Red Castle – Red Hot Passion

Red Castle looms over the waters and sands at Lunan on the hill overlooking the beach. A former Royal pleasure palace, Red Castle now serves as just a humble place to enjoy some bird watching off the coast. The Castle was built on the orders of King William the Lion in the late 12th Century as a fortress and a preemptive measure against the marauding Viking invaders. It ended up being one of King William’s favorite hunting lodges during the latter part of his reign

In 1194, William conferred the castle and the land surrounding the village of Inverkeilor to Walter de Berkeley, the Royal Chamberlain. It returned to the royal family and it was only in 1328 that Robert the Bruce gave the castle to the Earl of Ross. By this time it had been officially called “rubeum castrum”, or Red Castle in deeds of 1286. This referred to the red sandstone from which it is built.

Red Castle remained a prominent feature of the area until the era of civil strife during the early reign of King James VI. It was owned by the powerful but extremely unpopular Cardinal David Beaton at that time. It survived the Reformation but ironically its downfall, which came about in 1579, was a result of a great passion which shook its very foundations.

James Gray, who was a son of Lord Gray fell in love and married an older woman, Lady Elizabeth Beaton, the owner of Red Castle at the time. James, unfortunately, soon fell in love with her daughter. In a rage, Lady Elizabeth Beaton threw him out of the castle. Not to be outdone, James Gray enlisted the help of his brother Andrew of Dunninald and the Grays spent the next two years laying siege to the castle. In the end they burned and sacked the castle.

From then on the once magnificent castle went into an irrevocable decline and although it remained partially roofed until 1770, it was no longer the center of power or of any importance. Its last inhabitant was the local minister of Inverkeilor, the Rev James Rait.

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