Red Castle, so called because of the red ashlar stone from which it was built, was originally a Royal hunting lodge but was later rebuilt by the Balliol family. The castle was confiscated from them by Robert the Bruce and it later passed to the Stewarts who constructed the Tower House. The castle suffered a series of attacks in the late sixteenth century and was never restored.



Red Castle was built by William the Lion (1165-1214) as a hunting lodge. It was built on top of a steeply scarped bluff with a commanding view over Lunan Bay, a site that offered an ideal beaching site for small ships. William granted the castle, including the nearby village of Inverkeilor, to Walter de Berkeley. He had served as Royal Chamberlain and was descended from an Anglo-Norman family that had originally settled in Gloucestershire. Upon his death in 1194, it passed through marriage to Ingram de Balliol. He substantially rebuilt the structure probably constructing the substantial stone curtain wall that once enclosed the site and which was originally augmented by a ditch. A charter deed of 1286 lists the name of the fortification as rubeum castrum (Latin for Red Castle) presumably due to the red ashlar from which it was built.


The castle remained with the Balliol family until 1305 when it passed through marriage to Henry de Fishburn. However, his association with the Balliols saw him dispossessed by Robert I (the Bruce), and in 1328 the estate was divided. Inverkeilor was granted to Hugh, Earl of Ross whilst Red Castle itself was given to Donald Campbell. He sold it to Robert Stewart in 1367 and it remained with his descendants, the Stewarts of Innermeath, who built the Tower House in the late fifteenth century.


By the early sixteenth century the castle was owned by the unpopular Cardinal David Beaton. However, despite his overthrow (and lynching) at St Andrews Castle, his estate at Red Castle wasn’t attacked during this period. It continued to be held by his family and only saw conflict during a domestic dispute in the late sixteenth century. James, son of Lord Gray had married Elizabeth Beaton, Lady Innermeath who was the owner of the castle. She had hoped this young Gentleman would protect her property after her husband died in 1570 but he transpired to be little more than a gold-digger and sought to rob her of property and wealth. In 1579 she discovered an affair between him and her niece and commenced divorce proceedings. This prompted James to initiate almost two years of irregular attacks against Red Castle until the divorce was finalised in June 1581. James, who had been outlawed as a result of his actions, was killed in a brawl in Dundee in 1586.


The attacks on Red Castle meant it ceased to be a high status residence at this time and, although occupied by the Reverend James Rait until the 1760s, was severely neglected. The castle's roof failed in the eighteenth century and the structure drifted into ruin. Today the remains are in a structurally perilous state and visitors are strongly advised to take care.





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Coventry, M (2008). Castles of the Clans: the strongholds and seats of 750 Scottish families and clans. Musselburgh.

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MacGibbon, D and Ross, T (1892). The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh.

Reid, S (2006). Castles and Tower Houses of the Scottish Clans 1450-1650. Osprey, Oxford.

Simpson, W.D (1959). Scottish Castles - An introduction to the Castles of Scotland. HM Stationery Office, Edinburgh.

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What's There?

Red Castle is a ruined fifteenth century Tower House and curtain wall which overlooks Lunan Bay. The ruins are unstable and care should be taken when touring the site.

Lunan Bay. The castle occupies a headland overlooking Lunan Bay. The inlet and beach below the headland would have been ideal for beaching the small ships that would have plied the coast during the medieval era.

Tower House. The Tower House was built by the Stewarts of Innermeath. Its design was unusual as the ground floor was not a vaulted storage space as was the norm. Only a portion of the structure survives but this still stands to its original height.

Curtain Wall. The castle was originally a simple enclosure fortification with its defences consisting of a curtain wall protected by a ditch. Note the building incorporated into the structure is modern.

Getting There

Red Castle is found off the Nethere Dysart. The site isn't sign-posted but can be seen from the road. Visitors to the castle are advised to use the small lay-by detailed below (on the Nethere Dysart road near the crossing over the railway track) and access the site via the footpath.

Car Parking Option

DD11 5ST

56.653791N 2.511111W

Red Castle

DD11 5ST

56.650541N 2.510915W

The access path to the castle is an unmarked track leading off from the road: