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Huntly Castle
The Estate

Patrick the first Earl of Strathmore did not curtail himself to renovation of the castle. In his diary, known as the Glamis Book of Record, he describes the roof of the Church in Longforgan as — altogether ruinous. By exercising his influence, he organised the replacement of the roof and had a private room and seat built for himself. He was to make many improvements to the grounds and surrounding policies which remain in evidence today.

It is he, who is credited with the excavation of the ornamental pond, which follows the contour along the north-east flank of the knoll on which the castle sits. While it is described as "The Moat" in contemporary writings and maps, it could never have served any defensive purpose due to its shallow depth and distance from the actual castle building. The Old Statistical Account describes several mineral springs in the grounds and it is one of those which is the water source for the moat.

As well as building the high stone wall surrounding the estate, he planted a substantial amount of timber, not only for decoration, but by way of an investment. A 1743 survey records 8557 growing trees on the estate, and remarks on the quality of sweet chestnut trees which were much sought after by ships’ carpenters. A feature of his planting which can still be observed from a high vantage point, was the tree-lined avenue, known as the Grand Avenue, 30 feet wide and almost 1 mile long, running in a straight line north-west, from the castle to what was then the main road at a point opposite the farm of Snabs. At that time the road from Dundee to Perth was further north than it now is and bypassed the village, the present road not being constructed till 1790. In the time of Earl Patrick there was no road leading to the village as there is today.

The Grand Avenue originally had six gates, five of which no trace remains. The outer, or first gate was dismantled sometime around 1790 and re-erected at the present entrance. It is built of a similar sandstone to that of the castle and consists of a central gateway 16 feet wide with two side arches of 7 feet. Two piers are decorated with ornamented semi-circular Tuscan pilasters and all are surmounted with elongated pyramids aligned to the cardinal points of the compass. The gate was known as Port Patrick but became corrupted to Port Patience.

Port Patrick

The next gate along the Grand Avenue was the Rustic Gate, said to be a noble arch with a little postern on each side. To the right of this gate was the deer park and to the left, the nursery ground.

The third gate was the Iron Gate and had two strong pillars with rich capitals, all the pillars being of well cut stone, set for hanging an iron gate. The enclosure to the north contained the farm steading and to the south, the family offices and the gardener’s house. It was between the farm steading and the avenue where the fabled Glamis Tree stood.

The fourth gate was the Coach House Gate. This was formed of two large plain pillars with capitals and bases. The fifth gate was at the foot of the incline up to the castle and known as the Ionic Gate. This was decorated in the ionic style with four columns and capitals.

The last gate in the series was the Castle Gate, with two plain hewn pillars and capitals, and a globe of stone on each pillar. To the left of this gate was a postern where the Grand Avenue terminated. Beyond the postern was Ye Beggars Seat, a stone seat, said to be capable of holding 30 people.

On either side of the avenue was the Bow Butts, grassed walkways, 5 yards wide and 80 yards long. At each end was built a stone wall, faced with turf. These were for archery practice with the right side reserved for nobility and the left for the commoners.

Italian Gardens

The most striking piece of civil engineering was that of the terraced gardens, which were formed by the force of quarry mells and peiks. This garden today bears the name of the Italian Gardens, and is said to be made up of carried soil which was imported from Italy as ballast for ships discharging at Kingoodie.

Horticulture played an important part in the life of the estate. 300 feet was under glass with a steam heated melon pit, 20 feet by 12 feet. Much of the area under glass was heated by copper pipes some of which were contained within the walling. Grapes and peaches grew with notable success possibly due to the innovative steam dew, a by-product of the melon pit, which was said to, "preserve the trees from suffering by various insects ".

When in London, the first Earl Patrick was much taken up with the many noble buildings then being erected and furnished there. He was evidently determined to bring up to date his old Castle, the name of which he changed from Huntly to Lyon which latter name continued to be used until 1776 when a new owner restored the old name. He bought a good deal of fine furniture and furnishings for the improvement of his Castle and shipped his purchases from London to Dundee. As there were no bricks made in Scotland until long after his day he probably brought bricks for his ice-house in the same manner. The Earl also brought statuary for the embellishment of his gardens and introduced many new ideas such as sash windows.

For a period around 1780 the estate was to enjoy an income from the sale of shell marl (an aggregate used in the construction of walls and outer rendering of buildings). Records indicate sales of 60,000 bolls (a cube of two feet) at 8d or 9d per boll.

George Paterson’s influence on the estate saw some changes in the layout. Old trees were removed and new ones planted but many of the fine specimen trees were to remain so as to preserve the unity of style between the policies and the castle.

A mercat cross consisting of an eleven foot high stone pillar surmounted by a lion had been erected in the village of Longforgan in the 17th Century. Some years later it was removed and re-erected within the policies on a grassy mound, known locally as Cromwell’s Knowe. It remained there until as recently as 1989 when, at the request of the Community Council it was reinstated to the village to stand outside the primary school.

Mercat Cross in present location outside Longforgan School

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