Doune Castle (2)
In ancient times, Scotland was ruled on behalf of the king, by his Mormaers. The Scottish word Mormaer has the exact same meaning as earl or count, but eventually the word Mormaer dropped out of usage. The early earls were powerful men, whose earldoms were semi-autonomous (and frequently fully-autonomous) regions. The earls were frequently more powerful than the king and from time to time, earls became kings - Macbeth, Robert Bruce and Robert II for example.
The oldest earldoms in Scotland, and traditionally the most important, were those of Mar, Buchan, Athol, Angus, Fife, Strathern, Monteith, Lennox, Dunbar and arguably Ross. The fact that all these names remain as regional or county names to this day, hints at their original importance. All of these titles, along with the Bruce family earldom of Carrick, had been created by the year 1200. It is interesting to note that over the next 500 years (up until the union with England), more than 170 new Scottish earldoms would be created - often for no better reason than that the recipient was a royal favourite!
Doune, to finally get around to the point of all this, was the 'principal messuage-place' of one of these original earldoms - that of Menteith (or more properly, Monteith). The earls based themselves here from the late 14th century - prior to which, they had used the stronghold on the island of Inch Talla, in the Lake of Menteith.