Kinnaird Head Castle

Kinnaird Head Castle

Kinnaird Head Castle Details

  • Access: Historic Scotland
  • Condition: occupied
  • First build century: 16th
  • Closest To: Fraserburgh
  • Grid Ref: NJ999675
  • Last use century: 21st

Kinnaird Head Castle is built upon a promontory overlooking the North Sea at the north-eastern corner of Buchan, and within the town of Fraserburgh. It has been much altered and today is also the site of the Kinnaird Head Lighthouse. This was the first lighthouse built on mainland Scotland, and the functioning lighthouse is a new structure built adjacent.

The castle was built in the 16th century as a four storey rectangular tower for the Frasers of Philorth. The Frasers were beneficiaries of their support for Robert the Bruce, and were granted a substantial proportion of the old Comyn earldom of Buchan following their defeat and exile after 1308, however they did not acquire the lands around what was then known as the village of Faithlie until the early 16th century, when they were purchased from the Mercers of Aldie, in Perthshire. The castle that was started in 1570 was substantial, but little is known of its design. Only the tower-keep, originally four floors tall, and a lower tower known as the Wine Tower about 50 metres away, remain.

Having radically improved facilities at Faithlie – and renamed it Fraserburgh by about 1590, Sir Alexander Fraser had stretched his resources too far, having to sell some of his estates including the family seat of Cairnbulg. The Frasers did use Kinnaird as a home, and after inheriting the title Lord Saltoun in 1669, Alexander Fraser spent time here towards the end of the 17th century. His grand-daughter and her husband were the last of the family to live in the castle, and in 1787 it was leased out to the Trustees of the Northern Lights, who built the first lighthouse on top of the tower, and altered it to better suit their requirements. The entrance to the tower was originally at first floor level, suggesting that it might be older than commonly assumed, and the basement is vaulted. The hall filled the whole of the first floor, and there was a turnpike stair within the thickness of the walls, another early feature. The original attic level was removed in order to give the tower the flat roof required for the lighthouse, but the corbelled parapet and bartizans survived.

Today the castle is open as a museum, but is devoted to lighthouses rather than the castle.

Official Historic Scotland page
Official Museum of Scottish Lighthouses website

HES Canmore database entry