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Forfarshire
Chapter 20. - Architecture—(b) Castellated


Amongst military structures in Scotland, there are said to be no examples of the Norman style. Our oldest castles belong to the succeeding period. The typical fortress of the early fifteenth century was the simple square tower with three or four vaulted storeys. Such is Melgund castle. In order to provide for some flanking work, the builder of these square towers often perched turrets on the corners or top of the building. There might be four of these works, but often the poverty of the laird restricted him to one or two. After the long quarrel with England, Scottish architects adopted French rather than English models. Some of the distinctive features of this Scottish baronial style, for which we are in part indebted to our French allies, are turrets projecting from the wall upon bold corbellings and terminating in pointed roofs; towers of circular plan; parapets and battlements; roofs of steep pitch; gables of stepped outline; small, square windows; plain, unadorned doorways ; prominent or lofty chimneys.

Fortresses are situated at points of vantage amongst or near the hills, where they have been erected to guard some pass or ford, or at places on the coast liable to attack. Forfarshire, for example, has its castles placed at, or near, the entrances to glens leading far into the Grampians, at passes in the Sidlaws, at important strategic points in Strathmore and Strathmartine, and on or near the shore of firth and ocean.

Situated in Glen Isla at a point to the north-east of Mount Blair, and commanding the route through that glen and one leading over to Glen Shee, Forter Castle, an ancient stronghold of the Ogilvys, is a good example of a mountain keep. It has long been in ruins, but a special interest attaches to it as the actual scene of the burning of what in the ballad is called the “bonnie house o’ Airlie.” The Earl of Airlie was obnoxious to the Covenanters and devoted to the Stewart cause. During his absence in England in 1640, Argyll as leader of the Covenanters and in prosecution of an old family feud between the Campbells and the Ogilvys, attacked and destroyed both Forter and Airlie. The latter castle occupies a romantic position at the junction of the Melgum and the Isla. The precipices rising from both stream and tributary rendered it impregnable on all but its landward side, which was defended by a deep fosse, drawbridge, and portcullis.

One of the finest ruins of the county, Inverquharity Castle, is situated on the South Esk near the point where that river is joined by the Carity Bum. It formed another of those defences against raiders down Glen Prosen or Glen Clova. Built by one of the Ogilvys, it is a large, square, battlemented tower, with walls 9 feet thick. The castle possesses one of the few iron gates, or “yetts,” met with in the county, for the use of which a special licence from the sovereign was required. In the neighbourhood are the ruins of Clova Castle. Cortachy Castle at the junction of the Prosen and the South Esk, has a name that is said to indicate the nature of its site— “the enclosed ground.” Shut in from the surrounding world by hills and woods, it is built in an ideally sequestered spot. Like so many others in Forfarshire the castle consists of portions built at separate periods; but not even its oldest part, a circular tower terminating with a square corbelled superstructure, looks as if it had been a fortress, though in the early sixteenth century, when it seems to have been built, it must have served to some extent as a place of defence as well as residence.

Vayne Castle, amidst the Braes of Angus between the two Esks, is situated on a precipitous rock overlooking the Noran. The castle, built of red sandstone, consisted of three storeys and had a circular tower containing a staircase. Probably a stronghold of the Lindsays, it is another good instance of a fortress built to guard against northern forays.

Finhaven Castle, whose ruins may still be seen near where the Lemno joins the South Esk, was for a long time the chief seat of the Lindsays, Earls of Crawford. James II defied the notorious Earl Beardie and vowed he would make the highest stone of the castle its lowest. He subsequently pardoned the Earl, but to fulfil his vow—

“Bounding nimbly to the highest tower,
Where Beardie wont to pass his leisure hour,
Down to the lawn a crazy stone he threw,
And smiling cried—‘Behold my promise true!’”

