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Scotcrest Blog

Tulloch Castle, Dingwall – Clan Davidson

tulloch castle clan davidson

Now used as a luxury hotel in the beautiful highland countryside, Tulloch Castle was once the historic home of the influential Davidson Clan.

Constructed around the middle of the 16th century, the castle is believed to have been built in an area previously occupied by a Norse stronghold. It was originally held by the Tulloch family but would pass under the control of the Innes Clan in 1526 and then the Bain family 16 years later.

It would be the Bain family who would construct the modern castle at Tulloch after they received a charter for the lands in 1542. The family would then retain control of the structure for over 200 years until it was sold to Henry Davidson in 1762, the cousin of the previous holder. Davidson would eventually pass the castle to his younger brother, Duncan Davidson, in 1781. Duncan would serve as an MP for Cromatyshire during this time and would cement his family’s association with the castle through his influence over the area.

The Davidsons would hold the traditional stronghold until the beginning of the 20th century as it survived a fire and was then extended in size during their ownership. During the subsequent years, the building would have a number of different owners including Dingwall Academy – who used the building as housing for their students. The lands and houses built within the castle grounds would eventually be sold off during the 1990s and it has been used as a luxury hotel ever since.

Tulloch Castle is also said to be haunted by a ‘Green Lady’ and other ghosts who roam within its walls. This claim was investigated by Grampian Television in 2005 as they explored the castle during the show ‘Beyond Explanation’. The myth was given further publicity when a young photographer apparently took a photograph of a ‘hand’ holding a railing with an apparition floating behind it in 2008.

Take a look at our fantastic range of Scottish Clan Gifts HERE.

Design your own handmade Scottish Clan Plaque HERE.

Kilravock Castle, Croy – Clan Rose

Kilravock castle - clan rose

Pronounced, ‘Kilrock’, Kilravock Castle is located only a stone’s throw away from the banks of the River Nairn and is the historic home of the Scottish Rose Clan.

Now dominating the surrounding landscape with its 5-storey watchtower, the site of the castle would have humble beginnings as it was originally occupied by an ancient church built there in the aftermath of the first wave of Christianity in Scotland during the 6th century A.D.

This church would eventually be replaced by a primitive house which was constructed from a blend of stone and wood – and it is believed that the first six generations of the Rose family resided here after the land was transferred under their control at the beginning of the 13th century.

The castle that remains today would eventually be built around the middle of the 15th century after the 7th Baron of Kilravock was granted a license by the Lord of the Isles. It is believed the same architect who worked on the nearby Cawdor Castle also worked on Kilravock as the same mason’s marks can be found in the doorway of each structure.

Visited by Mary, Queen of Scots in 1562, the castle would be gradually extended over the following centuries before welcoming Bonnie Prince Charlie for 4 days in the lead up to the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Not a place to discriminate, Kilravock would welcome the enemy of the prince, the Duke of Cumberland, soon after the battle was over and would also receive a visit from Robert Burns 30 years later.

In more recent times, Kilravock would be taken over by a charitable Christian trust, before functioning as a bed and breakfast. It is now a Category A listed building and is no longer occupied by the Rose Clan.

Sadly, the castle is also now closed to visitors – although the surrounding gardens are occasionally opened to the public and contain a plethora of rare and interesting plants and trees. It is hoped that the castle will open up in the near future as a building with such a vast and interesting history deserves to be visited and learned about by all – especially members of the Rose Clan who are eager to return to their ancestral home.

Take a look at our fantastic range of Scottish Clan Gifts HERE.

Design your own handmade Scottish Clan Plaque HERE.

Gardyne Castle, Angus – Clan Gardyne

gardyne castle - clan gardyne

Originally constructed during the 16th century, Gardyne Castle is the traditional seat of the Gardyne Clan, located in Angus.

Built as an extension to a tower that had sat on the land since 1468, the castle was constructed in its current form 100 years later as it was extended to almost double the original size. Built by the Gardynes, the castle would not spend a lot of time under their control as it would be confiscated by the crown following a serious feud with their rivals, the Guthries.

