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Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle Aberdeenshire Scotland

In 1714 the last Stewart monarch, Anne, died, exhausted by eighteen pregnancies that had produced no heir. Her disorientated successor from Hanover, the Elector George, was persuaded by clever politicians in London to introduce new faces to his first administration. In Scotland, John Erskine, the Earl of Mar who had been Secretary of State, found himself out in the cold and out of office. Mar returned in anger to his Deeside estates in Aberdeenshire, inviting the chiefs of the Highland clans to join him for some days of hunting and feasting as a pretext for the conspiratorial plotting that took place instead. On 6 September 1715 the Earl raised the Royal Standard of James VIII and III on a small knoll in the village of Braemar with two thousand warriors in attendance. The great Jacobite Rising had begun. It ended two months later with the stalemate at Sheriffmuir near Stirling that forced Mar into exile and ruin.

Mar's castle at Braemar was already semi-ruined before he embarked on the risky adventure of the '15. It had been badly burned in the first Jacobite Rising of 1689. Although roofless in 1715, Braemar was a perfectly formed tower house with a profusion of battlemented turrets, shielded by a low star-shaped curtain wall, studded with gun loops. Built in 1628, it served as a hunting lodge in late summer and as a convenient bulwark against Mar's turbulent vassals, the Farquharsons of Inverey. The castle also controlled the passes of Glen Deny and the Lairig Ghru through the Cairngorm Mountains and over to Strathspey. The fact that the Earl was usually a member of the hated lowland government made this isolated highland castle a target in times of trouble. It was therefore given protection by government
dragoons in 1689 after a failed assault upon it by Bonnie Dundee. Undaunted, the 'Black Colonel' John Farquharson of Inverey, a Jacobite adventurer and outlaw who openly lived at his own nearby fortalice shielded by the loyalty of his kinsfolk, took the opportunity to oust the garrison and burn Mar's tower to the ground.

After 1715, with the Earl of Mar attainted and his estates forfeit, Braemar Castle lay partly ruined for the next sixty years until ironically it was bought by a Farquharson in 1732. This laird took no part in the '45 and had his lands laid waste by the Jacobites as a result. After moving to Edinburgh, he leased Braemar Castle in 1748 to the Hanoverian government who set about reconstructing it, using John Adams to repair the upper floors. Perfectly restored today, the castle is haunted by the ghost of a newly married bride who threw herself from the castle tower, wrongly believing that her groom was dissatisfied and had abandoned her.

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