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Publication Account

Date 1996

Event ID 1016434

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


One of the few great stone castles of enclosure to have survived in Scotland from the high point of medieval European castle building, Kildrummy's broken grey walls lie like giant shattered eggshells. Defended to the north by the steep natural den, from which the stone for the castle was quarried, and with a broad ditch dug on the other sides, in plan Kildrummy is shield-shaped (with the flat top to the north).

It appears that the castle as first constructed in the early 13th century for Alexander II was a plain polygonal enclosure; this phase is represented by the coursed rubble of the east, west and south curtains. In the middle of the century the chapel was constructed and, to achieve a true east-west axis, was allowed to breach the curtain (in a manner 'that defies rational and learned explanation'). Subsequently, possibly as a result of the visit of Edward I of England in 1296, the towers, the ashlar plinth of the north curtain and the gatehouse were added, to produce a castle with remarkable similarities to the Edwardian castles of Harlech and Caernarvon in Wales and Bothwell in Strathclyde.

Important early features of the interior include the archers' slits and prison in the Warden's tower (in the north-east), the adjacent postern gate and portcullis, the great hall against the north curtain, and the massive donjon or Snow Tower in the north-west which follows early French models. Later refashioning of the castle included the Elphinstone tower, a 16th century tower-house at the west end of the hall and the bakehouse complex in the south-east.

The castle saw many sieges, notably in 1306 when Sir Nigel Bruce (King Robert's brother) held it against the young Prince Edward of Caernarvon until betrayed by Osbarn the smith (who was rewarded, it is said, by having the gold he had been promised poured molten down his throat). A central point in the great Earldom of Mar, it was restored (most evident in west curtain), besieged in 1335 by Balliol forces, burnt in 1530, captured by Cromwell in 1654, and became the headquarters of the Earl of Mar's Jacobite rising of 1715, after which it was dismantled.

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

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