The remains of a Hall House including an impressive round tower which forms part of the structure. In recent years the site has been cleared of excessive vegetation but strong footwear is recommended.
NO OFFICIAL SITE
Round Tower. The south corner of Rait Castle is dominated by a Round Tower.
Car Parking Option
Notes: The castle is accessible from an unnamed road off the B9101. No official sign-posts although a small hand-written note points the way. Unless in a four wheel drive, it is recommended parking at a suitable point along the road and walking to the castle.
Rait Castle was built by the Cummings family who took the manor from Clan Mackintosh prompting a feud between the two factions. The fortification was in the form of a hall house although the defences were predominantly for show rather than truly functional. The structure was abandoned in the fifteenth century.
HISTORY OF RAIT CASTLE
The manor of Rait was originally held by the Mackintosh family who probably built the first substantial residence there. The first written record of the family’s ownership is from a charter dated 1165 when it was granted by William I (the Lion) to Shaw Mackintosh. He was the son of Duncan MacDuff, Earl of Fife and would serve the Crown as Constable of Inverness Castle. Along with Rait the family was also granted manors at Rothiemurcus and Meikle Geddes. These lands passed to his son, Ferquhard Mackintosh, in 1210. When he died in 1274 he left an underage son, Angus, resulting in the lands being taken over by the Cumming family. They were Norman Knights and, in accordance with their traditions, took the surname 'de Rait'.
It was Gervaise de Rait that constructed the fortified hall house visible today around the early fourteenth century. The structure replaced the former manor house (traces of masonry were incorporated into the later structure). The building was surrounded by a barmkin, which also enclosed a courtyard and chapel, whilst a defensive ditch may also have surrounded the site. The hall house itself was also a substantial structure with walls nearly 3 metres thick and a round tower dominating the south corner. However, whilst these defences would have provided defence against any local trouble, they would not have resisted a determined attacker as the entire fortification was overlooked by higher ground to the south. A small (now abandoned) settlement, to the east of the castle, is frequently associated with the fortification.
The de Rait family - presumably through their kinship to John Comyn, a claimant for the Scottish throne - were strong supporters of Edward I during the First War of Scottish Independence. Two members of the family, Gervaise de Rait and Andrew de Rait, both swore fealty to the English king at Berwick Castle in 1292. They also opposed William Wallace's rebellion in 1296/7 and that of Robert the Bruce in 1306. Despite this opposition to the new Scottish regime and attempts by the Mackintosh family to re-assert their claim on Rait, the castle remained in the hands of the Cummings.
Rait Castle was seemingly abandoned around 1442. The disputed ownership between the Cummings and the Mackintosh families had led to a feud between the two factions with the former conspiring to murder the main protagonists of the latter. At a banquet held at Rait Castle under the pretence of settling their differences, the Mackintoshes were to be ambushed. However, they were allegedly alerted to the danger by a daughter of the Cummings family and repelled the ambush. Instead the Cummings were cut down with the Clan Chief fleeing to an upstairs room in the castle to escape the massacre. Legend tells us there he encountered the woman who betrayed him and, as she attempted to escape out a window, cut off her hands. Whatever the truth behind this story, the castle was probably abandoned shortly after although recorded references of a castle on the site were made in 1596 and 1622 (the latter naming a "Castledown of Rait"). An unsubstantiated local rumour suggests that Prince William, Duke of Cumberland stayed here in 1746 on his way north to defeat the Jacobites at Culloden but this seems improbable given better lodgings would have been available in nearby Nairn.