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Edzell Castle

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Edzell Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Mains Of Edzell; Stirling's Tower

Canmore ID 34996

Site Number NO56NE 8

NGR NO 58461 69108

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Digital Images

First 100 images shown. See the Collections panel (below) for a link to all digital images.

Administrative Areas

  • Council Angus
  • Parish Edzell
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Angus
  • Former County Angus

Archaeology Notes

NO56NE 8.00 58461 69108

NO56NE 8.01 NO 58868 69079 Dovecot

NO56NE 8.02 NO 58487 69086 Garden

(NO 5845 6913) Edzell Castle (NR) (In Ruins)

(NO 5845 6910) Stirling Tower (NR)

(NO 5849 6910) Flower Garden (NR)

(NO 5852 6908) Summer House (NR)

(NO 5848 6905) Well (NR)

(NO 5848 6905) Baths (NR)

OS 25" map, (1925).

History, description and plan.

W D Simpson 1952 (Official Guide).

Stirling's Tower, the oldest part of the castle is said to take its name from the Stirlings of Glenesk, who are said to have built and occupied it (but since the tower is 16th century and the property passed from the Stirlings to the Lindsays about 1357, this is impossible).

NSA (Rev R Inglis: written 1842), 1843.

Edzell Castle is as described and planned in the MoPBW Guide.

Visited by OS (JLD) 14 July 1958.

Edzell Castle, is as described.

Resurveyed at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (ISS) 24 August 1971.

Architecture Notes


Scottish Records Office

GD 45/18/2370

William Blackadder's report on the condition of the Castle and the repairs required. Except for the East wall and the flower garden it is apparently very dilapidated.


GD 45/18/2370

Agreement to undertake essential repair work for £100.

Mason: John Thomson



Antiquarian Observation (1857 - 1861)

Mason's marks from Scottish churches, abbeys and castles recorded between 1857 and 1861 on 29 drawings in the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland Collection.

Aerial Photography (September 1970)

Oblique aerial photographs of Edzell Castle, Angus, taken by John Dewar in September 1970.

Note (1984)

Edzell Castle NO 584 691 NO56NE 9

This ruinous castle comprises an L-plan tower-house, built in the first half of the 16th century, to which were added, about 1580, a quadrangle mansion (unfinished) and, in 1604, a walled garden with a bath-house and a summer-house.

RCAHMS 1984.

(Simpson and Fawcett 1982).

Publication Account (1987)

Edzell Castle, perhaps more than any other fortifIed house in Scotland, illustrates the impact of the change in attitude towards domestic comfort and architectural grandeur that took place in the late 16th and early 17th centuries in Scotland. The simple L-plan towerhouse was extended to provide a courtyard house with formal pleasure garden or pleasance, incorporating a summer house and bath house, and at a short distance to the east a dovecote and the home farm, all executed with a degree of intellectual and architectural flair. The tower and courtyard house are now ruined and the farm steading has been replaced and altered during successive agricultural improvements, but the most signifIcant element in the composition and the one that lifts Edzell beyond its contemporaries is the pleasance. This comprises a walled, parterre garden incorporating within its classical framework various heraldic and symbolic sculptured panels and architectural devices which are unique in Scotland and give Edzell Castle a distinctive place in the history of European Renaissance art.

The original manorial centre of Edzell is represented by an earthwork castle close to the site of the original parish church 350m south of the present castle (NO 583687). This old castle was the seat of the Stirlings of Glenesk who, about 1357, gave place to the Crawford Lindsays. In the frrst half of the 16th century the Lindsays built the fme tower-house that forms the core of the present castle. The courtyard house was added to this tower around 1580 and the pleasance added in 1604. The 'lichtsome Lindsays' were a gay, gifted, gallant, turbulent and tragic family who retained possession ofEdzell until 1715 when the estate was sold to the Earl of Panmure. The man responsible for the expansion of the original towerhouse was Sir David Lindsay, Lord Edzell. He was the eldest son of the 9th Earl of Crawford by his second wife. David succeeded his father as the laird of Edzell in 1558 when only seven or eight years old. He was educated by James Lawson, a colleague of John Knox and travelled widely with him on the continent. There he developed his taste and scholarship and displayed an enlightened approach far in advance of his time. He was knighted in 1581, became a Lord of Session in 1593 and a member of the Privy Council in 1598. In addition to his scholarship and magnifIcent taste he demonstrated boundless energy and carried out a number of estate projects including a large scale afforestation policy and mining operations in Glenesk. There he used his overseas contacts to obtain the services of Bemard Fechtenburg and Hans Ziegler, mining engineers of considerable standing, from Germany. It was also from Germany that he obtained the prints from which the sculptured panels of the pleasance were copied. He died in 1610 leaving the family in extraordinary debt.