Never to be ruled under Gardyne control again, the castle would eventually pass to the Lyells of Dysart – who would control the structure until the middle of the 20th century. During that time, they would expand the castle over the course of two spells in 1740 and 1910, with the latter work carried out under the control of the famous architect, Harold Tarbolton, bringing electricity to the medieval structure for the first time.

Today, the castle remains a private home and was renovated again at the beginning of the 21st-century to turn it into a home fit for the present day. Its beautiful gardens can still be visited by the general public at selected times throughout the year and have also recently been re-developed by the family in control of the castle to create a fantastic outdoor space that is ready to explore.

Take a look at our fantastic range of Scottish Clan Gifts HERE.

Design your own handmade Scottish Clan Plaque HERE.

Achnacarry Castle, Lochaber – Clan Cameron

achnacarry castle - clan cameron

Replacing the important Tor Castle as the seat of Clan Cameron, Achnacarry Castle is perhaps more famous as the spiritual home of the Commandos after it was commandeered by the military during the Second World War.

Originally built in 1665 by Sir Ewen ‘Dubh’ Cameron, the originally Achnacarry house would be constructed from fir-planks and is said to have resembled a great hunting lodge.

It would eventually pass to Ewen’s son, John, and eventually to his grandson, Donald after John was forced into exile following his participation in the Jacobite Uprising of 1715. Donald would be the last chief to live in the original castle as it was burned to the ground by British forces as he watched from the mountains above.

After 50 years of ruin, the castle would finally be rebuilt at the beginning of the 19th century, this time from the less combustible stone. The castle would almost be completely finished under the orders of Donald Cameron, 22nd chief, until he surprisingly abandoned the area as he separated from his wife following a disagreement about the suitability of the Highlands as a place to live. It would eventually be finished by his son, the 23rd chief, in 1837.

After this return home, Achnacarry would remain the seat of the Camerons until the present day, other than a few short years when it was handed over to other organisations. Perhaps the most famous example of this happening was during the Second World War when the castle was vacated to be used as a training location for the British Military.

During the war, it is believed as many as 25,000 men were trained at the facility from a variety of countries including England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, France, Belgium, Norway and the United States as they received their basic commando training and the castle is still affectionately known as ‘Camp Commando’ to this day.

It is now back in the hands of the Cameron Clan and has been used to host large clan gatherings such as in 2001 when it welcomed Cameron clans folk form around the world.

 

 

Alloa Tower, Alloa – Clan Erskine

alloa tower clan erskine

Know as the largest surviving keep in Scotland, the land surrounding Alloa Tower was first given to Sir Robert Erskine in 1360.

It would quickly become the traditional seat of the Erskine family and a tower would eventually be built to signify the Erskine’s dominance in the area. The tower would then take on national significance after it was the location that Mary, Queen of Scots, would reconcile with her husband, Lord Darnley. Following this visit, the Queen would raise the Erskine family to the title of Earls of Mar and the first Earl, John Erskine, would be made a regent of the young James VI upon Mary’s death.

James would visit the castle only once, although, a popular myth suggests that Mary’s son passed away at birth and the infant son of the Earl of Mar would go on to become James VI.

Whatever the case, the family would continue to be involved in national affairs and the 6th Earl of Mar, ‘Bobbing John’, would lead the Jacobite forces during the 1715 rising as the family maintained a close connection to the Stewarts. Despite this supposed loyalty, however, John earned his nickname as he became adept at switching between the two sides during the rising and was viewed more as a politician than a general.

After the rising, the castle’s history would become somewhat less exciting, although a fire id cause damage to an extension of the castle in 1800 which led to the destruction of many important artefacts, including a portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots. The tower would then start to decay before being refurbished in the mid-20th century and is now under the control of the National Trust for Scotland

Ardencaple Castle, Helensburgh – Clan MacAulay

ardencaple castle clan macaulay

Now survived only by a sole navigational tower overlooking the Firth of Clyde, Ardencaple Castle is the historic seat of the Scottish MacAulay Clan.

Situated near the picturesque riverside town of Helensburgh, the castle is thought to have originally been built during the 12th century and its name is said to be derived from the Gaelic ‘Ard na gCapull’, meaning “cape of the horses”.

During the early years of the castle, the Macaulay clan would control vast lands to the north of the River Clyde, from Ardencaple to Portincaple on Loch Long, and while they would originally avoid controversy and fame as one of the smaller Scottish clans, this would change during the 16th century as the castle was strengthened and the clan aligned with other local families.

