CASTLE ROY Location – OS map 36 (NJ 007-219)
Castle Roy stands about four miles south of Grantown-on-Spey, just west of the B970, It is situated 0.5 miles east of the River Spey and 0.5 miles north of Nethy Bridge.
Only the ruinous walls of Castle Roy remain. It was a rectangular castle of enclosure and was built by the Comyn Lords of Badenoch in the 13th century. A wide, pointed arched gateway is seen in the north-east face. A small projecting 2 storey turret is on the north corner (the south corner may have had a similar turret). A postern gate in the north west wall is overlooked by this turret. Latrines can be seen in the north-west wall by the west corner, these would have been within a lean-to structure.
LETHENDRY CASTLE Location – OS map 36 (NJ 084-274)
About 3.5 miles east of Grantown-on-Spey, on minor roads south and east of the A95. 1 mile south of Cromdale, in the Haughs of Cromdale.
Not much remains of the L-plan tower. There has been a vaulted basement and a stair in the wing. It was built by the Grants.
MOY Location – OS map 27 (NH 775-343)
Situated on an island in Loch Moy. About 10.5 miles east of Inverness, by minor roads east of the B9154. About 0,5 miles south east of Moy.
Virtually nothing remains of a 14th century castle of the Mackintosh family. It was used from 1337 to 1665 and was reputedly garrisoned by 400 men in 1422. The island had several other buildings, a paved road and two huge ovens. In 1746 at nearby Moy Hall, forces under the Montgomery Earl of Loudoun tried to capture Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Montgomery forces were surprised and routed. That house was burnt down in about 1800. A new house was built but was demolished because of dry rot. Another house was built on the site in the 1950's and is occupied by the Mackintosh family. A bed slept in by Prince Charlie is preserved in the hall.
DAVIOT CASTLE Location – OS map 27 (NH 730-405)
About six miles south-east of Inverness. Just west of the A9, on a low ridge west of the River Nairn.
Not much remains of the 15th century castle built by David Lindsay 3rd Earl of Crawford. The rectangular site is covered by a garden lawn and is defended by steep embankments. There may have been a curtain wall with round corner towers, now hidden by soil and vegetation. A 3m high part of the NE tower can be identified. It is 7.5m diameter with walls 1.7m thick. Only one fragment of the tower rises above courtyard level. The property later passed to the Mackintoshes. Alexander the 24th chief built the nearby house.
CASTLE STUART Location – OS map 27 (NH 742-498)
Castle Stuart is 6 miles north-east of Inverness, on minor roads east of the B9039, 1mile north of junction with the A96, 0.5 miles south of Moray Firth. It stands on flat ground near the Moray Firth, close by the airport. The site was probably surrounded by marshland, which would have created a natural defence.
Brief History The Stewart Earl of Moray built the existing house around 1625. This date appears on the dormer pediment. Old maps show that it is probably built on the site of, or might even incorporate, an earlier 14th century Mackintosh stronghold. The Mackintosh clan once held this area as part of the Lordship of Petty. The Mackintoshes captured the house during a dispute with the Stewarts over ownership. The roof was removed in 1835. Restoration began in the 1980's. It is now fully restored.
The main block of the house is of four storeys and has projecting towers of six storeys at each end. The projecting towers are offset to create additional re-entrant angles thus aiding the defences. One projecting tower has a flat roof with a modern parapet, which incorporates open rounds. The other tower has corbiestepped gables with round conically roofed bartizans. The rear of the main block has unusual corbelled-out two storey corner turrets. These corner turrets have crow-step gabled watch chambers and project at an angle from the main block. There are slender stair turrets, corbelled out from first floor level, in the rear re-entrant angles. A modern stonework crown caps the rear, left-hand stair turret, of the main building. The walls are pierced by evenly spaced windows, gunloops and shot-holes.
The original entrance was in the foot of the left-hand (west) tower. This tower contains a squared-off 6' wide scale-and-platt stair. A later entrance has been added to the centre front of the main block. The vaulted basement contains a passageway to the original kitchen. The kitchen has a wide arched fireplace and oven. There is also a vaulted wine cellar with a small stair to the main hall on the first floor. There are two further cellars. The grand main stair rises only to first floor level and the main or "Great" hall. The main hall has an adjoining room and another chamber in the projecting tower wing. Spiral stairs, in the re-entrant angles serve the chambers above first floor level.
