Evidence suggesting the presence of a 17th century drawbridge at Brodick Castle has been unearthed.

The discovery was uncovered by the National Trust for Scotland during a conservation work programme at the popular visitor attraction.

The blocked vertical slots above the entrance to the castle's battery were found during repointing work, believed to be the location for the chains used in the operation of a drawbridge.

Derek Alexander, head of archaeology at the National Trust for Scotland, said: "We’re excited to share the discovery of the drawbridge holes at Brodick Castle that were found during conservation work to the castle’s exterior last year.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald: Further confirmation of the drawbridge was discovered in the Arran castle’s documented accounts,

"The amazing piece of history was revealed while repointing the castle’s walls, where close inspection by buildings archaeology specialist, Tom Addyman, noticed the two vertical slots had been packed out with smaller fragments of stone once the drawbridge was no longer in use.

"Hidden by a layer of cement, these slots were only revealed when the joints were cleared of loose material in preparation for re-pointing with lime mortar.

“Standing on the scaffolding we noticed one slot and then another, each measuring about 50cm high by 5cm wide.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

"Looking down the wall face it was apparent they were located immediately above the main door into the battery. And then the penny dropped, or should we say, the drawbridge!

"It also explains why there is a stepped recess, around two metres wide and roughly 20cm deep, in the wall face – which the drawbridge would have been raised into to sit flush with the rest of the wall.

"After further investigation and research, we were able to establish that the holes would’ve been used to hold the chains that raised and lowered a drawbridge to protect the main entrance to the castle."

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

Further confirmation of the drawbridge was discovered in the Arran castle’s documented accounts, where an entry recorded the purchase and transportation of timbers from Irvine in 1608.

The timbers are believed to have been used for constructing the defensive structure.

Mr Alexander added: "Our records show the purchase of timbers from the mainland in the early 1600s that reinforces the theory of the presence of a drawbridge, but we’d always wondered where this would have been located.

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

"It’s not every day that you find physical evidence of a previously unknown 17th century drawbridge."

Mr Addyman, buildings archaeology specialist, said: “The slots were most likely to have functioned as ‘rainures’ which is the technical term for the apertures through which chains would’ve been passed to enable the lowering and raising of a timber drawbridge.

"This conclusion was reinforced by the form of the eastern slot, which had a down-sloping base.”

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

Ian McLelland, regional director for South and West for the National Trust for Scotland, said: "The drawbridge at Brodick Castle is a fascinating discovery and we’re excited to share this with visitors when the castle reopens for the new season."

The battery at Brodick was added to protect the main medieval access into the castle and designed to provide a platform for muskets and small artillery pieces.

It was traditionally called the ‘Cromwellian battery’ suggesting a 1650s date, although there are now indications that there were earlier structures at this location.

The door through the battery was used as the main entrance into the castle, probably until Gillespie Graham’s re-modelling of the building in the 1840s, when the main entrance was moved to the south-western end (where visitors now enter).

Ardrossan and Saltcoats Herald:

It is thought that the drawbridge was replaced before this time, with a simple timber doorway and a short flight of steps built against the wall.

The programme of conservation work to Brodick’s exterior in 2023 is nearing completion with some minor internal repairs still ongoing.

Works included repairs to the external stone walls, the castle’s roof and windows.

Find out more about the castle's story at nts.org.uk/visit/places/brodick-castle.