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Publication Account

Date 1996

Event ID 1016433

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


This is probably the Comyn castle of Mortlach which was already 111 existence by 1304. Commanding the mouths of Glen Rinnes and Glen Fiddich, the passes to Huntly, Keith and Cullen and the route to Elgin, it is perched on a promontory high above the River Fiddich. Much of the form of the early castle of enclosure (45.7m by 39.6m) can still be seen. The great quadrangular curtain wall (2.1m thick and from 7.6m to 10.7m tall) still stands grey and gritty, although the projecting angle towers have gone. The immense, vertically sided ditch still lies on the south and west. The hall and great chamber would have been on the west side of the courtyard. In the 15th century the kitchen was against the south wall, and its great flue can still be traced, as can the brew cauldron-setting in the brew house.

The early 16th century saw the building of a range of service chambers against the inside of the east wall; the northern half of this range was rebuilt between 1547 and 1557 by John Stewart the fourth earl of Atholl. The three building periods can be seen clearly on the east entrance front. The Atholl building with large round tower and moulded windows is more of a domestic structure, very similar in layout to the great palace of Huntly (no. 27). The three armorial panels are the royal arms, Atholl's own arms and those of his wife Lady Elizabeth Gordon. The family motto is displayed on a long scroll beneath the earl's arms: 'forth fortune and fill thy coffers'. The interior face of the Atholl building is no less imposing, with two tall stair drums, the northern being neatly corbelled out to the square, perminating in a crow stepped gable. These gave access to the new principal apartments, the hall and the outer and inner chambers (this last in the great private corner tower, as at Huntly, no. 27).

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Aberdeen and North-East Scotland’, (1996).

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