Doune Castle is traditionally accepted as a late 14th century construction, attributed to Robert Stewart, Duke of Albany. However, during a casual assessment of the building’s fabric, a number of anomalous features were noted, some of which were comparable to 13th century remains at Brodick Castle on Arran and placing doubt on the accepted date of the castle’s construction In particular the presence of chronologically distinctive fish-tailed arrow-slits, some of crosslet form, and differences in stone material and tooling at notable construction breaks were recognised. A detailed phase of standing building recording as commissioned by Historic Scotland pinpointed further evidence that may point to Doune Castle being of late 13th or early 14th century date.
In order to further examine the physical existence for a pre-existing 13th century castle, and how its layout influenced the structure of the later 14th and 15th centuries, a small scale archaeological excavation was completed. This involved detailed discussions with Historic Scotland in order to secure Scheduled Monument Consent and permission to open the trenches.
The excavation concentrated on the possible site of the suspected second gatehouse tower, against the exterior of the eastern and western curtain walls and within the courtyard against the south side of the kitchen tower. Direct structural below-ground evidence of 13th century date remained hard to pinpoint within the limited trenches, but features proved sufficiently tantalising to warrant further investigation of larger areas. 13th century pottery from around the gatehouse however, seemed to support the strong case for occupation pre-dating the late 14th century.