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Tolquhon Castle

Tolquhon Castle Aberdeenshire Scotland

William Forbes had the good fortune, or good sense, to steer clear of the dangerous waters of Scottish sixteenth century politics and religion. His life was relatively uneventful. The surviving records suggest a solid, canny landowner of a kind still found throughout the north east of Scotland. Elected a burgess of Aberdeen in 1578, he busied himself in worthy legal matters, witnessing documents for neighbours and tending his patrimony with great care.  He turned up in Aberdeen in 1574 to swear allegiance to the Regent Morton but was probably there under duress and was keen to get home afterwards. For William Forbes was a 'wee lairdie', content to leave the great matters of state to others so he could concentrate on the more serious tasks of managing his estates and improving his home.

The house that William built sixteen miles north of Aberdeen was spectacular. From the fifteenth century Preston Tower that the Forbes inherited in 1420, William extended a new rectangular mansion and courtyard that would not be out of place in the valley of the Loire or the Arno. From its magnificent gatehouse with twin drum towers and armorial bearings to the Great Hall with secret 'laird's lug' off, this is a fine house. William was burstingly proud of his mansion but keenly aware that inaccurate bragging was a cardinal sin in the north east. Hence the carefully correct inscription on the west wall; 'All this worke, excep the Auld Tour, was begun by William Forbes 15 April 1584 and endit be him on October 1589'. An equally precise inventory enumerates William's stock of 'siluer wark, bedding, tapestrie, timmer wark, artalyerie and wther furniture....'

Later lairds of Tolquhon led more adventurous lives. The 10th laird Alexander Forbes fought on the royalist side at the Battle of Worcester in 1651. For helping to save Charles II, he was rewarded with a knighthood. Over-investment in the Darien Scheme, the visionary plan to build a Scots colony in Panama, brought down the family fortunes in 1700 when the scheme collapsed. The ll th laird was forced to sell the Tolquhon estates in 1716 but he refused to leave the ancestral mansion of Tolquhon until roughly persuaded to do so by a platoon of government soldiers two years later. Used as a farmhouse, it was roofless and abandoned by 1800.

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