Kildrummy Castle – Thirteenth Century Glory

Located ten miles south-west of Alford in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Kildrummy Castle was built on a ridge dominating the route from Don to Moray. It was one of the most imposing castles in Scotland and today is the most complete 13th-century castle. Its exact origins are unclear but it was in the hands of the Earl of Mar in 1296. The history of Kildrummy is full of tales of treachery and battles. It was under siege several times and has passed through several hands. In the fourteenth century it was attacked at least three times, usually by the supporters of the English. In 1435 the castle and estates were annexed by King James I to control the power of the barons and the castle was strengthened and improved over the years.

The estate passed to the Elphinstone family in 1507, who added a tower house to the castle, the Elphinstone Tower. The castle was occupied by several families: Stewarts, Elphinstones and Erskines. It was taken over by Jacobites during the 1689 uprising, and damaged by them. It was abandoned in 1715 after the first Jacobite uprising.

Kildrummy Castle was a shield shaped castle with six independent towers. It was protected by a dry moat and deep ravine. Most of the castle’s foundations are now visible as are its lower-storey walls. Today only the outside walls are standing and there are no complete rooms. Archeological excavations revealed decorative stone flooring and evidence of battles. The visitor’s center at the ruins has a model of the castle and one can appreciate the full magnitude of castle’s structure.

The rear wall towered over a ravine and circular towers were built at the two rear corners, and on the arms of the D shape. The gatehouse guarded the apex of the shield. The main living quarters were in the Snow Tower, seven story tower inspired by prevalent French castle designs. A Great Hall extended to the rear wall of the castle and there was a chapel on the east side. The kitchen, bake house and other quarters were on the other side of the chapel.

The Snow Tower collapsed in 1805 but after 1898, when Colonel James Ogston acquired the castle, parts of it were restored. Kildrummy Castle came into State care in 1951 and is now looked after by Historic Scotland.

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