Boddam was originally owned by the Spence family whose main holdings were in Fife and Perthshire. Precisely when the family acquired the Boddam estate is unknown but it was probably around 1459 when Thomas Spence was appointed as Bishop of Aberdeen. It is likely the family had some form of hall or castle upon the site but, if so, evidence has been lost under the later structure. This was built by the Keiths of Ludquharn after they had acquired the territory in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. The Keiths had settled in Scotland in either the eleventh or twelfth century although whether they were of German or Norman origin is uncertain. By the sixteenth century they had become an immensely powerful family with lands ranging from East Lothian in the south to Caithness in the north. At the time Boddam was built the chief of the clan was George Keith, Earl Marischal who currently made substantial modifications to Dunnottar Castle. Compared to that elaborate fortress, Boddam Castle was a much more conservative residence.
The castle was built upon a rocky finger with cliffs on the north, east and west sides. It took the form of a courtyard castle and the structure extended across the entire width of the terrain. The single point of entry into the fortification was via a gatehouse on the west side which projected from the rest of the structure enabling flanking fire along the vulnerable landward wall. In front of this a dry ditch, crossed by a drawbridge, may have originally have augmented the defences. Inside the fortification there were three ranges on the north, west and south sides.
The last member of the Keith family to occupy Boddam Castle was William Keith (1669-1749). He was born at the castle but in 1689 he and his father supported the first Jacobite rebellion. When this failed they fled abroad only returning after the Act of Indemnity (1703). In the subsequent decades William held several commissions in North America including Surveyor General for the Southern District of the Americas and Lieutenant Governor of Pennsylvania. However, his father was implicated in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion and was financially ruined. When he died in 1718, William inherited both his father's estates and the debts. He was never able to recover from the latter ultimately dying penniless in the Old Bailey debtors prison in 1749. In the subsequent decades Boddam Castle drifted into ruin and was never repaired.
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Boddam Castle is the ruined remains of a late sixteenth/early seventeenth century courtyard castle. With the exception of the gatehouse, the structure has been reduced to foundations and piles of rubble, but the layout and its dramatic coastal location can still be appreciated.
Boddam Castle Layout. The castle occupied a cliff top location with sea inlets to both the north and south. The structure was a courtyard castle with ranges on the north, west and south sides. The stable block in front of the gatehouse was presumably constructed later in the castle's history as it negated the defensive strength of the site by providing cover to any attacking force.
Gatehouse. The gatehouse was the sole point of ingress into the castle. It projected from the main castle curtain wall to enable flanking fire.
Remains. Other than the gatehouse, the remains of the castle are fairly limited.
Sea Inlets. The castle was surrounded on both sides by steeply sided sea inlets.
Clan Keith. The Keiths owned land and castles from Caithness in the north down to Lothian. In total 38 castles are associated with the clan including Boddam.
Boddam Castle was built by the Keiths of Ludquharn in the late sixteenth or early seventeenth century. The fortification took the form of a courtyard castle and was occupied for around 150 years. However, the family’s involvement in the Jacobite rebellions saw them financially ruined and the castle went out of use thereafter.
Boddam Castle is found off Rocksley Drive to the south of the town. There is a dedicated car park and an unpaved path that leads to the castle. Strong footwear is recommended.
Rocksley Drive, AB42 3BG