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between 12:00 Friday 15th December and 12:00 Monday 18th December


Castle Leod

Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Castle Leod

Classification Tower House (Medieval)

Canmore ID 12469

Site Number NH45NE 9

NGR NH 48603 59325

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2023.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Fodderty
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Ross And Cromarty
  • Former County Ross And Cromarty

Archaeology Notes

NH45NE 9.00 48603 59325

(NH 4860 5933) Castle Leod (NR)

OS 6"map, (1971)

NH45NE 9.01 NH 48855 58774 Lodge

NH45NE 9.02 Centred NH 4865 5900 Golf Course (possible)

An early 17th century tower-house impressively situated on a green mound and built to a modified L-plan whose re-entrant angle has been infilled by a slightly later addition, which contains a secondary doorway, defended by shot-holes and surmounted by a heraldic panel bearing the MacKenzie arms.

The original building had an open parapet at the wall-head with bartizans at the angles. The addition however covers up this parapet on the original front wall and is carried a storey higher being finished with ornamental dormers and pyramidal-roofed turrets. Some of the other angle-turrets and dormers were probably added at the same time. One dormer, on the north, bears the date 1616, but whether this is the date of the original (MacGibbon and Ross 1889) or the modification (Tranter 1970) is not clear.

Tranter says the orignal was built in 1600 by the Tutor of Kintail, Sir Roderick MacKenzie and is still the seat of his descendant, the Earl of Cromartie.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887-92; N Tranter 1962-70.

Castle Leod (Information from notice board). This castle is still occupied and in good condition. According to the owners wife (Lady Cromartie), the original date is not known but believed to be 15th century and the top storey additions date from 1616. Additions of the Victorian and Edwardian eras are built onto the N wall of the castle.

Visited by OS (J B) 23 April 1975

Architecture Notes

ARCHITECT: D Matheson 1914 Squash Court

The plans shown in photographs C12925-30, C12975/CN-77/CN and C12981/CN (from the survey of plans lent for copying in June 1993 by Mr Mike Taylor) were found in a derelict estate office on the Castle Leod estate. The material relates to two periods of alteration work carried out at Castle Leod, for the Earl of Cromartie-the first in 1851 by Andrew Maitland, who adapted designs by David Bryce, the second in 1904, when the north wing, previously altered in 1874, was mostly rebuilt. The material also relates to the nearby Inchvannie Farm Steading, and the pump room at Strathpeffer Spa, which were both owned by the Castle Leod estate.


Country Life, August 3rd 1935 p.130

(Undated) information in NMRS.


Photographic Survey (25 September 1958)

Photographic survey of Castle Leod, Ross and Cromarty, by the Scottish National Buildings Record/Ministry of Works in September 1958.

Ground Survey (2012 - 2013)

archaeological sites in the grounds of Castle Leod was carried out by members of NOSAS in the winter of 2012–13. A total of 30 sites were located and are described below:

1. Boundary wall This wall forms the N boundary of an area on both sides of the Peffery Burn in the N part of the policies. The area is marked as ‘New Park’ on a 1762 map and the wall is shown as the march of Mains of Castle Leod Farm. It appears on the 1st Edition OS map, but is truncated by the railway. It is described in two sections.

A. The E part NH 48760 59777 (SE end) to NH 48610 59913 (NE end/truncated by railway) Located in the upper part of the wood to the N of the Peffery Burn. Aligned NW–SE, it is substantial but grossly ruined having a spread of 1–2m.

B. The W part NH 48466 59979 (ENE end) to NH 48265 59887 (WSW end/truncated by a track). Descends the slope obliquely on the N side of the Peffery Burn, crosses the Peffery Burn at NH 48313 59939 and a short stretch continues to the S of the burn before it meets the track. The wall is generally substantial, with moss covered stones but tumbled in places.

2. Wall NH 48446 59990 (N end) to NH 48438 59980 (S end). The eastern of two short walls which abut wall 1 to its N. Wall 2 is grossly wasted, ascends the hill and has been truncated by the railway. It continues on the N side as part of the croftlands.

3. Wall NH 48403 60004 (N end) to NH 48394 59969 (S end). The western of two wasted walls, which abuts wall 1 and continue on the N side of the railway as the boundaries of croftlands.

4. Standing stone A standing stone, 0.8m high by 0.8m wide and 0.5m thick. This site is shown as occupied by offices on a 1762 map, so the stone is probably not in its original position. It does not appear on the 1st Edition OS map.

5. Bridge abutment NH 48892 59239 The remains of a faced stone bridge abutment on the W bank of the Peffery Burn. The abutment is 1m high and c6m in length but grossly wasted in places. A bridge is marked in this position on a 1762 map and also on a 1828 plan. The bridge is on the main access road (see site 8) to the castle.

