On the castle trail in Angus

Glamis Castle.
Glamis Castle.

I have talked of many of our more humble buildings, but this week I want to consider some of our local castles.

They are a reminder of a bygone age, but these fine buildings still stand guard around the country reminding us of the powers of the noblemen who built these massive defensive fortifications.

Angus may not possess as many castles as the renowned Castle Trail in Grampian, but the castles of Angus are just as fascinating and well-worth a visit.

Angus’s supreme tourist attraction is of course Glamis Castle, and everyone who has ever been in Scotland will have seen the image of Glamis Castle as it still features on the Bank of Scotland ten pound note, what great advertising!

We have lost entirely the old Royal residences of Forfar Castle and Baikie Castle but many fine castles remain.

Well-known amongst the region’s castles are Brechin, Edzell, Glamis and Kinnaird. Each castle has a unique feel to it. Built of sturdy stone, these impressive structures have stood firm through the ages and will transport you back in time through Scotland’s exciting history. A variety of lords and ladies called these immense castles home and thus each castle has a story to tell.

Think of the Bonnie Hoose o’ Airlie, better known as Forter Castle at the head of Glenisla built to stop the Cateran stealing our cattle. While it is ironic that it was destroyed, and later rebuilt to include all mod cons, it parallels the destiny of the formerly hated Cateran who have never been so popular with their well-known trail from and to Blairgowrie.

Melgund Castle was another roofless ruin until recently, when private restoration work was undertaken. It is located south west of Brechin about a mile from the village of Aberlemno. Melgund Castle was built in 1543 by Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop and Chancellor of Scotland. He obtained this secular property, the barony of North Melgund, for his favourite mistress, Marion Ogilvy.

Finavon Castle is surrounded by glorious open farmland and eye-catching countryside. Finavon really comprises two castles - a ruin and a country house; the ruined 14th century castle lies just to the east of the 19th century country house, now split into flats. The original castle was built by the Lindsay Earls of Crawford on the family estate they had owned since 1375. The old castle was one of the highest towers in Scotland in the 15th century and it so appears as a colossal tower on Timothy Pont’s map of the 1590s. Over the years the castle was extended to form an L-plan tower-house of five stories with a garret and a courtyard. The historic wedding of David Lindsay, the 10th Earl of Crawford to Margaret, the daughter of Cardinal David Beaton, took place here in 1546. In 1629 the castle passed to Alexander Lindsay, the 2nd Lord Spynie. Finavon has been through a number of changes of ownership, through the Carnegie family, Gordon Earls of Aboyne and the Gardynes in 1815. Today it no longer looks like an L plan tower house as the west wing has been demolished, but three walls of the main block still stand five stories high. On the northeast angle one can see the remains of a corbelled tower with double shot-holes. The remnants of a courtyard can be discerned by portions of walling including a fragment with shot-holes running north.

Edzell Castle is another impressive ruin with one of the most attractive walled gardens in Scotland. The original wooden structure was built by the Abbott family on top of a motte around 1100. The property passed to the Stirlings of Glenesk, then by marriage to the Lindsays in 1358. It stayed with the Lindsays until 1715 and they developed the castle to what remains today.

Cortachy Castle has been the home of the Ogilvy family and the seat of the Earls of Airlie since the family moved here in 1639 when Airlie Castle was burned down. It is a grand whitewashed baronial structure on the river South Esk that guards the entrance to Glen Clova. Cortachy is a much rebuilt and altered 15th century castle. Some stunted remains still remain, like Ballinshoe and Balfour, as attractive ruins; others have left their mark in the various ‘Castleton’ names in the area. Why don’t you go and have a look at some of them? you might just start an Angus Castle Trail.

Yours aye, THE ORRAMAN.