Auchindoun Castle

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Auchindoun Castle
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Location Information
Name Auchindoun Castle
Owner Historic Scotland
NGR NJ 348374
Lon. & Lat. 57.422844,-3.085639
Council Moray
Parish Mortlach
Nearby Castles Inverharroch, Beldorney, Edinglassie, Aswanley, Aberlour
Year built 1479
Overview map
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The prehistoric earthworks, which protect Auchindoun, testify that this site has been fortified since a very early date. This castle has had a very violent life and not held by anyone for very long. The surviving ruin was built by Thomas Cochran, an architect and favorite of King James III, from whom he received the Earldom of Mar in 1479. The Earl of Mar was murdered by his brother (James III) and the tower house passed to Robert Cochrane. Cochran was hanged in 1482 and the castle passed to the Ogilvy family. In 1509, Sir James Ogilvy granted it to his nephew, Alexander Ogilvy, but by 1535, it was a Gordon property. In November 1571 Adam Gordon of Auchindoun, who was still supporting the deposed Queen Mary, attacked and burned Corgarff Castle, killing 24 people including the wife and family of the laird, John Forbes, and several servants. William Macintosh supposedly burned the castle around 1567. Legend tells us that MacIntosh was beheaded as he knelt in submission before the Countess of Huntly. The MackIntoshes raged through it in 1591 in revenge for the murder of the Bonnie Earl o' Moray. Patrick Gordon was killed in 1594 at the Battle of Glenlivet. Auchindoun was restored after the Mackintoshes wrecked it, but by 1725, the stonework was being used for building material in nearby areas. This is an L-Plan tower house with three stories to its structure. Ground level has the cellars; the hall was on the first floor with the living quarters on the second. A high curtain wall surrounds the tower, against which were the usual lean-to buildings, a guardroom and stables on the south side and a kitchen, brew-house and bakery on the east. The main entrance was on the south side but this is now built up, as is the original postern, at the north end of the east wall, access is now gained through a hole in the west wall. There is one round corner tower, at the northwest angle, a 16th century addition. The tower's main entrance was at ground floor level of the now missing south wall. The main stair rose in the southwest angle, left of the short passage leading to the vaulted cellar of the main block. There was a postern door and another, narrower, stair in the northwest angle.

The cellar is equipped with a stone basin with a drain to the outside, this would normally suggest a kitchen but there is no fireplace. The cellar of the wing is also vaulted and was accessed by means of a straight stair in the south wall, descending from the hall, suggesting that this was a private wine cellar. In 1984 excavations carried out prior to consolidation revealed a barrel-vaulted stone-lined chamber, 6.5' long by 5.5' wide by 5.5' deep, cut into the bedrock beneath the floor of the main cellar, this is inaccessible.

The hall, on the first floor of the main block, has had an elaborate and finely carved, groined and ribbed vault in two sections, only the springers survive. A large fireplace occupies most of the north wall, though it was not as high as the modern support makes it look.

The springers above the fireplace reveal an error during construction. Intermediate caps have been inserted to allow the mason a fresh start. The error is noticeable in the number of stones below the caps; to the right has four courses, the left has only three. Either side of the fireplace, in the east and west walls are windows equipped with stone seats, there was another in the south wall. The east window has a small cupboard, the west a door leading to the postern stair. There is also a small guardroom in the west wall at the entrance from the main stair. The wing rises two floors to the height of the hall, the private chamber on the first was also vaulted, has stone window seats and a latrine closet. The chamber above was accessed along a passage in the south wall. The second floor of the main block was also one large room, possibly a second, more private hall.

Edom o' Gordon

Edom o Gordon (or Captain Car) and his men need shelter from the cold weather of Martinmas and decide to seek it at the house of the Rodes. When the lady of the castle sees the troops arriving, she is disappointed that it is not those of her returning husband but his enemy's. She climbs to the top of the tower and tries to negotiate with Gordon (or Car) but he demands that she open up the castle and, worse still, sleep with him. She refuses and he vows to burn down the building together with her three children. To achieve this, he offers one of the servants, Jock, a fee for his help. He agrees and the fire is started. Attempting to save the youngest daughter, the lady throws some sheets down so that the beseigers might catch the baby but, instead, when she is thrown from the blaze, Gordon (or Car) impales her on the end of his spear.

While these grisly events are unfolding, the lord of the manor arrives and rushes over to the castle to save his wife and children but he is too late – they are all dead. He sets his own troops to battle those of his enemy and, from the ensuing battle, only five of Gordon's (or Car's) original fifty men return home.

The first printing of "Edom o Gordon" was in 1755 by Robert and Andrew Foulis. The story is thought to document a real historical event of 1751 as told in The Diurnall of Occurents (1755), although some of the details are speculative. Edom o Gordon is usually identified as Adam Gordon of Auchindoun a supporter of Mary I of Scotland, Captain Car as Captain Kerr, one of his lieutenants, and the lady of the castle as Margaret Forbes (nee Campbell), of the Forbes clan (supporters of James VI and the Gordon clan's arch-enemies). The castle is thought not to be Rhodes Castle but the House of Towie (Toway) at Corgarff.


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