The Latin root of the word ‘castle,’ ‘cestrum’ means ‘a fortified place.’ Scotland has more than 2,000 castles, but many of them have been ruined and are traceable only through historical records. Castles were, in fact, a European innovation, and they originated in the 9th and 10th centuries after the fall of the Carolingian Empire ruled by the Carolingian Dynasty considered the founder of Germany and France. After it collapsed, the land was divided into many smaller units ruled by princes and lords. The castles served not only as icons but also as centers of administration and headquarters both for defense and offense. They had some common features like an elevated base, known as a moat, which could be either a pre-existing, natural landscape, or they were incorporated later on in the early stages of construction. Castles were protected by water moats provided with drawbridges. Typically, the castles also shared a curtained wall.
1. Abergeldie Castle
Sir Alexander Gordon of Midmar built the Abergeldie Castle in 1550 near Carthie. At first, a Jacobite uprising in 1689, a Spanish garrison under the command of General Hugh Mackay stayed in this castle. The castle had been owned by the Gordon family since 1848 until 1970 when it was leased to the British royal family. It was constructed on a 35×28 foot rectangle and had a 15-foot, round stairs tower. The southern faÃƒ§ade has a Venetian window. The Abergeldie Castle resembles the Castle of Balfluig at Alford, and this might be due to the work of a common designer. The castle is said to be haunted by the ghost of a French woman, Kittie Rankie, who worked here. She was suspected of witchcraft, and after being confined in the castle for some time was burnt at the stake on a nearby hill.
2. Balquhain Castle
Balquhain Castle is located at about 4 km. to the west of Inverurie in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was built in the 14th century and was the center of power of the Leslies of Balquhain. Its remains are protected as an historical monument. It was abandoned in 1526 and was rebuilt in 1530. Mary, Queen of Scots stayed in this castle in 1562. Prince William, Duke of Cumberland, burned and abandoned it in 1746. Its tower measures 8.75 meters. Most of the castle is ruined, but part of its defensive enclosure still remains and reflects the typical construction of small castles of its time.
3. Braemar Castle
Originally built in the late Middle Ages, the current castle was built in 1628 by John Erskine, the 18th Earl of Mars. He built it as a hunting lodge with an aim to suppress the increasing power of the Farquharsons. John Farquharsons burned the castle in 1689, and it was later rebuilt and used by John Adam, Master Mason of the Board of Ordinance in 1847. Queen Victoria was entertained in this castle, and its moat was intact until 1800. It is a five-story, L-plan castle having a curtain wall and a round, stair tower made of granite. Its original gate of iron is still intact. The ground floor had strong rooms, an ammunition depot, guard rooms, storage, and a kitchen. Presently the castle had been leased to the local community in 2006, and a local charity, Braemar, Ltd., runs it with the help of local volunteers.
4. Corgarff Castle
Corgarff Castle was built in 1550 by John Forbes of Towie in Corgaff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Originally it had a tower within a walled enclosure. The Forbes family supported James VI after the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots while the Gordon family supported Mary to the Scottish throne. This caused an armed conflict between the two clans, and Adam Gordon of Auchindoun tried to seize the castle in November, 1571. At the time of the attack, there were no men inside the fort, and Forbes’s wife Margaret not only refused to surrender but also killed one of the invaders. To retaliate, Adam Gordon burned the castle killing all those inside except Margaret.
5. Craigievar Castle
Craigievar Castle is a typical, Scottish, baronial architecture style located at the foothills of the Grampian Mountains at about 10 km. to the south of Alford Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It was built by the Aberdonian merchant William Forbes, the brother of the Bishop of Aberdeen. The Forbes family resided in this castle for about 300 years from 1610 to 1963. The Forbes family gifted the castle to the National Trust for Scotland in 1963. The original castle was pink in color, with a seven-story building with four towers, of which only one presently remains. The castle is open to the public and reminds many of fairy tales.
6. Crathes Castle
Crathes Castle was built in the 16th century by Burnetts of Leys on the land near Bachory in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The land was gifted to the Burnetts of Leys by King Robert the Bruce in 1323. The castle was held for about 400 years by the family. It is located near Bachory in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The exterior of the castle was preserved by a special process of plastering called harling to make it weather resistant. Construction of the towers started in 1553 but was interrupted many times due to political reasons during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1966, Sir James Burnett, the 13th Baronet of Leys, gifted the castle to the National Trust for Scotland. The castle has its original, painted ceiling. The castle estate covers more than four acres of woodlands, fields, and also includes an excellent, walled, botanical garden. The castle remains open to tourists throughout the year.
7. Delgatie Castle
Delgatie Castle is located near Tariff, Auberdeenshire, Scotland. The original castle existed at the site in 1030 A.D.; however, most of the castle, as seen today, was built in 1570 to 1579. The chapel and a wing were added in 1743. After the battle of Bannockburn, the castle was taken from Henry de Beaumont, Earl of Buchan. In 1314 it was given to the clan of Hay who later on became the Earls of Errol. After the battle of Corrichie, Mary, Queen of Scots stayed as a guest in the castle in 1562. Presently, the castle is owned by the Delgatie Castle Trust. The castle, its gardens, and its surroundings are open to the public throughout the year.
8. Drum Castle
Drum Castle derives its name from the Gaelic root ‘druim,’ meaning ‘ridge.’ Located near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, it is one of the country’s three original and oldest tower houses. It was built in the 13th century by the architect Richard Cementarius. The 9th Laird expanded it in 1619, and it was also altered during the Victorian era. Robert the Bruce granted the castle to his armor bearer, William de Irwyn, in 1325. The castle was held by the Clan Irvine until 1975. Currently the castle is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open to the public during the summer. It can also be rented for wedding ceremonies or corporate events.
9. Castle Fraser
Located near Kemany in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Castle Fraser covers more than 1.2 square kilometers’ area. It was initially known as Muchall-in-Mar. There is archaeological evidence of a square tower dating about the year 1450. The 6th Laird of Fraser started its construction in 1575, and it was completed in 1636. It is a five-story, Z-plan castle, and is considered a contemporary of the castles in its vicinity like Craigievar Castle, Crathes Castle, and Midmar Castle. In the 18th century, the castle was renovated with some alterations to modernize it. The last Fraser, Fredrick Mackenzie Fraser, died in 1921, and his widow sold the castle to the Pearson family who, in turn, gifted it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976.
10. Stirling Castle
Stirling Castle was built by James IV and James V, somewhere between 1490-1600. The first reference to the castle in recorded history is made in 1110 when King Alexander ÃŽâ„¢ dedicated a chapel to this castle. The castle by that time was a compatible royal residence as Alexander died in this castle in 1124. Many kings and queens, including Mary, Queen of Scots, was crowned in 1543 in this castle. Prince Henry was born in this castle. Stirling Castle is one of the most important castles in Scotland from an historic, geographical, and architectural point of view.
After the introduction of gunpowder, the effectiveness and strength of castles was challenged, and their construction declined for some time and reemerged with a more sustainable design and structure. In the second phase, more than for defensive or offensive purposes, the castles became the residences of lords and princes having more of the gardens’ guest houses than the barracks for a garrison and storage for ammunition. Castles are associated simultaneously with strange extremities like being important historical places and tourist attractions at odd, geographical locations as well as fairy tales, prisons, fierce warlords, beautiful princes and princesses, gardens, fierce battles and sieges as well as beautiful gardens and bridges.