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Balvenie Castle – Ruins of Scotland’s Colorful Past

Balvenie Castle lies a mile north of Dufftown in Glen Fiddich which is in the Moray region of Scotland. Originally known as Mortlach, it was built by William Comyn, who became the Earl of Buchan on his marriage to the daughter of the last Celtic earl of Buchan. Comyn was also Lord of Balvenie and he built Belvenie castle in 1200s. Commanding the passes into Moray from Huntly, the Cabrach, Glen Fiddich, and the Glen Rinnes, Balvenie Castle was coveted and fought over by many. It has changed many hands over the centuries.

The Comyn Clan lost it to the Black Douglas clan during Robert Bruce’s reign. King James II defeated the Douglases in 1455 and gave Balvenie to one of his own kinsmen and it remained a gracious home under the Stewarts. It served as a garisson during the Jacobite rebellion. Sadly it fell into decay and neglect when it was abandoned in 1720. Notable visitors in the past have included King Edward I of England, Mary Queen of Scots and the Marquis of Montrose who sought refuge here in 1644.

Today it is the remains of a structure that was built and rebuilt by its several owners over the centuries to meet the needs of the era. Surrounded by an empty moat, the ruins of this courtyard castle of enclosure reveal a massive curtain wall built by the Comyns. The main entrance into the courtyard was built by John Stewart, 4th earl of Atholl in the 16th century who completely remodeled the eastern side of the castle as a renaissance structure. He added three stories and a round tower on the northeast corner.

The west range is believed to have been built in the 1400s by the Douglases. Originally a hall and great chamber over vaulted storage cellars, only the vaulting of the cellars is visible. One can also recognize traces of fireplaces and original stone sink in the kitchen range, situated against the south curtain wall next to the brew-house.

The last occupant of the castle was William Duff of Braco who died there in 1718. Today Balvenie Castle is owned by Historic Scotland and is open to visitors. Balvenie Whisky is produced by the William Grant and Sons Distillery just next to the castle and worth a visit when exploring this region of Aberdeen and Grampian.