Kildrummy Castle

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Kildrummy Castle
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Location Information
Name Kildrummy Castle
Owner Ruins
NGR NJ 45485 16390
Lon. & Lat. 57.234906,-2.904578
Council Aberdeenshire
Parish Kildrummy
Nearby Castles Glenbuchat, Terpersie, Hallhead
Year built 13th C.
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Kildrummy Castle is a fine example of a late 13th-century castle. It is situated on the S edge of the gorge cut by the Culsh Burn, known as the Black Den, and occupies a tactically strong position on rising ground. Strategically it dominates upper Strath Don, which lay within the earldom of Mar in the medieval period. One of the few great castles of enclosure to have survived in Scotland from the high point of medieval Europrean castle building, Kildrummy's broken grey walls lie like giant shattered eggshells. Defended to the N by the steep natural den from which the stone for the castle was quarried, and with a broad ditch quarried on the other sides, in plan, Kildrummy is shield-shaped (with the flat top to the N).

It appears that the castle as first constructed in the early 13th century for Alexander II was a plain polygonal enclosure; this phase is represented by the coursed rubble of the E, W and S curtains. In the middle of the century the chapel was constructed, and, to achieve a true E-W axis, was allowed to breach the curtain (in a manner 'that defies rational and learned explanation'). Subsequently, possibly as a result of the visit if Edward I of England in 1296, the towers, the ashlar plinth of the N curtain and the gatehouse were added to produce a castle with remarkable similarities to the Edwardian castles of Harlech and Caernarvon, and, closer to Grampian, Bothwell, in Strathclyde.

Important early features of the interior include the archers' slits and prison in the Warden's tower (in the NE), the adjacent postern gate and portcullis, the great hall against the N curtain, and the great donjon or Snow Tower (in the NW) which follows early French models. Later refashioning of the tower-house included the Elphinstone tower, a 16th century tower-house at the W end of the hall and the bakehouse complex in the SE.

The castle saw many sieges, notably in 1306 when Sir Nigel Bruce (King Robert's brother) held it against the young Prince Edward of Caernarvon until betrayed by Osbarn the Smith (who was rewarded, it is said, by having the gold he had been promised poured molten down his throat). The castle was restored (most evident in the W curtain), besieged in 1335 by Balliol forces, burnt in 1530, captured by Cromwell in 1654, and became the headquarters of the Earl of Mar's Jacobite rising of 1715, after which it was demolished.

As a royal castle, it was let by the king to other nobles. In the late 1400's it was given into the care of George Gordon 2nd Earl of Huntly.

The castle has a complex history. Starting as a seat of the earls of Mar, it fell under the control of Edward I in 1296, but was held by Robert Bruce against him in the first of eight documented sieges:

1. in 1305-6 when it was besieged by Edward, prince of Wales (J Bain 1884, II, No. 1829);

2. in 1335 by the earl of Athol (A Wyntoun c. 1350-1420, vi, 58-71; J Stuart and G Burnett 1878, I, cliii & 437-8);

3. in 1361 by David II (J Stuart and G Burnett, 1878, II, xviii-ix, 166);

4. in 1404 it was seized by Sir Alexander Stewart, later earl of Mar by marriage (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot, I App. 2, No. 1908: J Robertson and G Grubb, Aberdeen & Banff, IV, 167-70);

5. in 1442 by Sir Robert Erskine (J Robertson and G Grubb, Aberdeen & Banff, IV, 196-200);

6. in 1531 John Strachan of Lenturk stormed and burnt it (J Robertson and G Grubb, Aberdeen & Banff, IV, 758-9; Pitcairn, I, pt 1, 246.);

7. in 1654 it was taken by Colonel Morgan for Parliament (W D Simpson 1923, 239-240);

8. and in 1689-90 it was burnt by the retreating Jacobites (Fraser 1890, II, 168).

Destruction during these events provided ample opportunity for changes to take place. Other alterations were due to changing demands or wear and tear, particularly at changes of ownership. The rebuilding of the gatehouse, for example, probably relates to the English occupation under Edward I, from 1296-1305; subsequent repairs to the chapel and gatehouse were carried out on the acquisition of the earldom of Mar by the Crown in 1435 (M R Apted 1965), and the conversion of the solar to a tower-house by lord Elphinstone in 1507. Further works were probably carried out on the acquisition of the castle by the earl of Mar in 1626, following long legal wrangles with lord Elphinstone. The castle ceased to be occupied as a residence after the attainder of the earl of Mar in 1715 and by 1724 was already ruinous


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