Brodie Castle is a castle near Forres, in Moray, Scotland. Stuffed to the turrets with antique furniture, paintings and ceramics, the legacy of generations of Clan Brodie, this 16th-century castle is a slice of Scottish history not to be missed. Explore the rooms, passageways and towers, all sensitively restored to show what everyday life was like for one of Scotland’s most ancient clans. There’s plenty to discover outside the castle too. The 71 hectare estate has landscaped gardens, a large pond, a walled garden, a woodland walk, an adventure playground and a nature trail with observation hides for watching wildlife. Set in peaceful parkland, this fine 16th-century tower house is packed with enough art and antiques to keep connoisseurs happy all day. It contains fine French furniture; English, continental and Chinese porcelain; and a major collection of paintings, including 17th-century Dutch art, 19th-century English watercolours, and early 20th-century works. The magnificent library contains some 6,000 volumes.
The origins of the Brodie clan are mysterious. Much of the early Brodie records were destroyed when Clan Gordon pillaged and burnt Brodie Castle in 1645. It is known that the Brodies were always about since records began. From this it has been presumed that the Brodies are ancient, probably of Pict ancestry, referred to locally as the ancient Moravienses. The historian Dr. Ian Grimble suggested the Brodies were an important Pictish family and advanced the possibility of a link between the Brodies and the male line of the Pictish Kings. Early references to Brodie were written as Brochy, Brothy, Brothie, Brothu, Brode. Various meanings to the name Brodie have been advanced, but given the Brodies uncertain origin, and the varying ways Brodie has been pronounced/written, these remain but suppositions. Some of the suggestions that have been advanced as to the meaning of the name Brodie are: Gaelic for "a little ridge"; "a brow", or "a precipice"; "ditch" or "mire", from the old Irish word broth; "muddy place", from the Gaelic word brothach; "a point", "a spot", or "level piece of land", from the Gaelic word Brodha; of Norman origin - the French Dictionnaire de la Noblesse refers to a 13th-century Knight named Guy de Brothie, who married a daughter of the Knight Aimery de Gain from Limousin; or originated from the Pict name Brude, Bruide or Bridei from the Pictish King name Bridei.
The lands of Brodie are between Morayshire and Nairnshire, on the modern border that separates the Scottish Highlands and Moray. In the time of the Picts, this location was at the heart of the Kingdom of Moravia. Early references show that the Brodie lands were to be governed by a Tòiseach, later to become Thane. Part of the Brodie lands were originally Temple Lands, owned by the order of the Knights Templar. It is uncertain if the Brodies took their name from the lands of Brodie, or that the lands were named after the clan. After the Tòiseachs, whose names are lost, we find a reference to MacBeth, Thane of Dyke in 1262; next, in 1311, a Latin reference to Michael, filius Malconi, Thanus de Brothie et Dyke. It is unclear if Macbeth, Thane of Dyke, is of the same line as Michael. Accordingly, the Brodie Chiefs claim descent from Michael's referred father, Malcome, as First Chief and Thane of Brodie. Michael Brodie of Brodie received a charter from Robert the Bruce confirming his lands of Brodie. The charter states that Brodie held his thanage of Brodie by the right of succession from his paternal ancestors. The Brodie chiefs may have been descended from the royal Pictish family of Brude and there is so much evidence of Pictish settlement around Brodie that it has to be considered one reasonable explanation.
Johne of Brode of that Ilk, the 7th chief of Clan Brodie, assisted Clan Mackenzie in their victory in 1466 over Clan MacDonald at the Battle of Blar-na-Pairc. He took a distinguished part in the fight and behaved "to the advantage of his friend and notable loss of his enemy," his conduct produced a friendship between Clan Mackenzie and Clan Brodie, which continued among their posterity, "and even yet remains betwixt them, being more sacredly observed than the ties of affinity and consanguinity amongst most others," and a bond of manrent was entered into between the families. Clan Brodie joined the royal army led by the Earl of Atholl against the rebel son of the Lord of the Isles, Aonghas Óg. However, in 1481 Aonghas Óg defeated them at Lagabraad, killing 517 of the royal army.
Thomame Brodye de iodem, the 11th chief, was killed defending against the English invasion at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. In 1550, Alexander "the rebel" Brodie of that Ilk, the 12th chief, with his clansmen, and the assistance of the Dunbars and Hays, attacked Clan Cumming at Altyre, seeking to slay their chief, Alexander Cumming of Altyre. As a result, he was put to the horn as a rebel for not appearing to a charge of waylaying, but was pardoned the year following. In 1562 the said Alexander "the rebel", joined Clan Gordon and George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly in his rebellion against Mary, Queen of Scots. They were defeated at the Battle of Corrichie. Huntley died, Brodie escaped but was denounced a rebel, and his estates declared forfeited. For four years the sentence of outlawry hung over his head, but in 1566, the Queen having forgiven Clan Gordon for their disloyalty, included Alexander Brodie in the royal warrant remitting the sentence against them, and restoring them their possessions.
