There has been a fortress here since the fifth century. By the tenth century Arran was under Norse control and Brodick was probably used as a defensive site by the Vikings due to its high position overlooking the Firth of Clyde, until they were driven from Arran following the Battle of Largs in 1263.
The original castle was built in the years following and was protected by a steep slope descending on its seaward side, and a water filled ditch on the landward side. The castle was developed over the years, ending with a stately mansion being added to it in the 1800s.
Brodick Castle has had quite a turbulent history and has survived centuries of conflict, occupation and reoccupation. During the Wars of Independence, it was held by the English until retaken by the Scots in 1307.
Ownership passed through several hands until it came into the possession of the Hamilton family, later the Marquesses and Dukes of Hamilton, in 1503. Lord Hamilton, the Earl of Arran, rebuilt it in the shape of a tower in 1510.
The castle suffered damage during clan battles and then in 1544 by Henry VIII’s forces when the castle was attacked by the English in revenge for the actions of the 2nd Earl who had been heavily involved in arranging the marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to the Dauphin of France. It had been arranged that Mary would marry Henry’s son, Edward, Prince of Wales.
In 1652 Brodick Castle surrendered to the troops of Oliver Cromwell and was used as a barracks by them.
The Hamiltons continued to enlarge and expand the castle, and in 1843 the 11th Duke of Hamilton, William, married Princess Marie of Baden, who was the youngest daughter of the Grand Duke of Baden and Stephanie de Beauharnais, the adopted daughter of Napoleon Bonaparte. In 1844 building work was undertaken at the castle which tripled its size.
The 12th Duke, William, had no male heirs and although the title passed to a distant cousin, the castle was passed to his daughter Mary Louise Douglas Hamilton, who married the Duke of Montrose in 1906. Brodick Castle today very much the family home they created and lived in. Lady Jean Forde gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland in 1958 in lieu of death duties of her mother, the Duchess of Montrose.
Brodick Castle houses a huge art collection amassed by the Hamiltons and considered to be one of the greatest collections of fine and decorative art in Scotland. It has been awarded Recognition status by Museums Galleries Scotland which identifies it as being “Recognised as Nationally Significant to Scotland”.
Parts of the gardens date back to 1710 with further work undertaken in 1814, but the main development of the gardens as they are today date back to when castle became a stately home in 1844.
With the stunning backdrop of Goatfell, the grounds offer woodland walks with fantastic views.
Brodick Castle closed to the public in November 2016 to allow major work to be carried out to protect the castle and its collections, transforming it into a more entertaining visitor experience. It focuses on the lives of those who lived in the castle and the activities that they would have enjoyed there.
The castle is open to the public in the summer and the Country Park is open all year round. It is Britain’s only island Country Park.