Glenesk, even more closely associated with the.“lichtsome Lindsays,” contains two interesting memorials of that warlike family. Amid the rocky fastnesses near the head of the glen, rises the ruinous tower of Invermark Castle, the most typical specimen probablyin the whole county of a mountain fortress. Built of native granite, the tower is one of four storeys, with the entrance on the second floor, now somewhat difficult of access. In days of yore it was reached by a drawbridge stretching between the castle and a flight of steps 12 feet distant. Should an enemy have succeeded in crossing this he would have found the doorway guarded by a strong iron “yett,” within which was an oaken door.

Near the entrance to Glenesk stood Edzell Castle, whose ruins form the most impressive relic in the county of a medieval fortress and baronial residence. It vied with Finhaven as a seat of the Lindsays. The ruins of the castle testify to the greatness of this family. The lofty “Stirling Tower,” a keep 60 feet in height, still fairly entire, is the most imposing part of the ruins. The great baronial hall measured 36 by 24 feet. The courtyard was 100 feet in length by 70 feet in breadth. The castle and its gardens covered about two acres of ground. The gardens were surrounded by walls ornamented with sculptures and decorations, which may still be seen. Its kitchen, “the Kitchen of Angus,” was so large that a whole ox could be roasted in it; and need was, for crowds of noble guests and their retainers were constantly received within the hospitable walls of the castle.

Hatton Castle, near Newtyle, was a fortress of the Oliphants, built in 1575 and noteworthy for the size of its rooms and its window apertures. Some little distance over the pass leading from Newtyle to the valley of the Dighty is the mansion of Auchterhouse. In its grounds is the so-called Wallace Tower, with walls 12 feet thick. This has the reputation of belonging to the early twelfth century; and, if so, it is one of the oldest ruins in the county. The association of its name with the national hero is consistent with the tradition that it was for some time occupied by Edward I.

For centuries the chief seat of the Earls of Strathmore has been Glamis Castle, one of the noblest architectural ornaments of Angus, and the finest specimen in existence of the Scottish baronial style. We are here concerned mainly with the older parts of the building, the construction and character of which take us back to the eleventh century. The room is still shown in which, according to tradition, Malcolm II died, in 1033. Another account speaks of a violent death, and certain obelisks with rude carvings in the vicinity seem to bear testimony to this. The truth can never be known; but the king’s death being associated with Glamis bears undoubted witness to the antiquity of the castle. The demesne came into the possession of the Lyons in 1372, the founder of the Strathmore family being Sir John Lyon, who married the Princess Jane, second daughter of Robert II. Weird stories, ghostly and other, cling to the haunted rooms of Glamis Castle. Residence as it now is and long has been, the enormous walls, the small windows, the arched and groined roofs bespeak the fortress, and justify us in ranking Glamis amongst military buildings.

Forfar Castle has now disappeared, but its ruins were in evidence about the beginning of last century. It was an important fortress in the early days when it was captured by Edward I and so obstinately held for him, that on its being reduced Robert I caused it to be destroyed lest it should again harbour his enemies. Its site is now occupied by the tower of the Market Cross. The district that intervenes between Forfar and Brechin contains the castles of Careston, Melgund, Flemington, and Aldbar, in addition to Finhaven already mentioned. Melgund, which resembles Edzell, is perhaps the most interesting of these, and is associated with the name of Cardinal Beaton.

The nucleus of Brechin Castle is as old as the time of Wallace. Edward I occupied it for some time in 1296, and in the following year Wallace took it. Edward now directed a strong force against the Castle, which, after a hot attack lasting for twenty days, surrendered on the death of its brave governor, Sir Thomas Maule. The fortress occupies a strong natural position, around which on one side sweep the waters of the South Esk. In the fifteenth century it came into the possession of the Maules of Pan-mure, and is now the chief seat of the Earl of Dalhousie.

Almost directly south of Brechin and about halfway between that city and Arbroath, rises to a height of 60 feet the massive square tower of Guthrie Castle. Its age is uncertain, but it seems to date from the fifteenth century, when Sir David Guthrie obtained permission to erect such a fortress-residence as the times required. Its iron “ yett ” is a noteworthy feature. The old tower is incorporated in the modern castle.