In 1645 Lord Lewis Gordon burnt down Brodie Castle, a Z-plan tower-house built in the mid-sixteenth century. The present building represents a restoration of that building, although the tower is believed to date back to 1430 and the newest parts were added 1820–30. Nearby, on the Downie (Dounie) Hillock, there are the remains of an Iron Age fort. Alexander “the good” Lord Brodie of Brodie, the 15th chief, was a covenanter during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. An ardent presbyterian, his faith led him to be responsible for acts of destruction to Elgin Cathedral and its paintings. He was judge in trials of witchcraft, sentencing at least two witches to death. He was commissioner for the apprehension of Jesuits and catholic priests and the plantation of Kirks. He served on the committees: of war for Elgin, Nairn, Forres, and Inverness; of estates; of the protection of religion; and of excise. Lord Brodie was elected Commissary-General to the Army. Clan Brodie was part of the covenanter army in 1645 that lost the Battle of Auldearn to Montrose. After the defeat of the covenanters, Clan Gordon sacked Brodie Castle and besieged Lethen House. The Brodies of Lethen held successfully for twelve weeks.
Lord Brodie of Brodie went twice to The Hague to seek the return of the exiled King Charles II of Scotland, first in 1649, then, with a larger party in 1650, returned successfully with the King. Oliver Cromwell was eager to enroll Brodie into his regime. Tempted, Lord Brodie resisted Oliver Cromwell's summons to discuss a union of Scotland and England, writing in his diary "Oh Lord he has met with the lion and the bear before, but this is the Goliath; the strongest and greatest temptation is last.". Lord Brodie was the target of an unsuccessful royalist plot for his capture in 1650. He was the author of a diary revealing a complicated, yet devote mind, torn by temptation and doing what he believed to be right. Alexander Brodie of Lethen went south with a contingent of men. He commanded a troop with some credit at the disastrous Battle of Dunbar (1650).
During the Jacobite rising of 1715, James Brodie of Brodie, the 18th chief, refused to surrender his horse and arms to Lord Huntley. Lord Huntley threatened the "highest threats of military execution, as that of battering down his house, razing his tenants, burning their corns, and killing their persons." if Brodie did not comply. Clan Brodie continued to resist, holding fort in the now rebuilt Brodie Castle. Unable to secure enough cannon and gunpowder to proceed with an assault, Lord Huntley was forced to abandon his threats. During the Jacobite rising of 1745, the Brodie chief was Alexander Brodie of that Ilk, 19th chief of Brodie, Lord Lyon King of Arms. Naval Captain David Brodie, of the Brodies of Muiresk branch was master and commander of the Terror and the Merlin (10 guns), later Captain of HMS Canterbury (60 guns), and HMS Strafford (60 guns). He was credited with the capture of 21 French and Spanish cruisers or privateers. By 1774 the Brodie estate was in financial trouble and sold by judicial sale. James Brodie of Brodie, the 21st Chief, was married to Lady Margaret Duff, daughter of William Duff, 1st Earl of Fife. The Earl of Fife came to the rescue, purchased the estate, returning half to The Brodie.
James Brodie of Brodie's younger brother, Alexander, left for India to seek his fortune. He returned from Madras a very rich man and purchased the estates of Thunderton House in Elgin, Arnhall in Kincardineshire, and The Burn. He married a daughter of James Wemyss of Wemyss by Lady Elizabeth Sutherland, daughter of the William Sutherland, 17th Earl of Sutherland and had an only child, a daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth Brodie was an heiress, and in 1813 married George Gordon, Marquess of Huntly who became, on his father's death in 1827, The 5th Duke of Gordon. George and Elizabeth did not have any children, and on his death in 1836, the line of the Dukes of Gordon became extinct. Leaving Elizabeth the last Duchess of Gordon. After her husband's death, the Duchess joined the Free Church of Scotland, and was its most prominent benefactor. The Duchess was "much respected and beloved by the people of Huntly and the surrounding district." and lived "a remarkably unaffected, charitable, and Christian life". James Brodie of Brodie's son, James Brodie, younger of Brodie, went to India and worked for the East India Company. He built a mansion in Madras, on the banks of the river Adyar, and named it Brodie Castle (Madras). This property still stands and has become the College of Carnatic Music. James (the younger) died in India in a boating accident on the Adyar River in 1801/02. On the death of the Duchess of Gordon in 1864, The Brodies of Brodie became beneficiaries of the Gordon estate; inheriting much of the Gordon moveable property.
