Melgund Castle – Home of a Great Scotswoman

Melgund Castle was a roofless ruin till recently, when private restoration work was undertaken. It is located four miles south west of Brechin and about a mile from the village of Aberlemno in the Angus region. Melgund Castle was built in 1543 by Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop and Chancellor of Scotland. He obtained this secular property, the barony of North Melgund for his favorite mistress, Marion Ogilvy.

The most interesting role in the history of Melgund is perhaps that of Marion Ogilvy, daughter of the First Lord Ogilvy of Airlie’s fourth wife. She was referred to as chief lewd, though she may have been married to Beaton in secret, before he became a cardinal. They had eight children and he settled the barony on her “in life rent” and on their oldest son as an inheritance.

Melgund Castle displayed the armorial bearings of both Marion and the cardinal, like those of a landed married couple. She was a literate woman who fought for and won her rights in court after the cardinal was assassinated. She spent the rest of her life managing affairs at Melgund and she left more than £3,000, including £1,000 in cash when she died.

Melgund Castle remained with their descendants until the 17th century when it passed to the Gordons. The castle is now the property of the Earl of Minto. Although built as a castle, it was more like a stately home with decorative battlements. It was built in imitation of a 15th century keep with 16th century additions.

Melgund Castle has been restored to its original four storied L-plan keep. It rises to an elaborately corbelled parapet walk with an attic storey and watch chamber above that. The west end of the castle is on the L-plan but the stair tower seems to have been raised considerably higher to act as a watch tower.

A number of domestic buildings run eastward from the keep to a round tower with its well-made flagged floor. It may have been the private hall of the castle’s owner. Recessed into the west wall was a massive kitchen fireplace with a circular oven to the left of the hearth. Certainly a very interesting building to visit when touring the Angus and Dundee regions of Scotland.

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