Scottish Grail castle ?
Is there any chance that
the famed Grail castle is not in France, but instead is located in Scotland?
If one follows the Arthurian tradition, rather than the traditions of
the Grail, that is apparently where one ends up.
Grail. A story dating from the 12th and early 13th century, a story
which continues to inspire Mankind… and pushes fictional heroes
such as Indiana Jones on a Grail quest. The Grail, the centre of the
“Grail castle”, guarded by mythical knights whom many believe
are similar to the Knights Templar. But where is the castle –
and what is the Grail? Many locations have been put forward, including
the Grail in Glastonbury, in the English county of Somerset, whereas
others opt for the French stronghold of Montsegur.
Grail is a mixture of English and French symbolism – the former
to do with King Arthur and his Round Table and his knights, the latter
with Perceval and the Fisher King and the knights protecting the Grail.
Both themes might seem similar, but they are not. Above all, they have
different origins, mixed together in the pot of the 12th and 13th century,
when both countries became one – and the literary traditions mixed
For the English stories, we know that the accounts come from Geoffrey
of Monmouth, who wrote a history of the kings of Britain. Geoffrey wrote
his book in 1138, several decades before Chrétien de Troyes was
the first person in France who began to write on the subject of the
Grail. Geoffrey wrote a history of Britain – and not England,
as so many have since come to believe. If anything, the history of Arthur
is more Welsh – which at the time was not even typically Welsh,
but included portions of Scotland. The Gododdin, the Celtic tribe that
first spoke of Arthur, was Scottish in nature, but expelled from their
home countries, to live in Wales – where the story of Arthur was
a story of a glorious time gone by, of their homeland now lost.
the Arthurian tradition, we have the knights who protect “les
pors de Galvoie”, the gates or ports of Galvoie. Galvoie is the
old name for Galloway, the “port” into Scotland for travellers
come from the West. The area is now known as Dumfries and Galloway and
sits on the southern-western of Scotland, a peninsula on the northern
side of the Solway Firth. Could this be the area of the Arthurian traditions,
as written down by Geoffrey? Is there more supporting evidence?
There is. Arthur had two residences: one, his capital, which was the
famous Camelot. The other was Cardoeil. Until 1157, after the time of
Geoffrey, the capital of Scotland was Carlisle, which was named Cardeol
and later Carduil – reminiscent of Arthur’s second residence.
Carlisle sits furthermore on the “gateway” to Dumfries and
There are some
other hints that might hint at further Scottish connections. Mons Dolerous
of the legends is identical to the name of Melrose Abbey, which was
known as Mons Dolorosus when it was founded in 1136. There is also a
Castellum Puellarum, which according to Robert de Boron was Caerlaverock
Castle, situated in Dumfries and Galloway, sitting next to the Solway
Firth. This castle therefore guards the “ports” or “entrances”
to Dumfries and Galloway. Coincidence, or design? Other references are
to one Roche de Cangiun, which one researcher, R.L.Grame Ritchie, also
refers to Caerlaverock. In 1952, he even went so far as to conclude
that Caerlaverock was the mythical birthplace of Arthur. We would not
dare to go that far, but still, it is clear that this part of Scotland
seems to have played an important role in the Arthurian tradition –
which later was mixed into the Grail legends – and have since
become difficult to distinguish from each other… unfortunately.
Caerlaverock be the Grail castle? Perhaps. The earliest attempts to
build a castle date from the 13th century, when the Maxwell family received
the territory from the Scottish king. The original castle was soon traded
in for another one, constructed only some dozens of yards further. That
castle – still visible and visited by many – was built on
rocks, and thus gave adequate protection against the sea. Over the centuries,
the distance between the castle and the sea has grown and grown, but
originally, the waters of the Solway Firth reached until the foot of
The castle dates from ca. 1270 – and are thus obviously a later
design than the stories of Geoffrey – indicating that it is quite
unlikely that this castle was indeed an important castle in the Arthurian
tradition… but though the individual castle might not fit, it
suggests that the general Scottish territory is indeed correct. But
that is another story…
article originally appeared in Frontier Magazine 8.2 (March-April
2002) and was adapted & abridged.