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Ruthven Barracks

Barracks (18th Century)

Site Name Ruthven Barracks

Classification Barracks (18th Century)

Alternative Name(s) Ruthven Castle

Canmore ID 25196

Site Number NN79NE 1

NGR NN 76473 99756

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Highland
  • Parish Kingussie And Insh
  • Former Region Highland
  • Former District Badenoch And Strathspey
  • Former County Inverness-shire

Archaeology Notes

NN79NE 1.00 NN 76473 99756

NN79NE 1.01 NN 76431 99770 Stables

(NN 76439977) Ruthven Barracks (in ruins)

On Site of Ruthven Castle (NAT)

OS 6"map, Inverness-shire, 2nd ed., (1903)

The site is an alluvial mound. There was a fortress on it during the 14th century and probably earlier. In the 16th century, another castle was built here; this was destroyed in 1689 but seems to have been rebuilt before 1715. The Barracks were erected by the government in 1718 for a garrison, but were burnt by fugitives from Culloden in 1746 and never repaired. No trace of the earlier works survived.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887.

Ruthven Barracks, generally as described and planned by MacGibbon and Ross, now being restored by the MoW.

Visited by OS (N K B) 31 November 1967.

The excavation archive from Ruthven Barracks has been catalogued. It consists of the site daybook, negatives, slides and publication drawings, plus copies of publication drafts.

Historic Scotland Archive Project (SW) 2001

Architecture Notes


Ruthven Barracks stood hard by Kingussie, a village and a parish in the Badenoch district of S.E.Inverness-shire, occupying a conical mound one and a quarter mile S by E of the village and on the other, or right, bank of the River Spey. The distance is stated as 44 and a half miles from Inverness and 50 E.N.E. of Fort William.

The Barracks, according to Groome's Ordnance Gazetteer, were built by the Government in 1718, and were burned by fugitives from Culloden in 1746.

In the National Library of Scotland is a series of Military Maps and Drawings (many coloured) of the Board of Ordnance and of the 18th Century. In the Index Volume No.1852 it is recorded that in 1928 the guardianship of the buidings was offered the Commissioners of H.M.Works, but was declined. In Case or Volume No.1648 are the following Drawings:-

Number. Year.

Z.3/18. No date. Small scale Plans, Sections, and Elevations of the four Barracks of Killiwhiman, Inversnait, Ruthven of Badenoch, and Bernera, with Explanations. Scale 30 Feet to an Inch. There are copies. Also indexed under the names mentioned besides Ruthven.

Z.3/19. 1719. "Plan showing situation of the barrack at Ruthven in Badenoch Anne 1719", and surrounding Country. Scale 10 Feet to an Inch. There is a copy.

Z.3/20. No date. "Ruthvan of Badenock" Plan, Sections & Elevations of Barracks. With Explanation. Scale 10 Feet to an Inch. There is also a small scale Engraving.

David Macgibbon and Thomas Ross, in "The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland" give a Plan of these Barrack and Stable buildings, as an example of a fortification of that late period, with a sketch, in pen and ink, from the South-West. They state there is no vestige of any earlier building or castle on the mound.

National Library - Country Life 6th April 1945 - photograph.

National Library of Scotland: Nattes Drawings. 1 Drawing, Vol IV No 20.


Publication Account (1995)

Ruthven is the best preserved of the four infantry barracks that were built by the Hanoverian government after the Jacobite rebellion of 1715. It can now be seen to good effect to the east of the new A9 road as it passes Kingussie. The barracks stands on a prominent hill, perhaps in part artificialIy scarped, rising from the flat floor of the Spey valley, which had earlier been the site of a 13th century stronghold of the Comyns and a stone castle of the Earls of Huntly. In 1745 Sergeant Molloy and twelve men heroically resisted a besieging army of some 200 Jacobites, only to be forced to surrender when the rebels returned with artillery the following year. Later some of the defeated Jacobites rallied here after Culloden. Thereafter the barracks fell into ruin.

The original Board of Ordnance plans survive, and though some modifications were made during construction they help to interpret the existing structure. The tall buildings are the barrack blocks, each having a central timber stair leading to six rooms, one either side of the stair on each floor. The timber stairs and floors are long gone. Each room had a fireplace intended for cooking as well as warmth (there was no mess hall), and would have contained 'five beds for ten men in as little space as can well be allowed', though it is doubtful if Ruthven ever housed its full complement of 120 men. The lofts and basements were for stores and powder magazines. The inner walls had windows, two to a room, while the outer walls had musketloops on each floor. The enclosure walls round the parade ground had a wall-walk above a series of open-ended vaults, but each of these was provided only with one musket-loop. There was no provision for mortars or cannon. One angle tower seems to have been a guardhouse, with rooms above, and the other a bake- and brew-house, where part of the oven remains. Latrines were built in the two remaining corners of the fort.

In 1734, at the recommendation of General Wade, a guardhouse and stable for thirty dragoons was built, of which the attic floor was probably used as a hayloft. A postern gate was inserted in the west wall of the barracks to give access to the stable block. The dragoons were 'to serve as a convoy for money or provisions for the use of the Forces as well as to retain that part of the country in obedience'.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Highlands’, (1995).


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