Knockhall Castle was an L-plan Tower House built in the mid-sixteenth century by Lord Sinclair of Newburgh. It was sold to Clan Udny in 1634 but shortly after suffered two attacks during the Bishops' Wars. It was restored and remained a residence until it was gutted by fire during the eighteenth century.



Knockhall Castle was built by William Sinclair, Lord Sinclair of Newburgh in 1565. The Sinclairs were large landowners in northern Scotland with their main estates being located in Caithness. However, no later than the twelfth century they acquired a thin sliver of land extending west from the sea between modern Newburgh and Pitmedden. Henry Sinclair established Newburgh in 1261 but there is no record of any castle being constructed at this time. By the mid-fifteenth century the Sinclairs were Earls of Caithness but the line of succession was modified to disinherit William 'the Waster' Sinclair (d. 1487). Instead his son, Henry Sinclair became Lord Sinclair of Newburgh and held this small but valuable real-estate until his death at the Battle of Flodden (1513). Thereafter it passed to his son, William Sinclair, who later built Knockhall Castle.


The castle consisted of a three storey (plus attic), L-plan Tower House. The ground floor was vaulted and occupied by a kitchen and store room. The first floor was occupied by the Great Hall. The second floor was divided into two chambers both offering high status accommodation (each had a fireplace and latrine). A barmkin (curtain wall) enclosed a courtyard to the south of the Tower House within which would have been the ancillary buildings such a brewhouse, bakehouse and stables. A round turret on the south-east corner of the curtain wall doubled as a dovecot.


Knockhall Castle was purchased by Clan Udny in 1634. Their family seat was centred on Udny Castle to the west of the Sinclair lands but by purchasing Knockhall they effectively extended their reach to the sea. However, the castle was attacked during the First Bishops' War by Covenanter forces led by William Keith, Earl Marischal in 1639. It was attacked again the following year. The extent of the damage is not certain but the castle was restored and may have undergone quite considerable rebuilding. The projecting tower on the north side was certainly added at this time as were the large windows on the main block. The castle was gutted by an accidental fire in 1734 but the family was saved by the quick reactions of their fool, Jamie Fleming. The castle was never rebuilt.





Billings, R W (1901). The baronial and ecclesiastical antiquities of Scotland. Edinburgh.

Bogdan, N and Bryce, I.B.D (1991). Castles, manors and 'town houses' survey.

Cruden, S (1960). The Scottish Castle. Edinburgh.

CANMORE (2016). Knockhall Castle. Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.

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

Giles, J (1936). Drawings of Aberdeenshire castles. Aberdeen.

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

Shepherd, I.A.G (1986). Exploring Scotland's heritage: Grampian. Edinburgh.

Shepherd, I.A.G (2006). Aberdeenshire, Donside and Strathbogie: an illustrated architectural guide. Rutland Press.

Tranter, N (1962). The fortified house in Scotland. Edinburgh.

What's There?

Knockhall Castle is a mid-sixteenth century L-plan Tower House that underwent significant modifications during the seventeenth century. The structure is ruinous and on private property with no public access

Knockhall Castle. The tower house was built in the mid-sixteenth century but, after an attack during the Wars of Three Kingdoms, it was substantially modified. A north wing was added at this time and all the windows of the existing tower were enlarged.

Getting There

Knockhall Castle is found off an unnamed road accessed from the A975 just to the north of Newburgh. Take the turning sign-posted to Knockhall. The road to the castle is a single track lane with limited options for car parking.

Knockhall Castle

AB41 6AD

57.328710N 2.012398W