With the clan chiefs becoming more involved in local affairs, the fortunes of Ardencaple would soon change as the eighth laird, Aulay, used the estate as a method for paying off his gambling debts, selling it bit by bit as he slowly ended up in more trouble. This led the castle to fall into disrepair and – by the time the last laird died in 1787 – the castle wasn’t much more than a ruin. This would soon change though as the caste was purchased by the Duchy of Argyll and the building was expended into the grand castle that can be seen in many older photos.

Ardencaple would eventually fall back into MacAulay hands at the start of the 20th century as it was taken over by Henrietta MacAulay-Stomberg, who had aimed to turn the structure back into a centre for the MacAualay family. However, she would sadly pass away in 1935 and part of the estate was sold to a consortium of developers who would develop the land into a housing estate.

The castle would finally perish after it was requisitioned by the Royal Navy during the Second World War, eventually giving way to a naval housing complex for the workers at the nearby Faslane Naval Base as it was demolished in 1957. Today, all that remains of the old castle is a single navigational tower that was used by submarines returning to the base as a marker until the early 1990s. It can still be visited today and is now the only reminder of a time gone by when the area was ruled by the MacAulays rather than the Royal Navy.

Castle Grant, Grantown-on-Spey – Clan Grant

castle grant clan grant

Sitting on a hill near the town of Granton-on-Spey known as ‘Freuchie-hillock, the eponymous Castle Grant is the historic clan seat of the Scottish Grant family.

Originally constructed in the 11th century, the main building at Grant Castle is thought to have been erected during the beginning of the 14oos and would originally be called Freuchie Castle, Freuchie meaning ‘heathery place’. It would eventually be renamed ‘Castle Grant’ in 1694 to reflect its reputation as the ancestral seat of the clan despite them being in charge of the stronghold since the 1450s.

It is believed the Grants acquired the castle after a conflict with the Comyn Clan as they and the MacGregors fought the Comyns to gain control of the surrounding land. According to legend, during this battle, the chief of Clan Comyn was killed and his skull was taken as a trophy with it remaining under the Grant’s control as a place to keep their important documents for hundreds of years.

The Grants would then take over the castle and would continue to live there throughout a tumultuous period in history as the 1690 Battle of Cromdale took place on the grounds of the stronghold as the Grants fought against the Jacobites. It is after this battle that the name of the castle would be changed as Ludoivc Grant, the clan chief, obtained a charter from the crown to rule his lands officially. Subsequently, Ludovic would go on to make various improvements to the castle and commissioned a number of paintings of the family to show their new status.

Grant Castle would then enjoy a visit from the renowned poet, Robert Burns in the year 1787 as the bard travelled around the country before an even more distinguished visitor arrived in 1860 in the form of Queen Victoria. During her visit, the Queen is said to have humorously described the castle as looking like a small factory.

In more modern times, the building was eventually left to fall into disrepair as it was abandoned before being restored by Sir Robert Lorimer in 1912. It would, sadly, fall into disrepair again and has only been restored again in the last 30 years as it was turned back into the grand country home that it once was. The former stronghold has been in the news again in recent times as it was purchased in 2006 by the future owner of Rangers Football Club, Craig Whyte, and was seized by the Bank of Scotland in 2012 after Rangers entered administration and liquidation. It was then sold to Russian businessman, Sergey Fedotov, in 2014, who was also involved in the news after being arrested for fraud and sentenced to a 5-year prison sentence in 2020.

Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire – Clan Irvine

drum castle clan irvine

Drum Castle is one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses and the historic home of Clan Irvine.

Known as one of the oldest castles in the country, the building can trace it’s origins back to the 13th century when the castle’s tower was designed by the medieval architect, Richard Cementarius. Having been built during such an early period, the Drum Castle is thought to be the third oldest tower house in Scotland and is said to have originally been constructed under the orders of King Alexander III.

