Balvaird Castle was an L-plan Tower House built in the early sixteenth century by Sir Andrew Murray following his marriage to Margaret Barclay. It remained in use as the primary residence of the Murrays for almost two hundred years but thereafter Scone Palace became their family seat and Balvaird was allowed to drift into ruin.
Balvaird Castle occupies a high ridge dominating a key north/south route between Dunfermline and Perth as it runs between the Lomond and Ochil Hills. It was built by Sir Andrew Murray circa-1500 after his marriage to Margaret Barclay. Along with Balvaird, her dowry included extensive lands centred around Glenfarg, a mile to the west, making the castle ideally suited to managing the estate. Based on the name, Balvaird means 'town of the Bard', it is probable that an earlier castle may have occupied the site, perhaps established in the twelfth century when the Anglo-Norman Barclay family first settled in Scotland.
The castle was dominated by the four storey L-plan Tower House. The ground floor consisted of a kitchen and storerooms, the first floor was the Great Hall and high status accommodation occupied the levels above. To the south of the Tower was a courtyard with wings on all sides hosting the ancillary functions associated with such a settlement. To the north of the tower were stables. Formal gardens were also laid out around the Tower.
The Murrays of Balvaird rose in prominence throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth century acquiring the titles of Lord Balvaird (1641), Viscount Stormont (1602) and Earl of Mansfield (1776). Balvaird no longer matched their status and by 1685 they had established their primary family seat at Scone Palace. Balvaird was relegated to serving as accommodation for estate workers but by 1850 had fallen into ruin.
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Balvaird Castle consists of a sixteenth century L-plan Tower House along with ruins of various courtyard and ancillary buildings.
Balvaird Castle. The structure seen today was started by Sir Andrew Murray circa-1500 and regularly modified in the century that followed. Prior to the construction of this castle, the site may well have been occupied by an earlier fortification, possibly a twelfth century earth and timber castle built by the Anglo-Norman Barclay family.
Tower House. The L-plan Tower House was built circa-1500. Note the corbelled parapet with angle-rounds.
Gatehouse. The gatehouse was added circa-1567 and undoubtedly replaced a simpler structure.
Balvaird Castle is found off the A912 to the north of Gateside. The site is in the care of Historic Environment Scotland and is well sign-posted. There is a small car park at the base of the hill.
A912, KY14 7SW