History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: 18th century star-shaped military walls
The first castle at Corgarff was a fortified tower house, possibly built about 1550 by the Forbes clan, or by the son of Lord Elphinstone of Kildrummy. The original house was fairly small - only 12 metres by 8 metres - with a storage area in the vaulted basement, a hall above, and private chambers above that. Access was by way of an external stair to the first floor. Clustered around the base of the tower were secondary buildings necessary to life in a castle, such as a bakehouse, brewery, and stables, and a well.
The Corgarff Massacre
In November of 1571 Adam Gordon of Auchindoun marched to Corgarff with a band of his men. Some versions of the story suggest that Gordon was intent on capturing Forbes of Towie, but the laird and most of his menfolk were away. Other versions say that Gordon knew full well that Forbes was absent, and timed his raid to take advantage of that fact.
Corgarff was briefly siezed by local outlaws in 1607, and in 1609 Highlanders raided the castle and stole the animals. In 1645 the Marquis of Montrose occupied Corgarff on behalf of Charles I, and in 1689 it was burned by Jacobite supporters so that it could not be used by royalist troops supporting William and Mary.
Around this time Corgarff passed to the Earl of Mar, and in 1715 the Earl launched the Jacobite Rising from his seat at Kildrummy. Mar marched to Corgarff to recruit men for his ill-fated rising. But Corgarff had not seen the last of the Jacobites, for in 1746 Highlanders supporting Bonnie Prince Charlie occupied the castle. Three hundred redcoats marched from Aberdeen, through terrible winter weather, to find the castle undefended, but so narrowly did they miss their enemies that the fire was still burning.
It is as an army barracks that Corgarff is presented to visitors today. The former hall on the second floor is presented with rows of beds for the soldiers. In fact, this about the only 'furnishings' you see in the entire castle! Mostly what you see are the bones of the building, from the storage cellars to the garett at the top of the tower. Each room has information panels telling the history of the site, and there is a small shop on the first floor.
But in truth, you come to Corgarff for the incredible scenery and the history, not the interior furnishings. By far the best place to view the castle is from the layby part-way up the main road towards Tomintoul. From there you can get superb views over the bleak and harshly beautiful landscape, and wonder what life must have been like for the people who lived here long ago. Corgarff is an unforgettable place, one of the most striking and ultimately moving castles in Britain.
About Corgarff Castle
Address: A939, Corgarff, Aberdeenshire, Scotland
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: On the A939 west of Corgarff village
Website: Corgarff Castle
Phone: 01975 651 460
OS: NJ254 086
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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