Castles of Scotland: III
Scottish Castles and their history
Let us take up the journey through more of the beautiful country of Scotland and visit more of it's enchanting castles. Our journey began with Castles of Scotland and Castles of Scotland: II, then finishes with Castles of Scotland: IV.
The castles covered on this page are: Fyvie Castle, Drumlanrig Castle, Dirleton Castle, Borthwick Castle, the Earl's Palace at Kirkwall, Balmoral Castle, and Tolquhon Castle.
Fyvie Castle is located in the village of Fyvie, in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The original construction date of Fyvie Castle is unclear, but some believe Fyvie Castle was built by William the Lion as early as 1211. What is clear is that Fyvie Castle was used as an open-air court of Robert the Bruce, and it was also the childhood home of Charles I.
After the Battle of Otterburn in 1390, the castle became the property of five different families, passing from one to the other, with each family adding a tower. In 1885, Fyvie Castle was bought by Alexander Forbes (later Alexander Forbes-Leith), and his descendants sold the castle to the National Trust for Scotland.
Fyvie Castle has been reported as being haunted. In 1920, renovations were being made to the castle when the skeleton of a woman was found behind a bedroom wall. The woman was given a proper burial, but was obviously displeased with being removed from her home, because the residents of the castle started experiencing strange paranormal happenings that very day. She was taken back to the bedroom and once again, buried behind the wall. When this happened, the strange occurrences ceased.
Large photo of Fyvie Castle above courtesy of Europealacarte.
Drumlanrig Castle is located in Dumfries and Galloway in South-West Scotland. Building began on the castle in 1684, for William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensberry, and is not actually a castle, but a large country house. The castle is now owned by the Duke of Buccleuch.
The Queensberry Estate on which Drumlanrig Castle sits was founded by Sir James Douglas of Drumlanrig. Though Drumlanrig Castle is not an actual castle in the military sense, two castles have sat on the estate prior to the country house that stands today. The Douglas family had close ties to the Crown throughout history, and Drumlanrig Castle has entertained royalty through the years.
The present Castle was built of local pink sandstone and is one of the finest examples of Scottish Renaissance architecture. Drumlanrig Castle is surrounded by vast areas of farmland and the climate mixed with the good soil condition produce some of the fastest growing conifer trees in all of Europe.
Large photo of Drumlanrig Castle above courtesy of Werewindle.
Dirleton Castle is a partially ruined medieval fortress located in the village of Dirleton, East Lothian, Scotland. Dirleton Castle dates as far back as the 11th century, and was built by John De Vaux.
Dirleton Castle guarded the route between England and Edinburgh, making it the site of many skirmishes during its long history, and was taken several times by the English. After the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Robert the Bruce slighted the castle to prevent further use by the English.
Dirleton Castle passed through several different families and ceased to be a residence when the Ruthvens, who had ownership at the time, were involved in several plots against Mary, Queen of Scots and King James VI, and had to give up the castle in 1600. The final destructive blow came to the castle by the hand of Oliver Cromwell, who was forced to strike against a band of moss-troopers who used Dirleton Castle as their base.
Borthwick Castle is located in the village of Borthwick in Edinburgh, Scotland. Borthwick Castle was built in 1430 for Sir William de Borthwick, and the charter to build the castle was granted by King James I as thanks for Sir de Borthwick's part in bringing the King home to Scotland after 18 years of imprisonment in England.
Mary I of Scotland twice visited Borthwick Castle, and during one visit the castle was surrounded by Scottish nobles who were suspicious of the influence the Earl of Bothwell, her husband, had on her. Mary escaped capture by dressing as a page boy and slipping out through a window in the Great Hall.
In 1650, Oliver Cromwell lay siege to the castle and delivered a letter giving the current master of the castle, the 9th Lord Borthwick, a chance to take his belongings and family and leave the castle. Lord Borthwick at first hesitated, but after a short bombardment by cannon, he reconsidered and left with his life, his family, and some belongings in tact. The scars of the bombardment are still seen today, and Oliver Cromwell's letter can be seen in the Great Hall.
Borthwick Castle is one of the best preserved medieval fortifications today, is still the ancestral seat of the Borthwick family, and doubles as a lavish hotel.
Large photo above is courtesy of Michael Grogan.
The Earls Palace, Kirkwall
There are actually two Earls Palaces. The one at Birsay was built in the 16th century by Robert Stewart, 1st Earl of Orkney, an illegitimate son of King James V of Scotland. The Earls Palace showcased here was built by the son of Robert Stewart, Patrick Stewart, and is located in the center of Kirkwall, Orkney, Scotland.
The Earl's Palace at Birsay is now a large ruin, however, the Earls' Palace at Kirkwall, while ruined also, has a substantial amount still standing, especially when compared to the castle of his father. The two Earls were considered the most tyrannical and wicked rulers of Orkney.
Patrick Stewart, who earned the nickname, Black Patie, had his Palace built using slave labor. The two Stewart Earls are said to have forced the people of Orkney to frequently work without pay, torturing or jailing those who refused.
Earl Patrick Stewart wanted a Palace to rival those of his neighbors, but his greed got the best of him, and he was deeply in debt. He received a summons to appear before King James VI to answer for his alleged cruelty to the people of Orkney. Earl Stewart was even charged with treason, but the charges were dropped. While imprisoned, Earl Stewart commissioned his son to care for the Palace in his name and collect rent from the people in preparation of his restoration to the Earl-dom. This action was considered rebellion against the King and after a skirmish between the supporters of the Stewarts and the Earl George Sinclair of Caithness, who volunteered to lead the siege, the son of Earl Patrick Stewart was found guilty of treason and hung. His father was again charged with treason and beheaded.
Balmoral Castle is located in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, in a area known as Royal Deeside. It is actually an estate house and is a royal residence. Before Balmoral Castle was built, the estate was owned by King Robert II, who used the area for hunting.
In 1390, Sir William Drummond built a home on the estate. The estate passed through the hands of several families, and in the early 1800's, became a favorite of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Queen and Prince so loved the estate, that they purchased the property in 1852, and building began on a new and larger castle, the Balmoral Castle we see today. Queen Victoria herself lay the cornerstone of Balmoral Castle and the plans were partly drawn by Prince Albert.
Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House are private properties of the British royal family, and not part of the royal estate, and so when Edward III abdicated as King in 1936, Balmoral Castle and Sandringham House did not pass to his successor and younger brother George VI. If King George VI wanted to keep the castle and house as private royal retreats, he had to purchase them from Edward, and this he did.
The vast estate of Balmoral Castle includes beautiful gardens, working farms, and protected forests that have become a haven for Red Deer.
Large photo of Balmoral Castle above courtesy of Nick Bramhall.
Tolquhon Castle (or Tolquhoun) is located near the village of Pitmedden in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Building began in 1584 by William Forbes to replace Preston's Tower, a tower house belonging to the Preston family that stood on the site previously, before it was passed in marriage to the Forbes. Part of Preston's Tower was actually incorporated into Tolquhon Castle, which can be seen as a corner tower.
Tolquhon Castle was passed through the Clan Forbes until 1716, when the property was sold to the Clan Farquhars. In 1718, the 11th Forbes Laird, who at the time resided in the castle, had to be removed forcibly, since he did not want to vacate the castle that had been in the family for 134 years.
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