Guidebooks by W. Douglas Simpson


1959 (6th impress. 1969)

W. Douglas Simpson (1896–1968) prepared a series of Ministry guidebook for sites in State Guardianship. He was lecturer in British History at the University of Aberdeen (by 1924), and then He served as Librarian and Registrar for the University of Aberdeen from 1926 through to 1966. He served as Chair of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland. He was awarded OBE (1954) and CBE (1962).

In 1959 Simpson prepared Scottish Castles: An Introduction to the Castles of Scotland (HMSO, 1959). In the Foreword he wrote: ‘Those who read this little book will come to realise that, small and poor as it has always been, Scotland yet possesses a distinctive castellated architecture, and one of which any nation might be proud’. There are eight sections:

  • The earliest castles
  • Castles of enceinte
  • The early tower houses
  • Bastard feudalism and the later castles
  • The later tower houses
  • The royal palaces
  • Firearms and the later “House of Fence”
  • The Scottish baronial style

Portrait here.

Several of the castles and abbeys he studied were located around Aberdeen: Tolquhon Castle (1948), Huntly Castle (1954), Kildrummy and Glenbuchat (1957); the Abbey of Deer (1952).

Kirkcudbrightshire: Threave Castle (1948)

Angus: Edzell Castle (1952); Restenneth Priory (1952)

Isle of Bute: Rothesay Castle (1952)

Midlothian: Craigmillar (1954), Crichton (1957)

East Lothian: Hailes Castle

Inverness-shire: Urquhart (1964); Beauly Priory (1954)

Roxburghshire: Hermitage (1957)

Lanarkshire: Bothwell Castle (1958)

Orkney: Kirkwall (1965)

The guidebook for Dunstaffnage (1981) contains his draft.



He also prepared (with V. Gordon Childe) the Illustrated Guide to Ancient Monuments … vol 6: Scotland (1954).

He prepared one guidebook for the National Trust for Scotland: Craigievar Castle, the rock of Mar (1966) (NTS). This castle is located to the west of Aberdeen.

Simpson also prepared two guidebooks for castles in England: Brough Castle, Cumbria (1949; repr. 1969) (now English Heritage); Bodiam Castle (1965) for the National Trust.


Hall, A. (2004, September 23). Simpson, William Douglas (1896–1968), archaeologist and historian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Retrieved 5 Aug. 2018, from


Threave Castle: the visitor experience


The ferry to Threave Castle © David Gill

Heritage sites need to be understood in their wider setting. And the visitor experience for those making their way to Threave Castle includes a walk along the river and then a ferry across to the island (included in the entrance fee).


Peregrine near Threave Castle © David Gill

Peregrine falcons have been nesting in the castle, and HES staff were more than helpful in pointing out a female perching in a tree on the far bank.


Ospreys on the Threave Estate © David Gill

The Threave estate (NTS) also has an osprey viewing platform.


Threave Castle © David Gill

The ferryman helpfully pointed out a possible archaeological feature emerging from the waters due to the drought conditions. Is this a geological feature or perhaps traces of a ford across the river?


Threave Castle © David Gill

The NTS and HES teams work together to make this a highly rewarding site.

Leading Visitor Attractions 2017: National Trust for Scotland


Glenfinnan © David Gill

The details of the Leading Visitor Attractions for 2017 are now available.  The National Trust for Scotland locations are:

  • Glenfinnan [81]: 396,448 [+57.8%]
  • Culzean Castle & Country Park [124]: 244,930 [+11.6%]
  • Inverewe Gardens [139]: 191,951 [+109.6%]
  • Culloden [145]: 180,875 [+27.6%]
  • Burns Birthplace Museum [155]: 164,316 [+1.2%]
  • Crathes Castle [171]: 121,841 [+23.7%]
  • Bannockburn [201]: 55,347 [+7.9%]
  • Falkland Palace [205]: 50,726 [+15.1%]
  • Drum Castle [208]: 46,574 [-3%]
  • Brodick Castle & Country Park [210]: 44,361 [-38.1%]
  • Pitmedden Garden [212]: 43,045 [+17.9%]
  • Hill House [220]: 28,518 [+6.2%]
  • Gladstones Land [235]: 12,061 [-44.7%]

There are two notable changes: Glenfinnan has rocketed to the top of the NTS list, and Inverewe has risen from no. 181. Inverewe’s popularity is probably its situation on the designated Scottish coastal drive NC500.


Culloden © David Gill

NTS figures for:

#HeritageDay17 Glenfinnan


Glenfinnan © David Gill

The Glenfinnan Monument, in the care of the National Trust for Scotland, marks the point where Prince Charles Edward Stewart landed in 1745. The column was erected in 1815


Glenfinnan © David Gill

Leading Visitor Attractions 2016: National Trust for Scotland


Brodick Castle © David Gill

The numbers for Leading Visitor Attractions in the UK are now available. They include properties in the care of the National Trust for Scotland.

The properties are:

  • no. 133: Culzean Castle & Country Park, 209,710
  • no. 157: Burns Birthplace Museum, 140,528
  • no. 159: Culloden, 139,691
  • no. 181: Inverewe Gardens, 91,576
  • no. 209: Drum Castle, 47,037
  • no. 211: Bannockburn, 45,757
  • no. 213: Falkland Palace, 41,390
  • no. 217: Pitmedden Garden, 33,095
  • no. 233: Brodick Castle and Country Park, 27,896
  • no. 224: Hill House, 26,857
  • no. 230: Gladstones Land, 21,807

Significant increases were seen by Burns Birthplace Museum, Culloden, Inverewe Gardens, Drum Castle, Pitmedden Garden, and Gladstones Land.


Culloden © David Gill

Burns Night 2017


Alloway © David Gill

The Burns Birthplace Museum is managed by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). The visitor centre at Alloway is linked to the cottage via the Poet’s Path.

Burns Night is celebrated on Wednesday 25 January 2017.

The path to Threave Castle


Threave Castle © David Gill

Threave Castle, in the care of Historic Scotland (HES), lies in the National Trust for Scotland Threave Estate. It was subjected to flooding as a result of ‘Storm Desmond’. The path through the estate is clearly marked by Ministry signs directing visitors to the ferry.


Threave Castle © David Gill

The castle lies on an island in the middle of the river Dee and is reached by the official ferry.


Threave Castle © David Gill


Threave Castle © David Gill