After the estate passed to the Earl of Panmure in 1715, the lands were almost immediately forfeited owing to his involvement in the Jacobite rising that year. The York Buildings Company obtained possession and began the process of despoiling the mansion and its policies. The final ruin came in 1764 after the Company was declared bankrupt. The beech avenue was felled and the floors and roofs stripped out and sold on behalf of the creditors. In the same year the forfeited Panmure Estates were repurchased by William Maule, Earl Panmure of Forth. On his death in 1782 the estates passed to his nephew, the 8th Earl of Dalhousie. In 1932 Lord Dalhousie placed the pleasance under the custody of HM Office of Works (now HBM, SDD). The remainder of the ruins were also placed in custody in 1935. Since then the structure has been consolidated and the garden reconstituted.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).

Excavation (9 February 2004 - 10 February 2004)

NO 584 691 An exploratory excavation was undertaken in February 2004 in a circular raised area, 3m in diameter, set in the centre of a stepped hexagonal terrace, 6.3m across. Removal of topsoil revealed a considerable amount of 18th- and 19th-centuryceramics in imported topsoil. Revealed at a depth of c 1m was amass of red sandstone boulders in a matrix of red grit and brown silt, in a pit cut into a light brown sand. This may have formed the foundation of a structure forming a centrepiece to the gardens,and pre-dated levelling with imported soil believed to have taken place in the 1930s.

D Stewart 2004

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

Kirkdale Archaeology

Watching Brief (15 November 2011)

An archaeological watching brief was undertaken during the removal of an expansion joint in the concrete first floor of the West Range. This concrete floor had been laid in the 1960s, with the expansion joint added in the 1980s to prevent cracking. Over time water had penetrated the sides of the expansion joint, causing inundation through into the vault of the cellar below. Nothing was disturbed other than concrete.

Information from OASIS (kirkdale1-310846) 18 May 2018

Watching Brief (15 November 2012)

NO 5844 6911 A watching brief was undertaken on 15 November 2011 during the removal of an expansion joint in the concrete first floor of the W range. The concrete floor had been laid in the 1960s, with the expansion joint added in the 1980s to prevent cracking. Over time water had penetrated the sides of the expansion joint, causing flooding into the vault of the cellar below.

Archive: RCAHMS (intended)

Funder: Historic Scotland

David Murray, Kirkdale Archaeology


Standing Building Recording (May 2013 - August 2013)

NO 58461 69108 This collection was assessed in May–August 2013. Among the stones available for examination were several sections from a window. These included EDZ/wj/2-6 and EDZ/wsr/1, some of which very large.

Two of the more elaborate stones, EDZ/cc/1 and EDZ/wj/1, are worked with ornament typical of the 17th century, including fluting, egg-and-dart and rope ornament. EDZ/cc/1 closely resembles a stone still in situ in the castle courtyard, forming part of an elaborate door jamb.

The seven panels of Celestial Deities in the summerhouse, EDZ/o/3 - EDZ/o/9, which are early 17th-century in date, have been moved there from the walled garden to prevent further deterioration, with replicas now set in the garden wall. The decorative details at the corners of some of the slabs resemble those carved on semi-circular stones in the garden's E wall, behind the original positions of the slabs.

A group of 13 voussoirs, EDZ/v/4-16, are laid out on the ground in the kitchen area of the castle, forming a large arch. This could have come from the adjacent kitchen fireplace, but similar arches remain in place, eg in the arches above the courtyard entrance.

This and other inventories of carved stones at Historic Scotland’s properties in care are held by Historic Scotland’s Collections Unit. For further information please contact:

Mary Márkus, Archetype, 2013

(Source: DES)


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