The fifteenth century ruins of a castle perched precariously on an outcrop of rock. The site can be accessed but extreme care should be taken as the ruins are unstable. A seventeenth century doocot stands nearby.
VISIT OFFICIAL SITE
Notes: Castle is found to the east of Cullen on an unnamed road that can be accessed from the A98. The turn-off is sign-posted and there a small car parking for visitors.
Standing upon a small rocky peninsula jutting out into the Moray Firth, Findlater Castle has been the site of a fortification since at least the thirteenth century. Extensively rebuilt in 1455, the structure was besieged in 1562 by Mary, Queen of Scots. It remained a residence until the seventeenth century.
HISTORY OF FINDLATER CASTLE
Precisely who built Findlater Castle is uncertain but a fortification certainly existed on the site by 1246 when it was referenced in the Exchequer Rolls. The castle occupied a naturally strong position upon a tall rock, towering some 15 metres above sea level, which was only connected to the mainland by a narrow causeway. The name derives from the Gaelic term fionn leitir - literally "white cliff" - a reference to the quartz found in the rock.
By the thirteenth century the castle was a baronial site - possibly owned by the powerful Sinclair family - but was inspected and ordered to be readied against attack by Alexander III in the early 1260s as he prepared for conflict with the Norwegians. Despite these preparations, and the decisive Scottish victory at the Battle of Largs (1263), the castle was nevertheless occupied by the forces of King Haakon IV of Norway.
The ruins seen today date from the fifteenth century. The last known owner from the Sinclair line was Sir John Sinclair who died at the Battle of Harlow (1411). At some point thereafter it passed into the hands of Sir Walter Ogilvy for he was granted a licence to crenellate (fortify) Findlater in 1455. He was an ancestor of the Earls of Airlie and served in the King's Council before later becoming Sheriff of Banffshire. His new castle consisted of a substantial tower along with supporting buildings all of which were built on top of the rock. A causeway, constructed upon the narrow isthmus that connected the peninsula to the mainland, provided access via two drawbridges. Findlater is said to have been styled upon Rosslyn Castle in Lothian.
In 1560 Alexander Ogilvy disinherited his son, James Ogilvy, in favour of Sir John Gordon. His clan rebelled against Mary, Queen of Scots in 1562 and Findlater Castle was besieged and taken by Royal forces. The defeat of the Gordons at the Battle of Corrichie, on 28 October 1562, saw Sir John executed and the castle returned to James Ogilvy. The doocot was built around this time.
James Ogilvy was created Earl of Findlater in 1638 but this rise in status is perhaps what prompted the abandonment of the medieval castle. Ogilvy built nearby Cullen House as a direct replacement and Findlater was allowed to drift into ruin.