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Pitsligo Castle

Castle (Medieval), Formal Garden (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Pitsligo Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Formal Garden (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Castle Of Pitsligo

Canmore ID 20801

Site Number NJ96NW 7

NGR NJ 93732 66942

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Aberdeenshire
  • Parish Pitsligo
  • Former Region Grampian
  • Former District Banff And Buchan
  • Former County Aberdeenshire

Archaeology Notes

NJ96NW 7 93732 66942

(NJ 9373 6695) Castle of Pitsligo (NR) (In Ruins)

OS 6" map, (1928)

There was a large ditch round the whole house.

Spalding Club 1843.

The outer shell of the castle is intact. The buildings are roofed and in use as farm outbuildings.

OS Reviser (EWM) 16 July 1955.

The nucleus of the castle is a tower-house, which has every appearance of 15th century date, thought to have been built c. 1424. It is 52 feet by 37 feet with walls 10 feet thick, and survives to a height of two storeys, the third being demolished c 1700. In the latter half of the 16th century the tower-house was incorporated with a large quadrangular mansion, in which it occupies a position near the west end of the south front. This mansion seems never to have been fully completed, and encloses a courtyard measuring 98 feet east-west by 54 feet north-south. The mansion, too, is uncared for and becoming ruinous.

W D Simpson 1956.

Pitsligo Castle, generally as described by Simpson, is rapidly becoming more ruinous: all the buildings are roofless.

Vague traces of a possible ditch on the west and south sides, but not enough for survey.

Visited by OS (RL) 10 March 1967

Both castle and mansion are rapidly becoming roofless; all the buildings are roofless and were in use as stock enclosures until 1988. There are vague traces of a possible ditch on the W and S sides, but not enough for survey. The tower-house is large with walls of coursed boulders; the E wall has largely fallen, and there is a straight stair in the thickness of the wall from ground floor to first floor with spiral stairs (now gutted) above. The mansion has a round tower on the exterior of the NE angle and a sqaure porch tower on the inner abgle. An entrance transe is in the centre of the W range. There are Royal arms panels of 1579 and 1603 and a Pitsligo arms panel of 1665. The large walled forecourt has coped walls; the outer gate in the centre of the W side has a semi-circular arch with edge-roll moulding and date panel HAECV CORP SYDERA MENTEM 1656 (now weathered). Extensive walled garden to N.

Built (c.1424) by family of Forbes of Pitsligo. Confiscated after the 1745 rebellion, sold to the Gardens of Troup and became a ruin. Repurchased by Sir Wm. Forbes of Pitsligo later but not repaired. Consolidation programme 1988-9. Bibliographic and photographic coverage listed.

NMRS, MS/712/19.

Architecture Notes


The National Library of Scotland.

'The House of Forbes' by A and H Taylor. (3rd Spalding club) - text.


Resistivity (August 2009)

NJ 93732 66642 A survey covering 0.8ha, in three walled gardens surrounding the castle, was undertaken using 0.5 x 0.5m resolution earth resistance survey in August 2009. The aim was to identify any surviving garden features in advance of consolidation work on the castle and its grounds. A number of potential garden features were identified, the most striking of which were found immediately to the N of the castle. In this area, the anomalies appear to relate to the layout of a formal garden, with high resistance anomalies probably

associated with former paths or walls. A large linear anomaly in the garden to the W of the castle may represent a former wall, while to the N a number of less well defined anomalies were identified. In all areas, interpretation is confused by the existence of a number of anomalies that may be associated with the later use of the area as a market garden.

Archive: OCGU

Funder: Murray Archaeological Services Ltd

Mary Saunders – Orkney College Geophysics Unit

Excavation (21 September 2009 - 2 October 2009)

NJ 9373 6694 This was a community excavation undertaken from 21 September–2 October 2009 by volunteers from Rosehearty and the surrounding area and directed by Murray Archaeological Services. Pitsligo Castle, which dates mainly from the 15th and 16th centuries but with 17th-century additions and alterations, was destroyed in 1746. The walled garden continued in use, first as a market garden and later as a cultivated field. The excavation aimed to establish the extent and nature of survival of the 17th-century and later gardens. A number of paths, garden beds and walls were excavated that appear to be part of the formal 17th-century

garden. A geophysical survey undertaken by OCGU has been used to locate some of these features over a wider area (see above). Detailed recording of the garden walls has located the former position of wall-trained trees and the fruits of existing trees are being identified.

Report: Aberdeenshire SMR, Historic Scotland and RCAHMS (all intended)

Funder: Scottish Government and the European Community Rural Aberdeenshire Leader 2007–2013 Programme, Historic Scotland, Aberdeenshire Council’s Archaeology Service and the Pitsligo Castle Trust.

HK Murray – Murray Archaeological Services Ltd

Excavation (13 April 2010 - 14 April 2010)

NJ 93732 66942 Prior to restoration work on the N range of Pitsligo Castle test pits were dug, on 13–14 April 2010, to examine the foundations. Four pits on the N side of the N range N wall showed that the wall had been built on boulder clay and bedrock at between 100 and 180mm below the present surface. A test pit inside the courtyard, by the S face of the S wall of the N range, revealed a stone drain running along the wall below a series of capstones. At least one of the capstones extended below the wall, suggesting that the drain was built before the wall, but possibly as part of the same episode of building, to stop water flowing from the courtyard

into the guest chambers of the N range. The drain had been re-lined with clay pipes in the 19th/20th century.

Reports: Aberdeenshire SMR and RCAHMS

Funder: Pitsligo Castle Trust

HK and JC Murray – Murray Archaeological Services Ltd

Information also from Oasis (mas1-113697) 23 January 2012


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