Gight Castle, which is also known as Formantine Castle, was an L-plan Tower House built in the sixteenth century. It was owned by the Gordons of Gight for two centuries before gambling debts forced its sale to the Earl of Aberdeen. Following a tragic riding accident that killed the Earl’s son, the castle was abandoned and never reoccupied.
Gight Castle was built in the first half of the sixteenth century by a cadet branch of the Gordon family (later known as the Gordons of Gight). They were descended from the second son of George Gordon, Second Earl of Huntly and the Princess Jane, daughter of James I of Scotland. The earliest written record dates from 1577, when it was described as a "tower and fortalice", but it is generally attributed to George Gordon who inherited the estate when his father was killed at the Battle of Flodden (1513).
The castle stands upon a steep cliff overlooking the River Ythan, a major waterway that provided the site with easy access to the North Sea. It was a three-storey (plus attic) L-plan Tower House. The ground floor consisted of a kitchen, brewhouse and vaulted storerooms. The first floor was dominated by the Great Hall and a private chamber. The levels above would have been high-status accommodation. The castle was originally surrounded by other structures - a courtyard to the south was probably enclosed with a barmkin (curtain wall) and contained the ancillary buildings. The design and style of Gight Castle is very similar to three other towers in the immediate area - Craig, Delgaty and Towie Barclay - suggesting they may have all been built by the same master mason. At some point during the castle's occupation, an additional range was added to the north-east side.
Despite a serious feud with the Earl of Errol and a reluctance to abandon Catholicism after the Scottish Reformation, the Gordons of Gight remained the owners of the castle until the late eighteenth century. The last resident was Catherine Gordon Byron, whose son was George Gordon Byron, better known as the poet Lord Byron. However, Catherine's husband - Captain John "Mad Jack" Byron - had accrued large gambling debts and in 1787 the castle was seized by his creditors. They sold it for £18,500 to Catherine's kinsman, George Gordon, Earl of Aberdeen. The Earl gave it to his son - George Gordon, Lord Haddo - but in October 1791 he died in a riding accident. His death led to Gight Castle being left vacant and thereafter it was allowed to drift into ruin.
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Gight Castle is on land owned by the Haddo estate but a public right of way leads directly to the fortification. The structure is ruinous and there is no access allowed to the interior but the exterior can be viewed.
Gight Castle Layout. The castle was an L-plan Tower House (remains seen to the right on both photographs). An additional extension and a new range was added in the seventeenth century.
Tower House. The L-plan Tower House only stands to a fraction of its original height. The castle's entrance was on the ground floor directly into the main block.
Earthworks. The castle is surrounded by extensive earthworks associated with the ancillary buildings that once formed part of the site.
River Ythan. This waterway provided a key means of movement through pre-industrial Aberdeenshire. To the west it linked Gight with Fyvie whilst to the east it led to Ellon and the North Sea.
Clan Gordon. The Gordons are associated with 149 castle sites most of which were in Aberdeenshire although the family's earliest Scottish lands were in Galloway and the Borders.