6. Meallers houses NH 47811 59006 (centred on) Several stone edges with distinct corners at this location indicate small buildings, but their size and form could not be determined in the dense bracken. To the W there is an area of fertile ground, now wooded, at an easy angle. This small settlement is marked on a 1762 map as ‘Meallers houses’. No traces of the other buildings and small patches of improved ground marked to the NE on the map were found.

7. Channel This channel is 120m long, 2m deep and 15m wide. It is probably a soak away for a stream which descends the slope to the NE and was probably created when the ‘orchard’ (on a 1762 map), site 10 to its E, became a ‘garden’ (marked on a 1828 plan).

8. Track/avenue of trees NH 48860 59219 (E end) to NH 48722 59170 (W end) Aligned ENE–WSW, this track is c150m long and runs from the ticket office of the castle car park to the site of an old bridge over the Peffery Burn (Site 5). Several trees line the track which for much of its length is sunken and c0.5m deep. The main access road to the castle is marked as

taking this route on a 1762 map.

9. Spanish Chestnut trees Three trees which are reputed to date to c1550:

A. NH 48649 59202 South of the castle this tree is dead but still standing

B. NH 48733 59340 East of the castle, this is the only tree of the three that is still alive. It has a plaque with the words: Planted c1550 by John Mackenzie, IXth Chief of Kintail, 1480–1556, Privy Councillor to King James V and Queen Mary, Great Grandfather of Sir Roderick Mackenzie of Castle Leod, Coigach and Tarbat, ancestor of the Earls of Cromartie, 1574–1626.

The plaque, which appears to have been placed in 1938, gives the measurements of two of the trees and the location of tree C to the NW, but it does not mention the tree to the S of the castle, tree A.

C. NH 48652 59400 The remains of this tree are located NE of the castle.

10. Orchard/Garden NH 48677 59527 (N end) to NH 48766 59388 (S end). A rectangular area on the W side of the Peffery Burn below the castle may have been surrounded by a wall. It is aligned ENE–WSW and measures c170 x 60m. It is bounded on the E side by the burn and a line of lime trees and on the W side by a wide channel, Site 7. Its limit at the N end is less

clear. This area may have been an early walled garden but on a 1762 map the N part of the ‘orchard’ is marked in this position and by the time of an 1828 plan it has become a ‘garden’ again.

11. Wall/bank NH48764 59425 (E end) to NH 48414 59300 (W end). This feature is aligned ENE–WSW and probably formed the boundary of the old policies around the castle, ie predating a 1762 map, it may mark the extent of the policies as shown on the Avery map of 1725. The remains of the wall are variable where extant and have not survived in the immediate vicinity of the castle and the garden. The wall can is divided into sections:

A. East section NH 48764 59425 (E end) The barely discernible footings of a c30m long wall, 0.2m high with a 2m wide spread. It is truncated at the W end by a channel (Site 7) and a prominent knoll, c15m in diameter and 3m high, at NH 48740 59420. The knoll may be clearance removed from the wall during excavation of the channel. The wall would have formed the S boundary of the garden marked on an 1828 plan.

B. West section NH 48545 59326 (E end) to NH 48467 59314 (W end). To the W of the castle the wasted wall climbs steeply and is a barely discernible bank with a steep slope (as much as 2m in places) to the S. It is overgrown with rhododendrons for some of its length.

Archive: RCAHMS

Anne Cockcroft, Anne Coombs, Bob and Rosemary Jones, Meryl Marshall, John and Trina Wombell – NOSAS

(Source: DES)

Archaeological Evaluation (10 May 2014 - 11 May 2014)

NH 4860 5933 A test pitting evaluation was undertaken, 10–11 May 2014, at Castle Leod. The work aimed to assess the type of deposits on the site and to recover artefactual material relating to the periods of occupation. Castle Leod is the home of the chief of the Clan Mackenzie. The Clan Mackenzie expanded their territory E from Kintail in Wester Ross towards Easter Ross after the 1411 Battle of Harlaw. In the early 16th century, John of Killen was granted a charter for the lands of Fodderty and Strathgarve and in the 1550s permission was granted to build a castle.

A test pit against one side of the castle wall revealed a series of deposits, which had built up against the wall and the building’s foundations. The lower layers produced ceramics, animal bone and material relating to modifications of the building, including window pane glass fragments. The window glass was analysed by Robin Murdoch, using an x-ray fluorescence spectrometer. He looked at the glass composition and origin

and determined that some of the glass was imported, probably in the early 1500s. In later archaeological layers, different window glass signatures provided evidence of changes to the castle during the 1600s to mid-1700s.

In another test trench below the castle mound, deep archaeological layers were identified, indicating the potential for further archaeological remains to be identified on the site.

Report: Highland HER, OASIS and RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Clan Mackenzie Charitable Trust, Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services and West Coast Archaeological Services

Mary Peteranna and Steven Birch – Ross and Cromarty Archaeological Services and West Coast Archaeological Services

(Source: DES)

OASIS ID: rosscrom1-196922


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