The Castle at Broughty Ferry attracts many visitors throughout the year. Gallons of ice-cream are eaten along its grassy banks and summer holidays are incomplete without gazing out from its ramparts in the hope a Dolphin is performing just for you. Who though, I wonder, knows more about it's chequered past?
“It standeth in such sort at the mouth of the river Tay, that being gotten, both Dundee and St. John's Town (Perth), and many other towns else shall become subject to this hold or be compelled to forego their use of the river” (William Patten)
Built in 1496 it was a mere 50 years later it was surrendered by ransom to the English by the owner Lord Gray of Foulis. The English garrison, fearing the feisty locals, further fortified the castle by building a ditch across the landward side and 100 men were left guarded by three ships. Commander of the garrison Andrew Dudley was clearly unimpressed with his forces writing in October 1547 that; "never had a man had so weak a company of soldiers given to drinking, eating and slothfulness," although, "the house stands well."
The town of Dundee agreed to support the garrison and resist the Governor of Scotland under the glare of the English gunships. The Earl of Argyle tried to capture the castle on 22 November 1547 and again in January 1548 with 150 men led by the soldier Duncan Dundas, without success. On Christmas Day 1549, Mary of Guise (mother of Mary Queen of Scots) held a conference at Stirling Castle with her guests, and they agreed that more French guns could be brought to besiege Broughty. Twelve English ships arrived to support the defenders and it was the 12th of February 1550 before the French and Scots managed to recapture Broughty. Mary of Guise watched the successful assault on Wednesday 6th February 1550 from a vantage point across the Tay. Paul de Thermes led the French troops, 240 were injured and 50 killed. The battered garrison surrendered six days later at midnight.
The castle was attacked again, in 1651, by General Monck and his Parliamentary army during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. On this occasion the Royalist defenders fled without a fight. After 1666, when the Gray family sold the castle, it gradually fell into ruin.
In 1846 the castle was bought by the Edinburgh and Northern Railway Company in order to build an adjacent harbour for their railway ferry. Ten years later the castle was acquired by the War Office with the intention of using it to defend the harbour from the Russians and renewed fears of a French invasion led the War Office to rebuild and fortify the site. The castle remained in military use until 1932, and again between 1939 and 1949. The last defence-related alteration was made in the Second World War when a defence post was built within the top of the main tower.
In 1969 the castle opened as the current museum operated by Dundee city council. It now houses a fascinating display on the life and times of Broughty Ferry, its people, the environment and the wildlife that lives close by. Highly recommended for a day out.