Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle in winter

Corgarff Castle in winter


Corgarff Castle is located at Corgarff, in Aberdeenshire. It stands by the Lecht road, which crosses the pass between Strathdon and Tomintoul. The castle was built in the mid 16th century by the Forbes of Towie. In 1571 it was burned by their enemy, Adam Gordon of Auchindoun, resulting in the deaths of Lady Forbes, her children, and numerous others, and giving rise to the ballad Edom o Gordon. After the Jacobite risings of the 18th century, it was rebuilt as a barracks and a detachment of government troops were stationed there, on the military road from Braemar Castle to Fort George, Inverness. For 95 years, the Redcoats in the old tower patrolled Strathdon, hunting down Jacobite sympathisers. Latterly they helped the excisemen to stamp out the illegal production and smuggling of whisky. Military use continued as late as 1831, after which the tower served as a distillery and housed local workers. It remained part of the Delnadamph estate belonging to the Stockdale family until they passed the castle into state care in 1961 and gave the ownership of the castle to the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society.


Adam Gordon was taken prisoner at the battle of Corrichie in 1562, but was restored to royal favour and made Laird of Auchindoun Castle. During the civil war he fought for the exiled Queen Mary, particularly against the Clan Forbes who followed the cause of James VI of Scotland against his mother. In 1571 Adam defeated the Forbes at the battle of Tillieangus. In November at Craibstone, or Aberdeen Bridge, he defeated the Forbes and a troop of the Regent's soldiers commanded by Captains Chisholm and Wedderburn. Adam then defeated an army of Regent Mar at Brechin. The major historical sources for Adam's role in the conflict are the near contemporary accounts of John Knox's secretary Richard Bannatyne and the chronicles, the Diurnal of Occurrents and History of King James the Sext.


Bannatyne said that Adam had 1,000 men at Tillieangus against 300 Forbes on 17 October 1571. Adam concealed his superior numbers to draw the Forbes into an ambush. The brother of Lord Forbes, Arthur Forbes was killed and 12 or 16 Forbes. William Forbes and 16 others were taken prisoner. Twenty-two Gordons were killed, including John Gordon of Buiky. Before Craibstone, he or his men were involved in a massacre of the Forbes family at Corgarff Castle. According to Bannatyne, 24 people were burnt to death in the castle including Lady Towie, although a day's truce was agreed. Only one escaped, by crawling through the heather and straw which the attackers had piled to fire the castle. The Diurnal says that Adam sent his lieutenant Captain Ker to Lady Towie to ask her to surrender "Carrigill or (Corgarffe)." When she said no, Adam ordered the place to be burnt, with about 27 casualties including Lady Towie and her daughters.


According to the Diurnal, the Master of Forbes and Captains Chisholm and Wedderburn marched from Cowie to Aberdeen on 20 November 1571. Chisholm and Wedderburn, the Regent's men, commanded two bands of musketeers called "hagbutters." Their whole strength was about 800 men. Adam and Captain Ker had 900 men in the town. The Forbes came over the bridge of Aberdeen, and fought with Adam's men for an hour (at Craibstone). The Forbes retreated, Chisholm and 300 men were killed, and the Master of Forbes and 200 men were captured. Two hundred Gordons were killed. Bannatyne mentions that some cavalry commanded by Alexander Campbell fought with the Forbes. Bannatyne says that the Forbes and the Regent's troops came to Aberdeen because they were short of food. Adam was reluctant to fight because he was outgunned, but saw his chance after the troops wasted their ammunition. The Forbes bowmen or archers fled, Bannatyne wrote they "gave backis, and did no guid."


The castle is 350m from the car park along a loose gravel path up a hill with a gradient of 1:5. There is also a kissing gate (75cm wide). Visitor centre and shop are on the first floor, which is reached via 12 stone steps (with handrail). There is an induction loop at the counter. At the ground level is a reconstructed whisky still. On the first floor are: an officer’s apartment, the reconstruction of the kitchen. From the first floor: a spiral staircase of 30 steps (with handrail) leads to the cellars; a timber staircase of 14 steps (with handrail) leads to a reconstruction of the soldiers’ barracks on the second floor. Two further flights of 14 timber steps each (with handrail) lead to the third and fourth floors. Nearest adapted toilet is at: Spar , Bellabeg, Strathdon, AB36 8UL. Assistance dogs are welcome:


Location : Corgarff Castle, Near Strathdon, AB36 8YP

Transport: Aviemore (National Rail) 23 miles. Bus Routes : No Service

Opening Times : Daily 09:30 to 17:30 - July and August open daily

Tickets : Adults £5.50;  Concessions £4.40;  Children (5 - 15) £3.30.

Tel: 01316 688800