Kindrochit Castle


Building owner/client:

Aberdeenshire Council

Architect or lead designer:

Doug Reid

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

North East Scotland Preservation Trust

Project Description

Kindrochit Castle is a Scheduled Monument (HS Ref No 2583), located in the centre of Braemar, Aberdeenshire. The Castle is thought to have been built in the late 1300s during the reign of King Robert II (son of Robert the Bruce) of the House of Stewart. The castle was then named Ceann-drochit meaning Bridge Head. A bridge was built here across the River Clunie which was the only means to cross it for several miles. The site was used as a palace, or hunting seat, by King Robert II in the late 14th century. Charters and the Exchequer Rolls indicate that he visited Kindrochit almost every year, from 1371 to 1388. Subsequently King Robert III gifted the castle to Sir Malcolm Drummond, his brother-in-law. He built the family tower on the site in 1390, making it the sixth largest castle in Scotland at the time. Legend has it that in the 17th Century the plague struck occupants of the castle. In order to prevent them from leaving the confines of the castle and spreading the deadly disease, the occupants and the Castle were destroyed by cannon. It was unoccupied after that and by 1628, the castle was in ruins. The remains of the castle were excavated by Douglas Simpson in the 1920s. The excavations revealed a guard tower adjacent to the family tower. Further away stood the row of rooms that served as cellar, larder and prison. One of the most significant finds was made in the prison. It was a silver brooch with 16th century French Gothic writing that read, ‘I am here in place of a friend.’ Known as the Kindrochit Brooch, it is now housed in the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. The building was taken over by Kincardine and Deeside District Council from the local estate as part of a land transaction in the 1970’s and was subsequently transferred into the ownership of Aberdeenshire Council. Despite the significance of the structure (Scheduled Ancient Monument) it suffered from a minimal ad-hoc maintenance regime from around 2003. Following an approach from the local community and the local councillor in 2012 the property was inspected with a view to carrying out some remedial works including access improvements and interpretation. Conservation Accredited Architect Doug Reid of James F Stephen Architects prepared a detailed specification for the works which included repairing the walls and re-pointing them with lime mortar, re-turfing the wallheads, providing all-abilities access and installing interpretation panels. Local company Urquhart Stonemasonry Ltd was appointed to carry out the work in two phases during 2013 and 2014. The company is run by Stewart Urquhart but his father, renown Master Stonemason Alistair, came out of retirement to help with the project. The total cost of the project was around £216,000 with the Cairngorms National Park Authority providing £96,000 and the balance coming from Aberdeenshire Council’s Historic Assets Management Project. The castle opened to the public at Easter 2015 and has been well used by visitors and locals alike ever since.

Supporting Statement

The NESPT has nominated this project for a variety of reasons. Firstly, it is a great example of how community pressure can encourage a local authority to take action to save an important element of the local heritage. Secondly, it is a good example of partnership working with Aberdeenshire Council taking the lead, with funding support from the Cairngorms National Park Authority, and involving Historic Environment Scotland, a skilled local stone masonry company, the local community and, most importantly, the Friends of Kindrochit Castle. Thirdly, the end result far exceeded expectations at the start of the project with the Castle completely transformed and very popular with visitors. Build and design quality At an early stage it was agreed that it would be most appropriate to consolidate and conserve the Castle rather than try to rebuild or restore it. Work was carried out over two years in a sensitive fashion utilising traditional stone masonry methods and skills. Re-pointing with lime mortar will ensure a sustainable future for the ruins and the traditional turf wall cappings will protect the wall heads for many years to come. Interpretation and Access The Castle is now fully accessible to visitors of all abilities and contains three interpretation panels giving the history of the Castle and highlighting particular features of interest. Community involvement One of the best things about the project has been the establishment of the Friends of Kindrochit Castle, an independent voluntary group that is dedicated to caring for the Castle into the future. Pupils from Braemar School are member of the Friends Group and keep an eye on the Castle, help collect litter and empty the donations box. in 2015 the school organised a competition to design a flag to be flown on a new flagpole at the Castle. All the pupils took part and the winning design took elements from all the entries. The flag was raised for the first time on 1 April 2015. At the Official Opening of the Castle in October 2015 pupils from the school performed a pageant with music, dancing, singing and acting. More recently pupils have formed the Guardians of Kindrochit Castle to really take ownership of "their" Castle. Achievements of the project One of the main challenges that had to be overcome was the weather. The window of opportunity for lime pointing in Braemar is very short. Severe frost caused some damage to the phase one pointing over the winter of 2013/14 but this was repaired during the summer of 2014. No damage occurred during the 2014/15 winter. A completely unexpected problem during the 2014/15 winter was damage by moles. Under a covering of snow they made their way onto the wall heads and burrowed through the footpaths! Overall, the main achievement has been to turn an overgrown pile of stones into a popular visitor attraction that the community, and especially the school pupils, are proud of and prepared to care for.