Historically more interesting was the ancient Castle of Kinnaird, whose site is now occupied by what is perhaps the most sumptuous mansion in Angus. The old castle was burned by Earl Beardie in 1452, because its owner fought against him at the battle of Brechin. James VI, Charles I, and Charles II were guests in the building which replaced it; and Charles I created its owner Earl of Southesk. It was here that the Great Marquis, who had married a daughter of the house, parted from his wife when on his way to execution at Edinburgh. James, the fifth earl, an active Jacobite in the Fifteen, suffered the forfeiture of his title and his estate for his adherence to the Stuarts, and died in exile. In 1855 his great-grandson was reinstated by the House of Lords.

Near Montrose are the castles of Rossie and Dun-ninald, while to the north-west of Montrose Basin are the remains of the ancient House of Dun, whose proprietors for many generations figured notably in Scottish history. Their rights of harbourage at Montrose brought them into frequent and often serious conflict with the inhabitants of that ancient borough.

Two miles west of Dundee is Invergowrie House, the oldest part of which is believed to go back to the fourteenth century. Of the Castle of Dundee nothing remains but the name. Dudhope Park in Dundee, purchased in 1873 as a recreation ground for the city, contains the Castle of Dudhope, a place of some historical note. The oldest part of the building was erected in 1296 by Sir Alexander Scrymgeour, and being subsequently extended became the seat of the Scrymgeours, Earls of Dundee. The property is described in 1682 as being “ane extraordinaire pleasant and sweet place.” It was the abode of the celebrated Claverhouse. In its vicinity he unfurled King James’s banner and from it set out for Killiecrankie.

Broughty Castle was founded in 1496, and played many notable parts in history down to 1603. Having long fallen into disuse as a fortress, it was repaired and fortified by the Crown to guard the entrance to the Tay. For this it is admirably suited, being situated on a rocky promontory, once an islet, at the point where the estuary of the Tay narrows to a breadth of one mile. Its guns thus command the entrance of the firth and the waterway to Dundee.

In the district to the north-east of Dundee and Broughty Ferry are several castles, once half fortresses, half mansions. Amongst these the most interesting are Mains, Claypotts, and Affleck, all now in a more or less ruinous condition. Mains, or Fintry, Castle was built about 1562 by Graham of Fintry; and, though long uninhabited, is in a state of wonderful preservation. It is situated on a tributary of the Dighty, and its lofty tower is a conspicuous object in the landscape. It is a good example of the castellated architecture of the sixteenth century. The tower has a penthouse corona. The corbelled abutment of a turret, the arched entrance, the quaint gables are noteworthy features. That it was more residence than stronghold, its situation and its ornate character alike show. Immediately behind Broughty Ferry is Claypotts Castle, of Scottish baronial architecture. It is built on the Z plan, and belongs to the latter part of the sixteenth century. Its oblong keep measures 35 feet by 25. The thickness of its walls and its circular towers bespeak the fortress. Built by the Strachans of Claypotts, the castle came into the possession of the Grahams of Claverhouse, and Viscount Dundee resided for some time within it. The ruin is now the property of the Earl of Home. Affleck, or Auchinleck, Castle, a mile to the west of Monikie, is regarded as a fine specimen of its class. From this castle hints have been taken for the restoration of other buildings of the same type. Like Invermark and a few other Angus castles, this finely built structure had until recently a “yett” or heavy door of grated iron. The lofty square tower, a landmark to mariners, is four storeys in height and has the appearance of a Border peel. The walls are of great thickness and solidity.

About the middle of the curve of Lunan Bay, on an elevated piece of ground, stands the roofless ruin of Red Castle. Erected by William the Lion, it is thought to occupy the site of a still older fortress built to guard the entrance to Strathmore.


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