Castle Menzies was a Z-plan Tower House built in the mid-sixteenth century to replace an earlier residence that had proven vulnerable to attack. Its owners supported the Covenanter cause during the Civil War but later opposed Cromwell's invasion. The castle was occupied by Jacobite forces in 1715 and hosted a two-day visit by Prince Charles Stuart in 1746.
The Menzies clan, who are believed to have originally come from Mesnieres near Rouen in Normandy, settled in Perthshire no later than the mid-twelfth century. They came to Scotland during the reign of David I (1124-53) who actively encouraged such immigration in order to exploit their castle building expertise and military skills. Originally granted land in Lothian, Sir Robert de Meyneris rose to become Chamberlain to Alexander II and was granted lands in Atholl. His son, Sir Alexander Menzies, was granted additional lands including Weem where either he or his descendants built Comrie Castle which acted as the clan's primary seat. This structure was devastated by fire in 1487 prompting the clan to relocate to a new mansion called the Place of Weem (Castle Weem). However in 1502 this residence was plundered and burnt by Neil Stewart of Garth and this prompted construction of Castle Menzies as a direct replacement although the precise date the new castle was raised is unknown. It certainly existed in 1571 as a document was witnessed there at this time. It could well have been built much earlier however with one reference suggesting work started as early as 1557.
The new castle was built in the form of a four storey Tower House and had a dominant position overlooking the road between Aberfeldy and Crianlarich. The main rectangular block was augmented by flanking square towers at diagonally opposite corners giving the castle a Z-plan configuration (a design first seen at Huntly Castle). Large numbers of well placed gun holes demonstrate that defence was a foremost consideration when the castle was built. Modifications were soon made to Castle Menzies though to adapt it from a primarily defensive/military facility into a grander residence. In 1577 the upper levels of the castle were modified with the battlements being prettified with the addition of dormers.
During the Wars of Three Kingdoms the Menzies clan, which was then led by Sir Alexander Menzies, supported the Covenanter cause. His forces harassed the Royalist troops of James Graham, Marquis of Montrose as they passed through Weem in 1645. Despite this, the clan opposed the execution of Charles I and supported the restoration of the monarchy during the Commonwealth period including fighting at the battles of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651). For this reason Castle Menzies was occupied by English Parliamentary troops under General Monck.
Castle Menzies was also embroiled in the Jacobite rebellions. Members of the clan fought on both sides during both the first rebellion in 1689 and the 1715 uprising. During the latter the castle was occupied by Jacobite forces prior to the Battle of Sheriffmuir. During the 1745 rebellion (the ‘forty-five’), the Menzies chief - Sir Robert Menzies - opposed the uprising although again many of his clan took part under the leadership of Ian Menzies of Shian. Sir Robert was married to Mary Stuart, a daughter of the Earl of Bute and a relation of the deposed Royal family, and it was perhaps for this reason that he extended his hospitality to Prince Charles Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) on his way north after his ill-fated invasion of England. The Prince stayed at Castle Menzies for two nights (4-5 February 1746) before marching onto Blair Castle and thence to Inverness where his forces were defeated at the Battle of Culloden. Government forces briefly occupied Castle Menzies as part of the post-rebellion suppression.
The castle was later returned to the Menzies clan and further modifications were made in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries including adding an extension to the north and a new wing in 1840. The death of the last of the Menzies of Weem line, saw the castle pass out of the clan’s hands. During World War II it was used as a Polish Army medical stores depot and in 1957 it was acquired by the Castle Menzies Society.
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Castle Menzies is a seventeenth century Z-plan Tower House that has been subsequently modified and expanded. It is a major tourist attraction and very well presented. The ruins of the Comrie Castle can be found nearby although there is no access to that site.
Castle Menzies. The castle is a Z-plan Tower House that was later augmented by an additional wing.
Iron Yett. The original entrance was barred by a heavy wooden door and an Iron Yett with the latter intended to be resistant to fire. When the West Wing was built in 1840 the positions of the door and the Yett were reversed.