Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Red Castle - beware a woman scorned

Red Castle is situated on the east coast of Scotland near Montrose in Angus. It consists of a curtain wall, possibly 13th century, enclosing a 15th century tower house. It was known as Rubeum Castrum or Red Castle on account of its distinctive stone colour.

Red Castle – a 15th century tower with 13th century curtain wall. The encroaching North Sea can be seen in the background.

Between 1579-81 it was besieged under novel circumstances.

Lady Elizabeth Beaton of Red Castle was a widow when James Gray, a younger man, expressed his love for her and they married in 1579. However, it soon became evident that his interest lay in her money and not in her. Moreover he began an affair with her young niece. Upon discovering her new husband's infidelity Elizabeth threw him out and initiated divorce proceedings.

Enraged, James, with the aid of his brother Andrew Gray, set about making her life a misery.

Elizabeth petitioned the Scottish Parliament for help. The following is based upon their records:

On 27th February 1579 the castle, tour-hous and fortalice of the Reidcastell was assailed by bombards, captured, plundered, and burned by Andrew Gray of Dunnimald under scandalous circumstances.
The castle was entered at night by scaling ladders and the hall and chambers within the courtyard were won, the defenders taking refuge in the great tower. The tower was thereupon attacked with bombards and its gates blown in. Marjory Stewart, the daughter of the house, was almost suffocated by the smoke, and being then great with child, sustained a miscarriage.

The Provost of Dundee gathered a force and lifted the siege but the brothers returned in 1581:

At the second assault the garrison consisted of two men and one woman and the whole castle tower and all, thereafter burnt, both within and without the courtyard.

In June 1581 the Scottish Parliament granted the divorce and as for James Gray it ruled that:

...the aggressor be outlawed and his lands and goods forfeited.

Gray did not long survive this ruling for he was killed in 1586 while brawling in Dundee.

LEFT: Red Castle's corbelled wall walk
RIGHT: Red Castle's seaward side showing round and corbels in danger of immediate collapse

Red Castle remained roofed until 1770 after which one third of the castle slipped into the sea.

At the present the castle is in a perilous condition being undercut by the sea. Historic Environment Scotland is monitoring the situation.

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 08 Jul 2020 Updated: 16 Oct 2023
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