Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle Details

  • Access: Historic Scotland
  • Condition: occ
  • First build century: 16th
  • Closest To: Strathdon, Tomintoul, Cock Bridge
  • Grid Ref: NJ255087
  • Last use century: 19th

Corgarff Castle is a small tower house that was converted to garrison use in the 18th century and was augmented by the addition of a star-shaped defensive wall. It is on an isolated hill in a largely uninhabited area of Aberdeenshire, and reflects the loneliness that the garrison must have felt when stationed here.

Probably built in the mid 16th century by the Forbes family, Corgarff was a small rectangular tower with the staircase contained in one corner. Entered at first floor level, the main hall was above vaulted basements, and beneath the principal bedchambers; further accommodation was provided in the attic. Adjacent to the staircase was a series of smaller single chambers; meaning that each floor consisted of a main room, a small room, and the staircase. It is likely that a stone courtyard surrounded the tower, with ranges of buildings around the perimeter, although these do not survive. When converted, an additional floor was inserted within the height of the great hall, and a small extension was added to each end of the rectangle in addition to the star-shaped wall.

The lands of Corgarff were held by the Elphinstone family from 1507, and the Forbeses were their tenants by around 1546; it is not certain which family built the castle here. In 1571 as part of an ongoing feud, the Forbes family slaughtered a party of Gordons at Druminnor, the seat of the Forbes chief, and later the same year a force of Gordons attacked Corgarff. Lady Forbes burned to death along with her family and servants when the Gordons set the tower alight. Corgarff Castle was occupied by Montrose in 1645, and was burned by Jacobites in 1689, and was where the Earl of Mar armed his forces at the start of the 1715 Rising. In 1745 it was occupied by government forces who found rebels had left the castle without a living creature within it – except the cat sitting by the fire.

After the Battle of Culloden, it was converted to a barracks, but saw no further military action, being returned briefly to private hands between 1802 and 1831. When the last garrison pulled out it was largely left to decay, and was derelict by 1961. Today it is managed by Historic Scotland, and has been restored in places to its garrison appearance, but opening times can be erratic, so check before making a special visit!

Official Historic Scotland page

HES Canmore database entry