After enjoying our time at Kildrummy Castle, we decided to continue in a castle crusade of Scotland and drove towards Glen Farg, where we were met with a beautiful isolated castled perched on a hilltop overlooking the A912. Join us to wander the ruins of Balvaird Castle and find out about its family history and why it was settled there.
On your walk to the ruins, there is a visitors car park next to the main road although it seems to normally be locked up there is plenty of space to park up without causing an obstruction outside the car park entrance, from here you make a short 5/10 minute incline with a gravel track that curves all the way round to the arched entrance of the castle itself. It’s a really nice walk up to the ruins, you get the impact and the dominance of the castle looming over the hill whilst you walk up to it, and it also makes you appreciate how isolated and calm this spot is and why it was chosen to have a home here.
Balvaird castle’s origins of building works are unknown for certain, but the heraldry above the front entrance of the castle gives a slight clue. It depicts the arms of Sir Andrew Murray, a member of the Murray family and his wife Dame Margaret Barclay when they were married in 1495. Later in 1644, Andrew was made Lord Balvaird. The castle could have more than likely been placed on the site of an earlier Barclay family castle.
The castle itself was built, improved and developed over a series of many years; the gatehouse we walk through was built in 1567 and the castle had once various walled gardens and an orchard. The family decided to reside at Balvaird still, until they inherited important titles of Lord Scone and Viscount Stormont in 1658 and moved on into the grander and impressive estate at Scone that came with the titles; it was then that Balvaird was allowed to drift into ruin.
And today what we are able to see are the ruins of a very large tower house, that unfortunately wasn’t open and the ruins of a number of the courtyard buildings that would have been paramount in the smooth running’s of the castle during the residence of the Murrays.
The castle was dominated by the four storey L plan tower house and as usual with tower houses just like this one, the ground floor holds the castle services such as the kitchen but it also had a pit prison within the thickness of the wall, the rest of the building would have been used for accommodation and was built in a stepped plan that has the larger of the rooms in the main block interleaved with the smaller rooms in the wing with a staircase between them. At a later date the living areas were extended out over the gatehouse giving more room. It would have been very comfortable, light and spacious to live in. The castle was quite sophisticated for it’s time in the late 1400’s the privies are positioned one above the other so that it was all collected in one place and the chutes flushed by rainwater channelled from stone spouts of the roof, just some of these forward thinking ideas that changed the way they lived.
When you see some of the drone shots, you can see the roof level where there is a walkway all around the main block with a higher lookout tower at the head of the main staircase, from here, a view all around the beautiful Scottish countryside and it shows you how remote this castle once was.
The courtyard had a range of buildings, but these are mostly ruined yet you are still able to walk around them, apart from the two-storey gatehouse. The second storey is corbelled out and contained a chapel. Throughout the castle, the local volcanic rock was used as the main building stone, even for the wall faces, whilst pink and red sandstone was used for the mouldings. The square enclosure to the south was known and interpreted as a pleasure garden and adjoining to the east, was a large walled garden or orchard.
There are several interesting details around the castle, something in which you really need to look for closely, but there are small carved faces below the corner turrets of the battlements, the coat of arms above the tower entrance although weathered badly it still is impressive to see. Another detail is something named a cap-house that is above the stair in the form of a miniature tower house. Other things to note are the inverted keyhole gun holes that would clearly date to the buildings construction to the late 1400’s.
In true pinned style we had the sun gazing down on us, but whatever time of year you visit here, especially if it’s a grim day, you get the true feeling of life in 16th century Scotland. It’s small but mighty but some of the best castles are like that. There is not much evidence that the castle is haunted but it really does have a certain atmospheric feel to it, so there could be something there for our paranormal friends.
We hope you’ve enjoyed visiting Balvaird castle and its given some inspiration to visit some castles or simply to get out and about.
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Till Next Time!