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Glenbuchat Castle


Glenbuchat Castle

Bold castle ruins on hill approached by twisting paths, once trodden by smugglers carrying tax-free whisky from illicit stills. View from outside only. Z-shaped with round and square turrets, steep gables and tall chimney stacks. Stone inscription above entrance states that if was built 1590 to mark marriage of John Gordon of Cairnburrow to Helen Carnegie.

The location of this attractive castle was well chosen. It stands on high ground between the River Don and the Water of Buchat, commanding a fine view down Strathdon to the east. Built in 1590, this excellant example of a Z-shaped castle has survived remarkable intact, and its ground floors can be explored with ease.

A Marital Home

Glenbuchat was built as a new residence for John Gordon of Cairburrow and his second wife, Helen Carnegie, on the occassion of their marriage, recorded on the lintel above the entrance.
The inscription reads:-

JOHN.GORDON. HELEN.CARNEGIE 1590

NOTHING ON EARTH REMANIS BOT FAIME

The motto means "Nothing earthly can endure without good repute", but its message was lost to their descendants. Their sons quarrelled over their inheritance, and a later descendant locked his mother in the castle for a month.

The picture to the left is John Gordon or as he was affectionately know to his Jacobite friends "Old Glenbucket"

Helen Carnegie was the daughter of Sir Robert Carnegie of Kinnaird in Angus, who had been ambassador-extraordinary at the French royal court. A most unusual architectural feature of Glenbuchat is the flying arches supporting the stair turrets, a device popular in France; this may suggest that the master mason was sent from Angus to build the brides new home. There are certainly similarities between Glen Buchat and Hatton Castle in Angus (built 1575).

The original Gordon Family of Glenbuchat gave way in 1701 to another branch, when John Gordon of Knockespock purchased the estate for his son, also named John. Know latterly as "old Glenbucket" (an old spelling), he was laird of the castle until he sold it in 1738. In sharp contrast to his unruly predecessors, who spent their time in family squabbles, John Gordon aquired an almost legendary reputation as an unswerving supporter of the Jacobite cause.

John Erskine, Earl of Mar, visited Glenbuchat in 1715, shortly before the famous gathering at Braemar at which King James' standard was raised. It was even said that King George II was haunted in his dreams by the figure of "old Glenbucket" and that he exclaimed in broken english, "De gread Glenbogged is gomin" ("the great Glenbucket is comming").

Glenbuchat had ceased to be the Gordon home by the time it was sold in 1738 and was already partly unroofed. By the mid 19th century, it was entirely unroofed but the estate was bought by James Barclay, MP, in 1901 and essential repairs were made to conserve the ruin. In 1946 the castle was placed in state care by Colonel James Barclay Milen, and two years later the Deeside Field Club purchased the Castle Park and gifted it to the nation, ensuring that the castle retained its attractive setting.

A Fortified House

The Z-shaped plan of Glenbuchat was a favourite Scottish design, in which the main rectangular building was flanked by two square towers at diagonally opposing corners. A generous provision of turrets and gun loops left no area round the castle undefended, and the single entrance was guarded by a gunloop in the southeast turret which is "raked" downwards.

The exterior of the castle, with its round and sqaure corbelled turrets, crow stepped gable, projecting stair towers carried on flying arches, and tall chimmeny stacks, was clearly designed to impress as well as to warn away unwelcome intruders. The stair turrets had conical roofs. Ashlar from the ruins of Kildrummy was used round doorways, windows and gun loops, and the whole building was probably harled. A bell once hung in the vertical slot in the south face of the square turret at the top of the south west tower; a watcher here would spot any movement along the ridge top from the west.

Entry into the castle was through a stout wooden door which could only be opened if the massive iron gate, or yett, behind it were opend first. The hinge-crooks on which the yett hung can still be seen. Inside, the basement of this tower contains a vaulted storeroom and a circular stair leading up to the lairds appartments. To the right of the stair a door opens into the main block, where a passage leads past tow cellars into the kitchen. The first cellar has a service stair rising to the first floor and was probably the wine cellar. The kitchen has a large arch fireplace with wall cupboards at either end where salt was kept dry. Off the kitchen, the ground floor of the northeast tower was probably used as a pantry. All these rooms have vaulted ceilings - and a torch is usefull when exploring them.

On the first floor, at the head of the main stair in the south werst tower, is a small bed chamber. The main house at this level originally contained one large room, the lairds hall, and the lairds bed chamber was in the northwest tower, furnished with a latrine within the wall at one corner.

The interior of the castle was remodelled, probably soon after John Gordon of Knockespock took over in 1701. The lairds hall was divided into tow to create a dinning room and a drawing room more suited to contemporary social taste, and the ceiling was lowered to make space for a new second floor beneath the old garret. By using wooden partitions, four extra bedrooms were provided on the new floor, in addition to those in the towers.

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