Huntly Castle (Strathbogie)

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Huntly Castle
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Location Information
Name Huntly Castle
Owner ruins
NGR NJ 53196 40749
Lon. & Lat. 57.454554,-2.781438
Council Aberdeenshire
Parish Huntly
Nearby Castles Sandston, Avochie, Pitlurg, Aswanley, Edinglassie, Beldorney, Davidston
Year built 12th c.
Overview map
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Huntly Castle has seen its share of Scottish History, and has the scars to show for it. Over a period of 600 years this site saw four different castles in three slightly different locations under two different names. And between them these castles were attacked or besieged at least eight times.

In response to their support, Robert the Bruce granted the castle and the lands of Strathbogie to Sir Adam Gordon of Huntly, in Berwickshire, who had shown him consistent loyalty. This brought the Gordons to Moray, and with them the name of Huntly that was later to replace Strathbogie.

In 1506, Alexander, the third Earl of Huntly, was granted a charter changing the name of the castle and surrounding area from Strathbogie to Huntly, in effect fitting the geography to his title. The castle has since been known as Huntly Castle, and the town to its south also later became known as Huntly.

By 1550 George, the 4th Earl of Huntly, was also Lord Chancellor of Scotland and one of the wealthiest men in the kingdom. He rebuilt the castle above the basement level into a grand palace, finishing the work just in time for a visit by Mary of Guise, widow of James V and mother of Mary Queen of Scots. George's strong Catholicism and political independence were later to lead to his falling out with Mary Queen of Scots. On 28 October 1562 she defeated him at the Battle of Corrichie, near Aberdeen. George was killed in the battle, Huntly Castle was looted and George's younger son was executed.

Repairs were still underway when George, the 6th Earl of Huntly, joined a plot against James VI in 1594. The King's response was to attack the castle, damaging it again and blowing up the remains of the old tower house on the north side of the enclosure. By 1599 George had made his peace with James VI and been promoted to Marquis of Huntly. His response was a further round of building work at Huntly, designed to make the 1550 palace even grander and more decorative.

The remodelling around 1600 included the remarkable fireplaces on view in the palace, one of which is dated 1606, and the decorative oriel windows and inscription on the exterior of the upper floor of the palace. The inscription reads: George Gordon First Marquis of Huntlie 16 above Henriette Stewart Marquesse of Huntlie 02. The "16" and "02" together date the completion of this part of the work. Also dating to this remodelling is the incredible carved frontispiece stretching vertically above the main entrance to the palace on the courtyard side (shown in this engraving). This is unique in Britain.

The architectural triumph of the palace that resulted was not to be enjoyed for long. The 2nd Marquis of Huntly backed the King in the Civil War and paid for it with his life. In 1640 Huntly Castle was occupied by the Covenanting Army. In 1644 it was held for the King by the Marquis of Montrose, and in 1647 it was defended by Lord Charles Gordon against General Leslie's Covenanters, but was starved into submission. The defenders were all executed. In 1650, King Charles II stayed en route to his coronation as King of Scotland.

Huntly Castle last played an active role in Scottish History in 1746, when it was held by Government Troops against the Jacobites. It later became a handy quarry for those building the town of Huntly before its value as an attractive ruin was appreciated in the late 1800s. It was passed into State care in 1923, and is now looked after by Historic Scotland.


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