and INVERCAULD BRIDGE
Braemar Castle was built by the Earl of Mar in 1628 to serve as a hunting lodge and to provide a check on the power of the Farquharsons. The castle was burnt during the 1689 Jacobite rebellion and remained an abandoned ruin until 1748 when it was leased by the Government and converted into a military outpost.
Braemar Castle was built in 1628 by John Erskine, Earl of Mar possibly on the site of an earlier fortification and certainly replacing the nearby Kindrochit Castle. Its primary purpose was to check the power of the Farquharsons, nominally tenants of the Earl but fiercely independent. The castle overlooked the River Dee, a key communications artery, and also afforded the Earl control over the pass of Glen Clunnie which provided access into the Cairngorm mountains from the south.
The fortification took the form of a five storey, L-plan Tower House. A round stair tower between the main block and the wing provided access to all levels. It is probable the Tower House was originally surrounded by a curtain wall (barmkin) enclosing a courtyard within which would have been the ancillary buildings associated with such a site.
John Erskine died in 1668 and was followed by his son, Charles. When he died in May 1689 Braemar Castle and the Earldom passed to his son, John Erskine. The previous year the Catholic James VII (II of England) had been overthrown and replaced with the Protestant William of Orange. Scotland was deeply divided by this regime change with the first of the Jacobite rebellions erupting in April 1689. Whilst John Erskine supported the new King, the neighbouring Farquharsons supported the deposed James VII. The Government provided a detachment of dragoons to ensure the safety of Erskine's property but this did not deter John Farquharson of Inverey from leading an assault on the castle. The garrison was ejected and Braemar Castle was burnt. It remained a gutted shell for the next 60 years. Despite this, Erskine continued to support the Government including providing his backing for the Act of Union (1707). In 1713 he was appointed as Secretary of State for Scotland.
When Queen Anne, the last of the Stuart monarchs, died in 1714 the throne passed to George I and John Erskine was excluded from the new administration. Outraged the Earl returned to Aberdeenshire where he used the pretence of hunting and feasting to conceal plotting against the new regime. On 6 September 1715 the Earl proclaimed James Francis Edward Stuart as King James VIII (and III of England) commencing the second Jacobite rebellion. The London Government attempted to defuse the rebellion by offering the Earl's tenants full title to their land if they declared themselves loyal to George I but this had little success and Erskine was able to mobilise sufficient forces to capture Inverness, Aberdeen and Dundee. By October 1715 the Earl controlled all of northern Scotland but Government troops poured into the area and in November 1715 the rebels were engaged at the Battle of Sheriffmuir. The result was inconclusive but, along with a simultaneous defeat at Preston, the rebellion lost steam and the Earl was forced into exile.
Following the 1715 rebellion, Erskine's lands were seized by the Crown. In 1724 they were purchased by his relatives but they had little use for the castle and in 1732 sold it to John Farquharson of Invercauld. He refused to support the 1745 Jacobite rebellion and accordingly his lands were laid waste prompting him to retire to Edinburgh. The initial success of this rebellion, which had resulted in a Jacobite army advancing as far south as Derby, prompted a further wave of military infrastructure including construction of a new fortress, Fort George, at Ardersier. Connecting this base with Perth was a new military route, Lecht Road, which passed directly by Braemar Castle. For this reason the fortification was leased by the Government in 1748 and converted into a military barracks. Under the supervision of John Adam, Master Mason to the Board of Ordnance, a star-shaped curtain wall was built around the Tower House and a well or cistern was built to provide a secure water source. The site was also surrounded by a moat or ditch. Nearby Invercauld Bridge, located just two miles from the castle, was built to carry the military road over the River Dee.
Braemar Castle remained garrisoned until 1831 and thereafter returned to the Farquharsons. Their main residence was at Invercauld Castle but nevertheless work was undertaken to restore Braemar and a new range was added as accommodation for the servants and a new kitchen. The castle remained occupied until the late twentieth century and in 2006 it was leased to a local community group who have opened it to the public.
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Braemar Castle is a major tourist attraction run by volunteers and consists of a seventeenth century Tower House that has been extensively modified.
Braemar Castle. The name Braemar means "hills of [the Earl of] Mar". The castle replaced nearby Kindrochit Castle but there may also have been an earlier fortification on the site of Braemar given the tower was built upon an artificially scarped mound. The Tower House was configured in an L-plan whilst the star-shaped curtain wall was added after the Government had taken custody of the site in 1748. The castle was prettified following its return to the Farquharsons in the nineteenth century.
Curtain Wall. The star-shaped curtain wall was built under the supervision of John Adam, Master Mason to the Board of Ordnance. A very similar arrangement can be seen at Corgarff Castle. A well or cistern was installed within the northern bastion to provide a secure water source for the garrison. The crenellations were added in the nineteenth century.
Iron Yett. The entrance to the Tower House was protected by an Iron Yett which may originally have come from Kindrochit Castle.
Military Occupation. Following the Jacobite rebellions northern Scotland effectively became subject to a military occupation. The lynch-pins of the occupation were three major fortifications along the Great Glen at Fort William, Fort Augustus and Inverness which connected to the wider region through a series of military roads largely built by George Wade and William Caulfield. Following the 1745 rebellion, a new base was built at Ardersier called Fort George. This led to construction of the Lecht Road connecting that fort to Perth. Braemar Castle and Corgarff Castle were acquired by the Government at this time to serve as outposts along this route. At Braemar graffiti carved by the garrison can be seen on the window frames.
Invercauld Bridge. The bridge was built as part of a new military route, known as the Lecht Road, which connected Perth with the new Fort George at Ardersier. It was a six-span, hump-backed bridge that carried the road over the River Dee. Designed by Major Caulfield, it was built by men drawn from various infantry regiments between 1749 and 1754. It remained in use until 1864 when the new Ballater Turnpike Road was constructed which included a new crossing up-river.
Braemar Castle is found off the A93 just to the north of the town. There is a dedicated (sign-posted) car park directly adjacent. Invercauld Bridge is around two miles to the east but walking from the castle is not recommended as it requires you to proceed along the (national speed limit) A93 which has no pavement and portions without a verge. Instead there is a car park nearer the bridge (details below) which offers a much safer (and shorter) walk.
Car Park (For Castle)
Old Military Road (A93), AB35 5XR
Car Park (For Bridge)