Balnagown Castle – The Ross Family Legacy
Balnagown Castle, also spelt as Balnagowan, is an ancient seat of the Ross family. Their name and title is derived from the County of Ross Highland, where they held ancestral land. Located near Tain on the southern bank of the Balnagown River, the castle is two miles northwest of Invergordo in the Parish of Kilmuir Easter. Surrounded by thickly forested hills, the castle dominates the narrow wooded valley of the Balnagown River as there are very few structures around.
The West Tower of Balnagown Castle was probably constructed in the fifteenth century. The thirteenth Chief and Laird of Balnagown, David Ross, renovated the main tower house in the late sixteenth century and also added another wing. Extensions were also built at the end of the 17th century.
In the early 18th century the head of the clan was a Ross of Pitcalnie, who could not afford to maintain the debt ridden property. Balnagown was sold to a Lowland family, coincidently also of the Ross clan! The east tower was built in Scottish Gothic style in 1838, in harmony with the older parts. The grounds were also redesigned to build a gravel road, lawn and flower beds.
When you look at the castle it has a welcoming porch and large windows in the front with battlements and turrets which are more ornamental than real, though Balnagown was a defensive stronghold in the 14th century. Lush green parkland extends in front of the castle. The rear of the castle though, is sheer walls with a few small windows and stands on steep grassy slopes. Balnagown Castle is believed to be haunted by at least two ghosts, that of a murdered Scottish princess and the wicked Black Andrew, Andrew Monroe, a smaller 16th century laird.
The 30,000 acre Balnagown property including the castle was sold by the representatives of the estate of the last-remaining Lockhart-Ross in 1972 to the controversial Egyptian business Mohammed Al Fayed, owner of Harrods in London. Al Fayed has spent millions restoring the castle and improving the estate. He has reinforced the structure, refurnished the interior and brought back its former splendor to this historic landmark.