There’s a ruined castle just south of the town of Ayr that is perched on an outcrop overlooking the sea, behind it is a housing scheme. What remains of the 16th century tower of Greenan Castle is a point of focus for locals and tourists who enjoy walking along the beach. A place to sit and take in the view of the islands of Arran and Ailsa Craig (on a good day).
The building has a past. Mainly a bit of roasting alive, and a series of treacherous feuds that lead to murder and execution, but in the late 1980s a new role in history was proposed.
A news item reported that the earthworks around Greenan Castle closely matched a description of a fortress in Arthurian legend. The story continued that the term camelot referred to whichever place the king would be in residence, and so the idea was put forward that Greenan was a camelot. It had a claim to be part of the story of Arthur.
The report disappeared in the normal news cycle, but it showed again that there is still an ongoing movement to link the legend with real places. Attempts to establish connections that will ultimately solve the mystery of the person who comes closest to resembling the hero of ancient times.
Traditionally, much of the lore is firmly rooted between England and Wales, but in recent years there has been an increasing amount of theories and connections with Scotland.
In 2011, archaeologists examined the ground below the King’s Knot, a feature of the formal gardens at Stirling Castle. They found evidence of a much older round structure that lies beneath the surface. Claims have been made since the 14th century that the round table was located at Stirling.
Different opinions exist on who a Scottish King Arthur might have been. As recently as 2021, the historian Damian Bullen wrote that it was a Pictish King in Aberdeenshire who was the real King Arthur. This was based on his research of the Welsh manuscript, Trioedd Ynys Prydein (Triads of the Island of Britain).
Around the same time, historical author Niall Robertson wrote a piece for The National newspaper. He pointed out the strong connections between Pictish leaders such as King Lot, and Gareth, Earl of Orkney who were also associated with the Arthurian story.
The Pictish connections might not end there. In 2012, excavations at the ancient hillfort known as Trusty’s Hill near Gatehouse-of-Fleet discovered that it may have been a place for royal inaugurations. Uncovering evidence of feasting, high-status metalworking, and a ceremonial processional route. What is unusual is that the entry to the hillfort is marked by a carved Pictish stone, far from the recognised borders of Pictish territory.
Trusty’s Hill is also situated close to the territories of the Rheged. The famed tribe, led by Urien, who was one of the legendary characters of the tales of Arthur to have a place in the history books. Lot and Urien may have been brothers. If this is the case, does it also mean that Trusty’s Hill could claim to be a camelot?
... If you share an interest in my attempts at myth-making, then I’ve listed some links below to help you discover more about these interesting places.