Looking for a different Slains Castle? Try New Slains Castle.

Old Slains Castle was built in the fourteenth century by the Hays who had acquired the lands following the First War of Scottish Independence. They occupied it until 1594 when it was blown up by James VI in retaliation for their support for a pro-Catholic rebellion led by the Earl of Huntly.



At the start of the fourteenth century, Slains was owned by John Comyn, Earl of Buchan. He was the cousin of John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch who was murdered by Robert the Bruce in 1306. This act pushed the Comyns into a bitter feud with Bruce and, when the latter successfully secured the Scottish throne, the Earl of Buchan was dispossessed. Slains was granted to John's father-in-law, Gilbert Hay, who had supported Bruce. Old Slains Castle was built later in the fourteenth century although which member of the family commissioned it is unknown.


The castle was built on a thin rocky peninsula that projects out into the North Sea. The structure consisted of a Tower House and courtyard and the entire site was severed from the mainland by a dry ditch which cut across the width of the headland. The Tower House stood four storeys tall with its three lowest levels all having vaulted roofs. The courtyard was surrounded by a barmkin (curtain wall) and hosted various ancillary buildings such a brewhouse and bakehouse. An Outer Ward, protected by an earth rampart, was located on the mainland and was most likely used as a livestock enclosure.


In the late sixteenth century the castle's then owner - Francis Hay, Earl of Erroll - converted to catholicism and subsequently supported the rebellion of George Gordon, Earl (and later Marquis) of Huntly. The uprising was defeated and in 1594 Old Slains Castle was destroyed by James VI (I of England) in retaliation. Hay fled the country but returned in 1597 and made peace with the King. He recovered his estates but opted not to rebuild his destroyed family seat and instead replaced it with (new) Slains Castle, located at Bowness, six miles from the original tower.





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What's There?

Old Slains Castle consists of the partial remains of a fourteenth century Tower House, one of the earliest examples of its kind. Regrettably the structure was slighted in 1594 and, whilst the surviving portion still stands to an impressive height, this is only a small fragment of the original building. Traces of the barmkin can be seen on the surrounding cliffs.

Coastal Location. The castle overlooked the North Sea.

House. The house visible to the right of the tower was originally a holiday home built by Diana, Countess of Errol in the 1950s.

Tower House. A portion of the Tower House survives although the vast majority was destroyed by James VI in 1594.

Clan Hay. The Hays were of Norman descent and settled in Scotland during the twelfth century with the first recorded reference dating to 1160 when William Hay held the hereditary position of Cup Bearer to King Malcolm IV in 1160. By the sixteenth century they owned significant estates along the Grampian coast. Their major castles are shown although there were many more - around 70 castles can be attributed to the clan.

Tower House.

Getting There

Old Slains Castle is found on an unnamed road to the north of Collieston. The best car parking option is at Cransdale which provides access to the coastal path. From there it is a one mile walk to the castle and strong footwear is recommended.

Car Parking Option

AB41 8RT

57.348660N 1.930961W

Old Slains Castle

AB41 8ST

57.360609N 1.913396W