Once forming part of a formidably aggressive coastline of Dundee, Castle Rock was a huge rocky outcrop, situated roughly where Castle Street and St Paul’s Cathedral are in the city today. With a plummeting 90-foot drop down to the rocky shore below on the river side, and a considerably steep incline on the land side, Castle Rock was perfect for defensive purposes, and became the site of Dundee Castle. Unfortunately, not much is known about Dundee Castle, but it is believed to have once been a place of extremely high importance in ancient Scotland.
What is documented, however, is that during the end of the 1200’s and start of the 1300’s, during the First Scottish War of Independence (1296 – 1328), Dundee Castle had been besieged and held by enemy forces 9 times. It seemed that Castle Rock’s naturally defensive potion was a double-edged sword, proving problematic for our soldiers when trying to recapture the fortress from enemy possession. Eventually, the castle was ordered destroyed in 1313 by command of the Bruce’s (Robert and Edward).
Over time, Castle Rock’s landscape changed, both due to nature and man, with man dealing the final blow for the majestic if not terrifyingly imposing landmark when, under Provost Riddoch’s orders, Castle Rock was blasted away using gunpowder (dynamite had not yet been invented), and a new thoroughfare was built, Castle Street. You can not only see signs on Castle Street referring to the area as Castle Hill, but you can see a plaque of the old street layout as well as a host of other interesting historical references and plaques up and down the length of the street.
Many believe the rock on which Dundee castle once stood is long gone… but parts of it remain and can be seen behind a hidden doorway in a public building, and in the basements of some stores in the area. The castle itself would not have been a castle of stone as we would expect, but more along the lines of a wooden fort, with perimeter fencing and a host of smaller buildings and space for livestock. The only representation of Dundee castle and its position can be found in a diorama in the cap room of the Old Steeple.