Torwood Castle stands about two miles north-east of the town of Denny. To reach it you take a minor road that turns off the A9 in the village of Torwood, which you then follow for a third of a mile before encountering a track on your left signposted as a public right of way to Denovan.
When we first visited in 2015, it was possible to park in an open area a hundred yards along this track. A visit in 2018 found locked gates blocking access to what had been the parking area. It is possible to leave your car beside the road near the start of the track: and it also seems the norm to park on the road opposite the start of the track. As you make your way the half mile or so along the track to Torwood Castle, it is worth looking out on you right, opposite the disused parking area, for the start of the path to Tappoch Broch.
Your first sight of Torwood Castle is from the north and if the sun is shining this means you will be presented with an imposing silhouette of what appears to be a remarkably complete and well preserved castle. When David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross visited during the research for their definitive guide to castles, published in 1892, the castle was known as "Torwoodhead Castle". It isn't clear when the name subsequently changed, but today it seems to be known only as Torwood Castle. (Continues below image...)
It doesn't appear so as you walk up the track, but the landscape that opens out around the castle reveals a surprisingly exposed location. As you near the castle, a number of things become clear. The first is just how much if it still seems to be standing. The main range extends roughly east-west and is on the far side of the castle as you approach. At its western end a stair tower turns it into an L-shaped building. The rough path approaching the castle leads you into a courtyard defined by a significant length of substantial wall on your right, still home to fireplaces showing that there would once have been additional buildings standing against it.
In the south-east corner of the courtyard stands what must once have been part of a significant building. There are signs that someone has excavated this area in relatively recent times, but no real clues left as to the purpose of this structure: it is tempting to speculate that the castle's gatehouse, guarding the entrance into the courtyard, might once have stood here. The castle well is said to be hereabouts, but we could find no sign of it. Piles of stone rubble in the courtyard suggest that when the castle fell into disuse someone took the trouble to ensure that no stone was removed from the site or from the building, which would explain why so much of it remains standing.
The castle's only entrance stands in the angle between the main range and the north tower of the castle. Access to the interior is prevented by a securely locked metal door and by metal grids over the lower floor windows.
It is a shame that the interior was not accessible when we visited, because to judge from the account of David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross it has some unusual features. Most strikingly, it has two spiral staircases. One occupies the narrow turret in the angle between the main range and the north tower, while the other is just a wall's width away, occupying most of the north tower itself and offering a much broader and grander approach for visitors making their way up to the great hall which occupied most of the first floor of the main range. Presumably servants used the narrower staircase to service the hall from the kitchen and cellars below; and residents used it to reach accommodation in the castle's second floor. We are grateful to Alan Forgie and to Susan Forgie, who provided us with interior photographs of the castle, some of which can be seen on this page.
According to a date stone found in a nearby ditch in 1918, Torwood Castle was built in 1566. It is of architectural interest because it sits at a transitional point in the development of castles into mansions, and as a result has features of both. The courtyard was originally enclosed by ranges of buildings on all three sides, and traces of a kitchen garden have been found to the south of the main range. Nothing of this is evident today, and presumably the oblong water-filled pit that with the eye of faith could almost be part of a moat is actually an unfilled excavation trench that was dug to explore the garden.
The area was a possession of the Foresters of Garden, hereditary keepers of the nearby Royal Forest of Torwood (which provided handy hunting for the residents of Stirling Castle, just six miles to the north). After Sir Duncan Forrester was killed at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547 the estate passed to the Baillies of Castlecary, who apparently build Torwood Castle here. It later returned to the Forrester family, and details of the castle's falling out of use are unclear.
If you are visiting the castle it is worth making the detour to Torwood Blue Pool, a mysterious shaft filled with improbably blue water that serves as a reminder of the area's coal mining history.
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Grid Ref: NS 836 844
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Torwood Castle In Fiction
The House With 46 Chimneys by Ken Lussey (10 November 2020).
Life changes dramatically for Kaleb, Jude and Sequoia when they move to live with their aunt in a rural corner
of central Scotland. It’s the beginning of April 2020, the early days of the coronavirus lockdown.
This adventure novel for young adults is set in central Scotland and the children visit Torwood Castle.