Friday, November 30, 2012

St. Andrew's Day - Historic Castles from Balvenie to Craigievar

David and Andrew at St. Andrew's Old Course

November 30 is St. Andrew's Day - the feast day of the beloved apostle who serves as Scotland's Patron Saint.  To celebrate St. Andrew's Day, I offer you pictures from our 2007 tour of Scotland where we specifically hunted for crumbling castles.  The crumblier, the better.   The castles below are cared by Historic Scotland at this link:

For over 500 years, Balvenie Castle served as the formidable stronghold of the great lords who ruled over this part of north-east Scotland. The immensely powerful ‘Black’ Comyn earls of Buchan built it in the 13th century. When they were forfeited in the early 14th century, because of their alliance with the ill-fated John Balliol, the stronghold passed to the mighty ‘Black’ Douglases. And when the Douglases too were wiped out around 1455 by James II, the victorious Stewart king entrusted it to a kinsman, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl. It remained with his descendants for the next 250 years. 

In 1490, the 2nd Lord Gray received a charter from James IV to erect Broughty Castle. This was prompted by increased English naval activity. Five English ships had been captured nearby in 1489.

At the Battle of Pinkie, in September 1547, the Scots were heavily defeated. But Lord Gray supported the English cause: he wanted Mary Queen of Scots to marry a Protestant Englishman, not a Catholic Frenchman.

Within a fortnight, the castle was in English hands. The English garrison stayed for two years, occupying Dundee, threatening Perth and St Andrews, and pillaging Angus and Fife.

Blackness Castle is often referred to as ‘the ship that never sailed’. This is because of its appearance, for from the seaward side it looks just like a great stone ship that has run aground. The pointed stem projects into the water, while the square stern stands beached on dry land. The castle’s three towers add to the effect – the small ‘stem’ tower at the prow, the tall ‘main mast’ tower at the centre, and the solid ‘stern’ tower at the rear.

Brechin Cathedral is home to ... one of the two remaining round towers of the Irish type in Scotland, built in the late 11th century with a remarkable carved doorway.

The oldest part of Castle Campbell was built in the early 15th century. At that time it was called ‘Castle Glume’. Around 1465 it passed through marriage to Colin Campbell, 1st Earl of Argyll. This powerful Highland chief needed a secure but impressive Lowland seat at the heart of the realm, within easy reach of the main centres of the royal court. Castle Glume fitted the bill perfectly. In 1489, the earl changed the name to Castle Campbell. And there the Campbells stayed for the next 200 years, until they tired of all those steps and relocated to Argyll’s Lodging, a fine townhouse beside Stirling Castle.

Claypotts Castle owes its striking appearance to asymmetrical square garrett chambers corbelled out over two circular towers at diagonally opposite corners.

Built by John Strachan between 1569 and 1588, and later owned by ‘Bonnie Dundee’, John Graham of Claverhouse, it was inhabited into the 19th century.

Corgarff Castle was originally built as the fortified home of the notable local Forbes family in the mid-16th century.  

Corgarff's perimeter wall forms a star.   Prince Charlie's Jacobite troops stored weapons at Corgarff until the English raided it.   The English also used Corgarff Castle as a barracks following the Jacobites' defeat.  Corgarff is fairly close to Balmoral Castle - summer home of Queen Elizabeth II.

Craigievar Castle is cared by the National Trust for Scotland (at this link):

This fairytale castle, a fine example of Scottish Baronial architecture, seems to have grown naturally out of the rolling hills. The great tower stands just as it did when completed in 1626.

The castle is home to a fine collection of family portraits and original plaster ceilings. There is also much original Jacobean woodwork and some beautiful furniture, including the 'Craigievar table'.

Do you have a favorite from today's castles?  One randomly selected commenter from this week's blogs wins a book choice from my convention stash.   This giveaway is open to all readers.  Comments are open through Saturday, December 1, 10 pm in Hawaii.  I'll post the winner on Sunday, December 2.


Kim in Hawaii

The River Clyde


  1. I think Blackness Castle would be my favorite. I love these.

  2. My favorite is Balvenie Castle. As soon as I saw it, in my mind's eye, I saw it in it's glory with people walking around. Oh, to be able to visit these places and sit in silence as I listen for the past.

  3. I don't think I have a favorite. I love the history of all these castles and I think each one has its own merits!

  4. Hohen Werfen Castle in Austria not only look gorgeous up there on top of the mountains, but it looks imposing and intimidating too.

  5. No, I like them all. They are all so very different but fascinating!

  6. I like Claypotts Castle the most.

  7. I like Craigievar Castle the best.

  8. How difficult to choose a favorite! I like Brechin Cathedral and Claypotts Castle.

  9. I like Castle Campbell. There is such a great view!