DALCROSS CASTLE Location - OS map 27 (NH 779-483)
7 miles north-east of Inverness. On minor roads north of the B9006 or south of the A96, about 1.5 miles south-west of Croy, at Dalcross Castle. It stands high on a ridge between the river Nairn and the coastal plain at the east end of Culloden Moor.
Built 1620 by the Fraser 8th Lord Lovat. It passed to the Mackintoshes by the end of the 17th century. They built the lower north wing in 1703. Hanovarian troops were marshalled here prior to the battle of Culloden 1746. When the 19th chief Lachlan Mackintosh died on the 9th December 1703 his body lay in state until 18th January 1704. 2000 clansmen escorted their chief to his grave in Petty kirkyard. The house was eventually abandoned and became a ruin. It was restored and reoccupied in the 20th century.
The house is basically a variant of an "L" plan tower house of two joined but offset wings. One wing is of five storeys and an attic, the other wing has three storeys and an attic. The external corners of these wings have conically roofed, pepper-pot bartizans. The wings, which may have been built separately, are joined at one corner, creating two re-entrant angles. The gables are crowstepped. The main re-entrant has a projecting square stair tower with gabled watch chamber and a bartizan. Many of the windows retain their iron yetts. Many gunloops and shot holes pierce the walls. Additional buildings date from the 18th Century.
The entrance is at the foot of the stair tower and leads to the vaulted basement. The door is protected by an iron yett with a draw-bar. A heraldic panel above the entrance shows the Mackintosh arms and the date 1720. This panel is a later insertion. Another detached stone carried the initials L.S.F. (Lord Simon Fraser) and the date 1620. The basement contains a series of vaulted chambers including, the kitchen which has a very large arched fireplace. A wine cellar has a small service stair, which leads to the main hall above. The vaulted passageway, which runs around the base of the turnpike stair, is unusual. The wide main stair rises in the projecting stair tower it rises up-wards beyond the first floor. The Great Hall is on the first floor and has an unusually large fireplace. The Laird's withdrawing room is on the same floor but in the adjacent wing. A turnpike stair rises from the main hall to the family quarters above.
KILRAVOCK CASTLE Location – OS map 27 (NH 814-493)
About 6 miles south-west of Nairn, on minor roads south of the B9091, just north of the river Nairn, 1mile east of Croy. It stands amidst a large estate on a rocky bank above the meadows of the river Nairn.
The family of Rose acquired the lands of Kilravock (Pronounced Kilrock) in 1280 when Hugh de Roos of Geddes married an heiress of the Bissets of Lovat. At least 25 generations of the Rose family have lived here, 17 of the lairds being named Hugh. From 1450 to 1777 – 45 members of the family held the hereditary position of Provost of Nairn. Kilravock was erected to a barony by James III in 1474. The 10th laird, another Hugh, purchased much land from the infamous Bishop Hepburn of Moray. The Bishop was lining his own pocket by selling off church property prior to the reformation. Mary Queen of Scots visited Kilravock in 1562 during her northern progress against the Gordons. Two days before Culloden Charles Edward Stuart was entertained here by Hugh the 16th laird. The laird was reported as having played a minuet on his violin for Charles. At the same time the Duke of Cumberland was occupying the family's town house in Nairn. The day after his victory at Culloden the Duke of Cumberland arrived at Kilravock, and remarked that he had learned that the laird had been entertaining his cousin. Unusually Cumberland exacted no vengeance on the family or property. Robert Burns was at Kilravock in 1787.
An impressive and composite castle of the 15th and 17th centuries. The original simple free-standing keep was built in 1460 and rises to the east of the later buildings. It is a massive tower of coursed rubble with walls of 7 feet thick. The tower rises 5 storeys to a simple parapet, which is supported by individual corbels. The parapet has open rounds on three corners. The south-west corner of the tower contains the turnpike stair which is surmounted by a square caphouse. A gabled garret storey stands within the parapet. In the 17th century a square stair tower was added to the south-west corner of the keep. The stair tower has a pitched roof between tall gables. Later in the 17th century a large 5 storey block was constructed against the earlier stair tower. A smaller stair tower was constructed in the re-entrant of the new main block. The main building has a semi-circular stair tower corbelled out above first floor level.
The door to the original keep is now covered over by the 17th century stair tower. This door was defended by a wide splayed gunloop situated within the basement passage. The basement of the keep is vaulted and there are mural wall chambers in the thickness of the masonry. The basement of the later block is also vaulted with three separate cellars. A connecting passageway runs the length of the main block and connects the basement cellars. There is no similar corridor on the upper floors. Rooms on the upper levels run the full width of the house, access is via the projecting stair turrets.
CAWDOR CASTLE Location – OS map 27 (NH 847-499)
About 5 miles west of Nairn, on minor roads south of the B9090 at Cawdor just east of Allt Dearg. Stands on an undulating site by the joining of two burns, within a large estate.
Legend says the Thane of Cawdor decided to move the site of his castle further from the sea. He was guided by a dream to load up a donkey with some gear and to let the donkey loose. It would wander until it found some hawthorn trees. It would stop under one, graze under a second and lie down under a third. He was to build his castle around this tree. Today there is the upright trunk of a hawthorn tree projecting from the earthen floor of the vaulted basement. It disappears into the masonry of the vaulted ceiling, which has been built around it. The first Thane of Cawdor was of the family of Hostiarius, or royal Doorwards (door wardens). They adopted the name Calder in 1236 when Alexander II granted them lands held by the MacBeths. The 3rd Thane built the present keep under license from James II. The license to build and fortify is still in existence. In 1499 Muriel the heiress of the 7th Thane of Cawdor was kidnapped by Campbell of Inverliver on the orders of Argyll. This act resulted in the deaths of Inverliver's six sons.
A deep dry ditch surrounds the castle and a drawbridge is provided for access. A massive iron yett restricts access to the castle. The yett was brought from Lochindorb Castle, when an early lord of Cawdor, was sent to destroy it. The original tall tower has four storeys and a garret, and dates from around 1396. The final flush parapet with open rounds at the corners was completed in 1454. Conical roofs were added to the parapet corner rounds in the 17th century. Windows in the tower were enlarged and regularised in the 17th century. Further buildings were added in the 16th and 17th centuries. The later buildings have angle turrets and corbelled out chambers, and create 3 inner courtyards.
Entrance to the tower is now at basement level and is protected by a machicolated projection. The original door was at first floor level, access to it would have been via a removable timber stair. Both the basement and third floor are vaulted. A straight stair in the thickness of the walling leads up from the basement to the first floor hall. This mural stair would originally have provided access from the hall down to the basement. Several chambers were created off the hall within the thickness of the walling. A private turnpike stair rises to the upper floors from the first floor. The kitchen may have been above the hall as a sink and drain outlet were discovered at that level. The vaulting above the third floor was probably intended to support the original flat platform roof. Other features of note elsewhere in the castle are – The iron yetted postern door in the north-east angle to the moat. A squared angle chamber/turret, with shot-hole, corbelled out from the north-west corner of the range.
There are several fine 17th century fireplaces to be seen. One fireplace depicts, a fox smoking, a monkey blowing a horn, a cat fiddling, a mermaid playing a harp. The date 1511 carved in this fireplace predates the discovery of tobacco, is a later addition and commemorates the marriage of the heiress of the 7th Thane of Cawdor to the 3rd son of Argyll.
AULDEARN MOTTE Location – OS map 27 (NH 917-557)
About 2.5 miles east and north of Nairn. On minor roads just south of the A96, or north of the B9111. To the north-west of the village of Auldearn.
This was a royal castle built by King William the Lyon. Auldearn was a royal burgh by the 1180's. The lands passed to Dunbar of Cumnock in 1511. Just south of Auldearn is the site of the battle in 1645 when the Marquis of Montrose defeated an army of Covenanters, led by General Hurry (or Urie).
Not much remains of the 12th century castle other than the motte. A 17th century doocot in the earthworks was presented to the National Trust for Scotland in 1947. Nearby Boath house, a three-storey mansion of 1830 may incorporate part of an older house or tower. Boath house was built for the Dunbars, and is still occupied.
KINKELL CASTLE Location - OS map 26 (NH554-543)
About 3 miles south of Dingwall, on minor roads just west of the A835, and about 1mile south-east of Connan Bridge. It stands on rising ground at the base of the Black Isle peninsula.
