Braemar Castle
Braemar Castle
An L-plan tower house beside the River Dee, built in 1628, then burned in the Jacobite Rising of 1689 and rebuilt. Centred on a round tower set within a curtain wall, and defended by an iron yett (a hinged portcullis). The interiors feature fine furniture, including pieces by Chippendale and Hepplewhite.
Braemar is an almost perfect example of a Scottish fortified tower house. Built in 1628 for the Earl of Mar, the castle served a dual purpose. In summer it was a hunting lodge, but its main purpose was to defend the Mar estates against the neighbouring Farquharson clan of Inverey. The Farquharsons were technically vassals of the Earl, but that meant little in practice! The location at Braemar also meant that the castle could control access through the Cairngorms to Strathspey, and the pass of Glen Derry.

Mar's castle was a fairytale concoction of battlemented towers and turrets protected within a star-shaped curtain wall, not unlike the defences of Corgarff, further west.

'towers and turrets'
'towers and turrets',
a Braemar speciality!
The Earls of Mar were active in government, a government dominated by Lowlanders, and this made Braemar a focal point for disaffected Highlanders. In 1689 'Bonnie' Dundee tried unsuccessfully to capture the castle. The government responded to Mar's plight by sending royal dragoons to defend the castle. But they were too few to repel Mar's turbulent neighbour, John Farquharson of Inverey. Known as the 'Black Colonel', Farquharson was a Jacobite supporter, and with the help of his kinsmen he attacked Braemar Castle, drove the government soldiers out, and burned the castle to the ground. By the early 18th century it was still roofless.

The Earl of Mar and the Jacobite Rising
When George I came to the throne in 1714 one of the first things he did was to dismiss many of the ministers in the government of his predecessor, Queen Anne. One of those dismissed was Anne's Secretary of State, John Erskine, the Earl of Mar. The Earl retired to his Deeside estates, seething with anger and a burning sense of injustice.

He called a gathering of Highland clan chiefs to Braemar, ostensibly for hunting and feasting, but in reality to plan a revolt against the Hanoverian king. On 6 September the Earl of Mar raised the Jacobite standard on a small hill at Braemar and proclaimed James VIII and III as the rightful king. The abortive Jacobite Rising came to a shuddering halt at Sheriffmuir just 2 months later, and Mar was forced to flee into exile.

A closer look at the castle turrets
A closer look at the castle turrets
Braemar Castle mouldered on, falling into ruin until it was bought by the Farquharson family in 1732. The Farquharson laird kept aloof from Bonnie Prince Charlie's 'Forty-Five' rebellion, and as a result, the estate was burned. The laird moved to Edinburgh and leased the castle to the crown. From 1748 the government called in architect John Adam to restore the upper floors.

The Braemar Ghost
Any Scottish castle deserves a good ghost story, and Braemar is no exception. The castle is said to be haunted by the spectre of a new bride, who thought - wrongly - that her husband repented of their marriage and had deserted her. She threw herself from the top of the castle in despair, and today her ghost is said to haunt the grounds.