ESSLEMONT CASTLE

Esslemont Castle was originally raised in the form of an enclosure castle and this was augmented by a Tower House in the late fifteenth century. Following a devastating attack by the Hay family, the castle underwent a long period of rebuilding culminating in the construction of a new, Renaissance style, Tower House in a corner of the former defences.

History

 

The Manor of Esslemont is first attested to in the late fourteenth century when it passed to Francis Cheyne through his marriage to Janet Mareschal. At some point prior to this event, a castle had been built at Esslemont. This was a basic enclosure fortification with a pentagon shaped curtain wall fronted by a ditch. At some point during the late fifteenth century an L-plan Tower House was built in the centre of the compound. The rectangular block of this tower was aligned on a north/south axis whilst the wing extended to the east. Ancillary buildings including a brewhouse, bakehouse and stables would have surrounded the structure.

 

Esslemont Castle was attacked and burnt by the Hays of Ardendracht in 1493. The Privy Council fined them £20 for this destruction and thereafter the Cheynes started rebuilding and were  granted a licence to crenellate in 1500. A record dated 1515 described Esslemont as a "fortalice and manor" and it was sufficiently grand to host Mary, Queen of Scots in 1564.

 

Around 1570 a new two-storey L-plan Tower House was built in a corner of the existing defences with one of the round towers of the curtain wall incorporated into its structure. It was constructed from rubble with ashlar dressings but, unlike the earlier tower, the new structure was built for comfort rather than defence for its walls were less substantial than its predecessor. Whilst it may have co-existed with the earlier Tower House, it is more likely that stone was robbed from one to build the other.

 

The castle passed to the Errol family in 1625 but, as they had other residences, Esslemont was neglected. It was briefly occupied by Covenanter forces in 1646 but they were driven off by the pro-Royalist forces from Fyvie Castle. It was sold to Robert Gordon in 1728 and continued as an occasional residence until Esslemont House was built in 1769. Thereafter the tower fell into ruin.

 

 

Bibliography

 

Billings, R W (1901). The baronial and ecclesiastical antiquities of Scotland. Edinburgh.

Bogdan, N and Bryce, I.B.D (1991). Castles, manors and 'town houses' survey.

Cruden, S (1960). The Scottish Castle. Edinburgh.

CANMORE (2016). Esslemont Castle. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

Coventry, M (2008). Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans. Musselburgh.

Giles, J (1936). Drawings of Aberdeenshire castles. Aberdeen.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T (1892). The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh.

Shepherd, I.A.G (1986). Exploring Scotland's heritage: Grampian. Edinburgh.

Shepherd, I.A.G (2006). Aberdeenshire, Donside and Strathbogie: an illustrated architectural guide. Rutland Press.

Simpson, W.D (1944). The excavation of Esslemont Castle, Aberdeenshire. Aberdeen.

Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.

What's There?

Esslemont Castle is in ruins and the site is largely overgrown. Nevertheless the late sixteenth century Tower House can be seen from the A920.

Esslemont Castle Layout. The curtain wall was the earliest fortification on the site but was augmented by an L-plan Tower House in the late fifteenth century. In the 1570s a new Tower House was constructed in the eastern corner of the castle. It is this latter structure, shown in black on the plan, that is visible today.

Esslemont Castle. The round tower connected to the sixteenth century Tower House can clearly be seen through the trees. This was modified from the castle's original defences and was one of five round towers on the corners of the curtain wall.

Esslemont Castle. The remains as seen from the A920. This structure was the Tower House built between 1570 and 1590. It was the third fortification built on the site.

Getting There

Esslemont Castle is found directly off the A920 just to the west of Ellon. There is no car parking in the vicinity whilst the A920, which has no pavement or verge, is extremely dangerous for pedestrians. Very short term parking is possible in the road directly adjacent to the castle.

Esslemont Castle

AB41 8NY

57.358059N 2.114382W