Is a property of the late 16th century and belonged to the powerful family of MacKenzie of Gairloch. In 1600 John MacKenzie of Gairloch and his son Duncan Bain of Tulloch, agreed an undertaking not to harm Rory MacKenzie of Sligo. In 1616 the laird of Kinkell was taken before the Privy Council on a charge of rebellion. Kinkell was raised to the status of a Barony in 1703. The building was updated and extended before becoming a farmhouse and later being abandoned. The castle has since been rescued, taken back to an original form and restored as a comfortable home. The inspirational story of the restoration is described in the book "The Reconstruction of a Scottish Castle" written by sculptor & restorer Gerald Laing.
What we see today is the original structure, rescued from the later work that has been removed. The original fortalice was approximately of a Z plan. The main block lies east to west, with a large circular stair-tower rising at the south-east angle.
A slender corbelled out stair turret rises from first floor level at the north-west angle. The main block had been extended at its east-end (now removed). The walls stand on a plinth or basement course and rise to three storeys plus a garret. The gables are finished with crow-steps and support a steeply pitched roof. The large stair tower is one storey higher than the house and contains a watch chamber. There are a number of shot-holes and splayed gunloops.
The door is in the re-entrant at the foot of the stair-tower and is guarded by four gunloops. There is an empty heraldic panel above the lintel. The basement contains two vaulted chambers and a connecting passageway. One basement chamber was the kitchen, and has a large arched fireplace and mural slop drain. A small private stair ascends to the main hall above. The hall fireplace has been decorated with a carved shield and is dated 1594. The hall has a garderobe in one corner. The private turnpike stair in the corbelled out stair-tower rises in the north-west corner. The upper floor is supported on beams, which rest on large projecting corbels. The upper floor was originally divided into two rooms, each having its own fireplace and shot-hole.
DINGWALL CASTLE Location - OS map 26 (NH553-589)
To the east of Dingwall, on minor roads, east of the A862, west of the shore of the Cromarty Firth. It is situated within the gardens of Dingwall (house) Castle.
It is said that the original castle on this site was the birthplace of MacBeth around the year 1000. A new castle was constructed on this site in the late 12th century for King William the Lyon. It consisted of a motte by the mouth of the river with a bailey defending the landward approach. It would have been built of wood and earth. The Earls of Ross built a new castle, of stone, sometime in the 14th or 15th centuries. When the Ross line failed, ownership of the Earldom was disputed. The lord of the Isles took the castle several times. In James I reign the Regent Albany imposed his own governor. The new governor was assassinated by one of the Munroes and replaced by a MacKay. James III took the Earldom of Ross from the Lord of the Isles in 1477. Sir John Munroe of Foulis was made governor of the castle and Chamberlain of Ross. In 1480 he was succeeded by Sir Andrew Munro. In 1488 Sir James Dunbar of Flowerton was the next governor. James IV had a hall added after his visit in 1503. In 1507 Andro, Bishop of Caithness carried out some improvements after the castle had been assaulted by the MacDonalds and the MacKenzies. Land around the castle was then purchased to improve its defensive field of fire. Many new governors followed – such as John Earl of Atholl 1516-22, John Earl of Moray brother of James V 1523 onwards, David Sinclair 1550, George Munro of Docharty 1561, Sir Andrew Keith Lord Dingwall 1584, Sir John Preston Earl of Desmond 1605. The castle ceased to be maintained after the death of James VI in 1625. The castle became derelict and was abandoned by the mid 18th century. In 1750 the ruin was acquired by the Rev Colin MacKenzie, minister of Fodderty. He had much of the stone removed to build new farm houses at Fodderty and Millmain. His son used large quantities of limestone from the ruin to make fertiliser for those farms. Much of what remained was robbed in the 19th century for building new houses in the town.
Little remains of this castle, other than an overgrown fragment.The modern Dingwall Castle stands nearby and was constructed in 1821.
TULLOCH CASTLE Location - OS map 21 (NH547-605)
About one mile north of Dingwall on minor roads west of the A862. It stands on the south side of Tulloch Hill with views to the south overlooking the Cromarty Firth.
Tulloch was a barony of the Bains. The castle was probably built by Duncan Bain after he was granted a charter of lands here in 1541. They lived here until 1760, when it was passed to the Davidsons. The Davidsons obtained Tulloch by marrying the heiress Jean Bain in 1760. The Davidsons lived here into the 20th century when the place became an academy. The nearby Moot Hill is where the Bains dispensed Justice. The Gallows Hill is where sentences were administered.
