landscape. The excavation of earth to make the mound left a ditch around the motte, called a moat (which could be either wet or dry). “Motte” and “moat” derive from the same Old French word, indicating that the features were originally associated and depended on each other for their construction. Although the motte is commonly associated with the bailey to form a motte-and-bailey castle, this was not always the case and there are instances where a motte existed on its own.

“Motte” refers to the mound alone, but it was often surmounted by a fortified structure, such as a keep, and the flat top would be surrounded by a palisade. Common practice was for the motte to be reached over a flying bridge (a bridge over the ditch from the bank of the ditch to the top of the mound). Sometimes a motte covered an older castle or hall, whose rooms became underground storage areas and prisons beneath a new keep.

Fardach Castle, home of Chief Andrew Dubh Munro of A Highland Pearl



A sweet romance blossoms amidst feuding and war. With her reputation at stake after being accused of practicing witchcraft and hated as a member of a rival clan, Maidie considers leaving Clan Munro and returning to the home of her birth in Clan Cameron. Fierce battles, a tragic encounter, and a handsome clan chief compel her to make crucial decisions in this haunting romance set in the 16th century Highlands of Scotland.

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