Tolquhon Castle – One Man’s Dream

The remnants of Tolquhon Castle are situated in the parish of Tarves, 15 miles north of Aberdeen, on the A920. Tolquhon was one of the most picturesque castles in the Grampian countryside. The original tower house stands in a corner while the newer 16th century structure is the main castle, a striking edifice that could be well defended. The inner courtyard walls had gun loops and arrow ports for the defenders. It was amongst one of the finest houses of its day and James VI, visited Tolquhon in 1589, shortly after its completion.

The earlier tower, known as the Preston Tower, was believed to be built by the castle’s original owners, the Preston family. The old tower had a standard floor plan with four stories. In 1420 Tolquhon passed by marriage to the Forbes family: it was inherited by Sir John Forbes who had married Marjorie, second daughter of the deceased Sir Henry Preston. The rest of the castle was built between 1584 and 1589 by William Forbes as a large mansion round a courtyard.

The most striking feature is the highly ornamented gatehouse which is balanced on the east side by the Preston Tower, and on the other side by a round tower. The gatehouse façade was designed to impress rather than to deter visitors. William Forbes proudly displayed his coat of arms and those of his king James VI, over the doorway.

The main three-storey block opposite the ornate gatehouse was flanked on either side by lesser accommodation and service buildings. The main house had vaulted cellars that served as a wine cellar, bakehouse, and kitchen and pit prison. Above this was the great hall and private chambers for the family. Other ranges contained practical rooms at ground level, such as stores and brewhouses, while above them there was a long gallery that ran the entire length of one range. The castle was furnished in keeping with its beautiful architecture.

The 11th Forbes Laird was forcibly removed from the castle in 1718 after it was sold to the Farquhars in 1716. Tolquhon Castle was later used as a farmhouse and was abandoned around the end of the 19th century.

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