Tolquhon Castle was built in the early fifteenth century and originally consisted of a Tower House and courtyard. It later passed to the Forbes family who made substantially modifications in the late sixteenth century. The castle remained occupied until 1718 when the then owner was evicted following his support for the Jacobite rebellions.
Tolquhon Castle is located in the former Lordship of Formartine, a territory which occupied the land between the Rivers Don and Ythan. Since the early thirteenth century the territory was owned by the Preston family who established their regional seat at Fyvie Castle (their primary caput was at Craigmillar near Edinburgh). During the early fifteenth century Sir Henry Preston built Tolquhon Castle. The main feature was a Tower House which was surrounded by a barmkin (curtain wall) enclosing the ancillary buildings such as brewhouse, bakehouse and stables. Sir Henry died in 1420 without leaving a male heir and his estates were subsequently divided between his daughters. Tolquhon Castle passed through his second daughter, Marjorie, to her husband, Sir John Forbes. It would remain with his family for almost 300 years.
The castle was rebuilt by William Forbes between 1584 and 1589. The work was undertaken by Thomas Leiper who converted the site into a compact but palatial residence. Whilst the castle's overall footprint did not significantly change, the buildings surrounding the courtyard were completely rebuilt. The largest of the new additions was the South Range, known as the main house, which was a lavish four storey structure providing the communal and high status accommodation for the site. Extending from this was a new West Range which incorporated the brewhouse and storage facilities whilst the upper floor was a gallery. The East Range was used for the bakehouse, storage and servants' accommodation.
William Forbes died in 1596 and Tolquhon Castle passed to his son, William. Further upgrades to the castle were planned but were never enacted nor were any additional modifications made by any of his successors although the surrounding gardens were re-landscaped in the late seventeenth century. It was during this period that the Forbes rose in prominence under the Stewart monarchs. Alexander Forbes had saved the life of Charles II during the Battle of Worcester (1651) and, after the Restoration of the monarchy, was knighted. The family remained loyal to the Stewarts even after the Glorious Revolution and accordingly the then owner, William Forbes, supported the 1715 Jacobite Rebellion. Parliament declared his estates forfeit in 1716 but he refused to vacate and had to be forcibly evicted in September 1718. Tolquhon Castle ceased to be a high status residence at this time and was eventually purchased by the Earl of Aberdeen to use as a farm house. It continued in this role until the early nineteenth century and thereafter was allowed to drift into ruin.
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Tolquhon Castle consists mostly of late-sixteenth century (ruined) structures although some earlier fabric, most notably the Tower House of circa-1400, is also visible. The castle is a major tourist attraction in the care of Historic Scotland.
Tolquhon Castle Layout. Originally the castle consisted of a Tower House (Preston Tower) with a courtyard extending south. Between 1584 and 1589, the buildings in this courtyard were demolished and three substantial new ranges were added.
Tolquhon Castle. The castle complex as viewed from the Outer Court. Preston's Tower, the original fifteenth century Tower House, can be seen on the left.
Gatehouse. The decorative gatehouse was added by William Forbes during his modifications in the late sixteenth century. The gun loops were predominantly for display purposes as they were poorly placed for any defensive function.
Preston's Tower. The oldest part of the castle was Preston Tower. This was originally a four storey Tower House built by Sir Henry Preston in the early fifteenth century.
Main House (South Range). Built in 1584, this replaced Preston Tower as the main residence and incorporated the hall and high-status accommodation.
Round Tower. This incorporated bed-chambers that were most probably used for guests.
Clan Forbes. The Forbes owned extensive estates across Aberdeenshire. They also had a number of castles near Edinburgh and a few scattered further afield. In total 61 castles are linked with the clan.