The nucleus of this great house is a strong, simple 16th century keep. Continuous occupation has altered the appearance of antiquity. A circular stair tower rises on the north-west angle. The parapet and corbelling of the keep are modern, as is the "castellated" cap-house that provides access from the stair-tower to the wall head parapet. There would have been a gabled garret within the original parapet wall-walk. The windows in the keep have been enlarged, but the stair-tower windows are original. Several gunloops survive, others have been blocked. The basement course is massive. One external corner of the keep has been chamfered up to first floor level. One shot hole penetrates the chamfer from the basement. A large gabled structure was added to the east and north faces in the 17th century. A range was added to the tower in 1920.
The basement consists of vaulted chambers. There are many shot-hole apertures at this level. The first floor hall retains its great fireplace, but many windows have been enlarged and changed. There are 17th century plaster ceilings in the extension. The apartment in the east wing has a particularly fine ceiling, and has excellent pine panelling and painted murals.
MONIACK CASTLE Location - OS map 26 (NH552-436)
About 2.5 miles south-east of Beauly, on minor roads south of the A862, west of the Moniack burn. One mile east of Balchraggan.
Moniack was and remains a Fraser of Lovat house. Archibald Fraser, son of the celebrated Simon Lord Lovat of 1745 fame, lived here. The records show that in 1576 the laird here was Thomas Fraser. The rather odd appearance of Moniack today, is due to "improvements" made in 1804 and 1808.
This unusual house is probably of the early 17th century, but has been greatly altered. The layout is of an L plan, with circular stair-tower in the re-entrant angle. The stair-tower is corbelled out to form a square watch chamber above second floor level.
The stair-tower is unusually wide and its roof is not gabled but flat. The crenellated parapet seems modern, but may in some ways reflect the original. There are two separate courses of continuous corbelling below the parapet. The rainwater drainage spouts protrude at the lower level of corbelling. The tower windows seem appropriately small. Other windows, gunloops, and shot-holes are hidden by harling. The main L shaped building would appear to be made up of two buildings of different periods. The west wing with three storeys and small windows seems to be older. The other wing has only two storeys and has larger windows, although its walls are very thick. Both wings have been altered with the roof line being dropped and made uniform. The gables of both wings seem to have been removed to give the house an untypical hipped roof. The entrance door is at the foot of the stair-tower in the re-entrant. The entrance is flanked by two small windows, each of these is fitted with an iron yett. An empty heraldic panel is positioned above the door.
The internals of the building have been completely altered during later periods. There is no vaulting. The turnpike stair is wide and the newel post is unusually thick.
Location – OS map 26 (NH 531-286)
About 1.5 miles east of Drumnadrochit. Just east of the A82, on Strone Point. On the west shore of Loch Ness, south-east of Strone.
There was a Pictish fort on this site in the 6th century. Saint Columba may have visited the fort here from his base in Iona. Columba's mission to this place was to convert the Pictish Chief Emchatu to Christianity. The first castle was built by the Durwards in the mid 13th century. The Comyns added the large main courtyard in the late 13th and 14th centuries. The castle was held by the forces of Edward I of England, but was regained by the Scots after two attacks. The English recaptured it in 1303 following a long siege. In 1308 Robert the Bruce led the Scots to liberate the castle. The castle held out for David II in 1333 against Edward Balliol and Edward II of England. In 1437 it was captured by the Earl of Ross. In 1476 it was gifted to the Gordon Earl of Huntly. In 1509 James IV gave the castle to John Grant of Freuchie, on the condition that he would strengthen it. The Grants built the tower house, the gatehouse and the present courtyard walls. The MacDonalds captured the castle about 1515 following the death of their enemy James IV at Flodden. In 1545 the MacDonalds and their allies the Camerons of Lochiel devastated the castle. In 1644 the castle was sacked by the Covenanters. The castle held out against the Jacobites in 1689, but was later dismantled to prevent them using it.
Urquhart is a castle of enclosure converted to incorporate a courtyard, tower, gatehouse and other ranges. The enclosed ranges include a hall and chapel. The tower house is of typical 16th century construction. It was severely damaged in a storm.
The tower contains a vaulted basement. The main hall is on the first floor with private chambers above.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS
Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 5 – North and West Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions
Mike Salter – The Castles of Western & Northern Scotland