Ruined Castles - North East Scotland

Balvenie Castle, Dufftown, Keith

One of the oldest castles in Scotland

Balvenie Castle stands on a small wooded hill on the outskirts of Dufftown close to the Glenfiddich Distillery. With a formidable curtain wall, the Historic Scotland website describes it as a ďa rare example of 13th-century military architecture in Scotland.Ē The later Atholl Lodging is a fine example of Renaissance architecture.

The castle is one of the oldest in Scotland being built in the 13thC for the Comyns, Earls of Buchan. After the murder of John Comyn by Robert the Bruce, the family threw their allegiance behind Edward I and were promptly outlawed by the Bruce.

All that remains of the 13thC castle is the massive curtain wall with its ditch. In the early 15thC, the castle was owned by the Black Douglases who probably rebuilt the accommodation along the west, south and east ranges. They rebelled against James II, were defeated and their titles and lands forfeited to the crown.

In 1460, the castle was granted to John Stewart, first earl of Atholl. The fourth earl completely remodelled the castle in the 16thC and added a grand accommodation range including a round tower (Atholl Lodging) in the NW corner. The fifth earl died leaving four daughters who surrendered their interest in the estate to the crown. The castle changed hands frequently but remained unoccupied after the suicide of its last owner in 1718. Now it is a ruin in the care of Historic Scotland.

From the outside it is a rather uninspiring building surrounded by a ditch. The join between the older (domestic) and newer (residential) sections is very clear.

Balvenie Castle

Along the top of the newer range are three small crests and there are cannon loops in the base.

Entry is through a small round topped door which still has its double yett (wrought iron gate) which was specially designed to resist attacks by battering ram. There is small guard room on either side. 

Balvenie Castle

On the inside of the gateway are two round towers.

Balvenie Castle

Round the inside of the walls are a range of domestic buildings including kitchens, brewhouse and storage cellars. The ground floor was the servantís quarters. These are very dark as the only light is from the cannon loops and one very small window. Spiral staircases give access to the dining room and withdrawing room in the Athollís Lodgings. Access to these was restricted for restoration work when we visited in September 201 .

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