Tradition says a curse was pronounced against the Brodie Chiefs, "to the effect that no son born within the Castle of Brodie should ever become heir to the property." The legend of the source of this malediction was one of the early Brodie Chiefs "who induced an old woman to confess being guilty of witchcraft by offering her a new gown, and then, instead of fulfilling his promise, had her tied to a stake and burnt". The "blasted heath" where Macbeth is said to have met the three witches, is located on the lands of Brodie. The event was popularized in Shakespeare's play Macbeth. This location is referred to locally as Macbeth's Hillock.
The grounds surrounding the castle are home to a woodland walk that is especially striking when the daffodils are in bloom. There is also a walled garden being brought back to life to help supply the tearoom, and an adventure play area. But the main attraction is, of course, Brodie Castle itself. The main entrance leads through into the arched entrance hall created by James Wylson in the 1840s. Off to one side is the vaulted guard chamber, a room which gives an excellent impression of the character of the original tower house completed in 1567. Objects on view range from the fascinating estate map drawn up in 1770 to the decidedly creepy skeleton of a child in a glass-fronted wooden box.
The contrast on the other side of the entrance hall could not be greater, for here you find the library, the epitome of Victorian style and elegance. Perhaps the most striking features of the room, and one we don't recall having seen anywhere else, are the "island" bookcases spaced at intervals along both sides of the room. The effect is to increase the capacity of the library, while still giving a sense of considerable space, and allowing light from the windows to illuminate the whole room more evenly. Much of the woodwork on view was made from imported American oak, and it seems that the architect James Wylson had to work hard to prevent his patron, William Brodie, from painting the entire library white. We can all be thankful that Brodie was persuaded to keep to the natural wood finish.
The stairs at the rear of the entrance hall bring you to the dining room, which vies with the library for title of "most magnificent room" at Brodie. It is in the wing added in the early 1600s and this space was originally intended as the "laird's chamber" or main reception hall. It is unclear when the truly remarkable - if rather heavy and imposing - plaster ceiling was added, but it may have been at the end of the 1600s. Off to one side of the dining room is the Blue Sitting Room, a lovely vaulted room with an equally impressive, if rather more subtly applied, plaster ceiling. The Red Drawing Room is a reception hall and gallery, and is dominated by a magnificent wooden fireplace that occupies most of one wall of the room. From here you pass through to the drawing room, housed within the new wing added by William Burn in the early 1800s. On our visit this was set up for a wedding, which helped bring home what a lovely venue (and setting) Brodie Castle is for weddings. Further on in your tour you have the opportunity of visiting a number of the bedrooms in the castle, including the Picture Room and the Blue Bedroom.
At the top of the house, with the residents protected by a locking stair gate, are the day and night nurseries and the nanny's room. The day nursery is home to a remarkable collection of vintage children's toys. Perhaps the most striking is what appears to be a miniature cooking range, complete with brass fittings and copper pans. This turns out to be exactly what it seems: featuring, incredibly, a spirit burner within the range that allowed actual cooking to take place. The good old days before Health and Safety was invented... Back on the ground floor there is an excellent tearoom within the rear of the 1800s wing, and beyond it you can visit the superb Victorian kitchen. At the back of the castle is a well stocked shop, and to the rear of the courtyard is an octagonal dairy.
Parking is available at the castle. Disabled passengers can be driven to the front door. The ground floor of the castle is accessible with assistance (4 steps). Chairs are available in most rooms for the use of those visitors who require to rest. There is a stairclimber available to the 1st floor, which must be pre-booked 24 hours in advance. A manual wheelchair is available (prebookable) and can be used indoors or in the grounds. There are also accessible toilets. There is an accessible path around the pond, and the woodland paths are suitable for wheelchairs and mobility scooters (mobility scooter not available for hire at property). Large-print information sheets are available. Explanatory text: Dutch, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, Swedish, Norwegian, Polish, Russian. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Location : Brodie Castle, Brodie, Forres, Moray IV36 2TE
Transport: Forres (National Rail) then bus (10, 11, X10). Bus Routes : 10, 11 and X10 stop 10 minutes away.
Opening Times : 25 March - 19 April, Daily 10:30-16:30; 20 April - 30 June & 1 September - 26 October, Saturday - Wednesday 10:30-16.30; 1 July - 31 August, Daily 10.30-17:00
Tickets :Adults £10.50; Concessions £7.50; Children (5 - 15) £5.25
Tel. : 01309 641371