Replacing an earlier fortification, Edzell Castle was built in the sixteenth century by David Lindsay, Earl of Crawford. It later hosted Royal visits from both Mary, Queen of Scots and James VI. Crippling debts saw the family sell the castle in the eighteenth century after which it fell into ruin.
The first fortification at Edzell was an enclosure castle built upon a natural hillock in the twelfth century by the Abbott family. A small village, Slateford, grew up around the new castle possibly evolving from an earlier settlement (fragments of a ninth century cross have been found in the vicinity). Ownership of the castle passed through marriage to Sir Alexander de Lindsay in 1358. When he died in 1381, Edzell passed to Sir David Lindsay who was later created Earl of Crawford.
The castle seen today was built by David Lindsay, Ninth Earl of Crawford with work starting in 1513 and continuing until his death in 1558. The centrepiece of the new facility was a four storey Tower House. This sat in the south-west corner of a rectangular barmkin, a curtain wall, which enclosed all the ancillary buildings that would been associated with such a settlement including kitchens, stables, bake house and brew house. A west range was built around 1550 which included new staterooms on the upper storeys.
Following the Earl’s death, Edzell Castle (including the Lordship but not the Earldom) passed to his son, another David. During his tenure the castle hosted a visit by Mary, Queen of Scots (in August 1562) on her way north to deal with the rebellion of Gordon, Earl of Huntly. Her son, James VI, also visited in June 1580 during which he knighted David who would subsequently prosper in the King's service ultimately becoming a member of the Privy Council. To match his new status he initiated further building works at both Edzell and his other castle at Invermark. His work at Edzell included a substantial North Range, a large round tower on the north-west corner of the barmkin and a walled garden. These upgrades were beyond his means however and when he died in 1610 he left his family with crippling debts.
During the Wars of Three Kingdoms the Lindsay family supported the Covenanters and fought against Charles I. This prompted an attack on their property at Glen Esk by the Royalist Commander - James Graham, Marquis of Montrose - although Edzell Castle itself seems to have escaped unharmed. The execution of the King saw the Scottish Government switch its support to the Royalist cause prompting an invasion by Oliver Cromwell. Following his victory at the Battle of Dunbar (1650), Cromwell went on to occupy the country using numerous castles as barracks. Edzell was occupied for a short period in September 1651 whilst the troops suppressed the surrounding area.
The Lindsay family's ownership of Edzell came to an end in 1715 when the last lord, David, sold the castle and estate to pay his debts. He ended his days in poverty as a stableman of a local Inn. The castle was purchased by James Maule, Earl of Panmure but his participation in the 1715 Jacobite rebellion saw him attained the following year and his property confiscated. The castle was then purchased by the York Building Company who commenced asset stripping the site. During the 1745 rebellion the castle was briefly occupied by Argyll Highlanders, troops loyal to the Government, but it saw no action. After the rebellion the removal of building materials from the site continued into the nineteenth century when the castle was starting to be appreciated as a tourist attraction. It passed into state care in 1935.
CANMORE (2016). Edzell Castle. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
Cruden, S (1960). The Scottish Castle. Edinburgh.
Dargie, R.L.C (2004). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. GW Publishing, Thatcham.
Lindsay, J (1849). Lives of the Lindsays. Edinburgh
Simpson, W.D (1959). Scottish Castles - An introduction to the Castles of Scotland. HM Stationery Office, Edinburgh.
Simpson, W.D (2007). Edzell Castle and Gardens. Historic Scotland, Haddington.
Tabraham, C (2000). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Historic Scotland, Haddington.
Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.
Zeune, J (1992). The Last Scottish Castles. Edinburgh.
Edzell Castle consists of the ruins of a sixteenth century Tower House set alongside a fabulous Renaissance walled garden. Nearby the earthworks of the original castle and the Lindsay Burial Aisle are also visible.
Edzell Walled Garden. The great garden was laid out in 1604.
Barmkin. A curtain wall known as a barmkin surrounded the ancillary buildings that served the castle.
Lindsay Burial Aisle. Originally part of the church that served the castle, the rest of the structure was demolished in 1818.
Old Castle. The earthworks of the original enclosure castle can be seen opposite the Lindsay Burial Aisle.
Edzell Castle can be found to the west of the village and is accessed from Lethnot Road off the B966. The castle is sign-posted and there are parking facilities at both the Tower House and Lindsay Aisle.