The castle would pass to its most famous owners, the Irvines, during the 14th century when William de Irwyn was given control by Robert the Bruce in 1325 after helping the Scottish monarch during his struggles against England throughout the Scottish Wars of Independence. It would remain in the family’s possession for the next 600 years and would later become infamous after the Invine clan used it as a place to hide the outlaw, Gilderoy, as he was on the run from the authorities following crimes committed in the north-east of the country during the 17th century. After being caught, the Irvine family would be censured but would remain in control of their historic seat despite the charges brought against them.

Later that century, the castle would play an important role in the covenanting rebellions as it was raided and sacked three times. It would eventually be restored by the Irvines during the 19th century as Alexander Forbes Irvine of Drum brought the castle back to its former glory and added an arched entrance to the front of the building. He would be the last in the family to make any significant changes to the structure as it was sold by the family in 1975, shortly after a railway service which had connected the castle to nearby Aberdeen, ceased operation in 1951.

Today, the castle is owned by the national trust and is designated as a category-A listed property. It is open to visitors during certain months of the year and was visited by almost 50,000 people during 2019.

Towie Barclay Castle, Aberdeenshire – Clan Barclay

towie barclay castle clan barclay

Situated in the heart of the Aberdeenshire countryside, Towie Barclay Castle is a 16th-century clan seat which previously served as the ancestral home of the Scottish Barclay family.

Thought to have been completed in 1593, the building was originally occupied by the ‘Tollie de Berkley’ family who had been living in the area since it was given to them in the 11th century by Malcolm III.

However, despite living there for so long, it appears the clan never settled in the region as, even after constructing a castle there and occupying it for another 200 years, the family were always spooked by a curse which was said to have been cast against them in response to a raid on a nunnery in the 12th century. According to legend, the curse was created by Thomas the Rhymer, a Scottish laird, who claimed that the male line of the family would be cursed if they stayed on their lands in Aberdeenshire. This curse is said to have been one of the main reasons why the family would eventually sell the castle in 1753 as it passed to the Earl of Findlater, whose son is said to have been affected by the curse as he passed away shortly after the sale.

For this reason, the Earl himself would soon sell the castle to the governors of Robert Gordon’s hospital in Aberdeen for £21,000 in 1792, a sale that would ultimately lead to its demise as it suffered from abandonment and fell into a state of disrepair.

The castle would continue to decay until the 1970s when it was finally rescued by the musician Marc Ellington and his wife, Karen. The couple would then spend the next 7 years restoring the castle with Karen becoming the project manager of the build and Ellington’s music career funding the necessary improvements. Today, the castle remains under the family’s ownership and is split into two levels; a more modern upper level and a historic lower level which contains the building’s original sixteenth-century masonry.

 

Edzell Castle, Angus – Clan Lindsayedzell castle clan lindsay

The now ruinous Edzell castle was once the grand home of the Scottish Lindsay clan and still features a beautiful walled garden.

First coming under the control of the Lindsays in 1357, Edzell was originally a ‘motte and bailey’ style castle; a small keep located on top of a large grassy mound, however, the Lindsay family would eventually move 300 metres to the north-east and it is here that the current structure stands today.

This move would occur at the beginning of the 16th century, meaning that while the current castle stands in another location, the mound upon which the original Edzell Castle stood is still visible today. The Lindsays would then enjoy a relatively quiet period in control of the area until it received a visit from Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1562 when she held a privy council meeting in the castle before staying there. Edzell would then enjoy further royal visits in 1580 and 1589 as James VI visited on two occasions.

Despite enjoying relative peace up until this point, the castle would then become involved in conflict after it was used to garrison the troops of Oliver Cromwell during his invasion if Scotland during the 1640s. The Lindsays would side with Cromwell during this conflict and John Lindsay would be captured at the castle by the opposing Royalist forces in 1653 before being rescued by his allies.

The family would then continue to control Edzell Castle until the year 1715, when they were forced to sell it in an attempt to pay off huge debts. It would pass to the Maule Earl of Panmure, although he only held the castle briefly as he was forced to forfeit his estates due to his part in the Jacobite Rising of 1715 and it was once again given to government forces as a place to garrison troops.

Abandoned soon after the rising, Edzell would eventually find its way into the hands of the Earl of Dalhousie, who would construct a cottage on the site for use by the castle’s caretaker. Today, this building acts as a visitor centre and both the castle and gardens are maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. The site can be visited by the general public all year round.