For over 400 years, from around 1220 up to the castle's last siege in 1640, the powerful Maxwell lords held sway from the mighty castle.
The name Caerlaverock means 'fort of the skylark' and derives from the British word caer 'fort', from the Latin castra and the Old English laewerce 'lark'. In the mid-12th century, when Dumfriesshire and Cumberland were under one ruler, David I of Scotland, Radulph son of Dunegal, lord of Strath Nith, granted lands to the monks. After the death of King David, Sir John de Maccuswell (Maxwell) came into play.
Caerlaverock has not one, but two medieval castles. The older of the two was built by the Maxwell's soon after they arrived in the region in the 1220's. Archaeologists believe the first castle had been built too close to the salt marsh of the Solway Firth and became unstable and prone to flooding.
The second castle was quite different from its predecessor. It was triangular in plan and its shape is as a shield.