HUNTINGTOWER CASTLE

Originally called Ruthven Castle, the fortification that later became known as Huntingtower Castle was unusual for having two Tower Houses built just three metres apart. Its owners were embroiled in two attempts to kidnap James VI resulting in them being disinherited. The castle later passed to the Murray family and was the birthplace of the Jacobite Commander, Lord George Murray.

History

 

The Ruthven family had owned land in Perthshire since the twelfth century and were later granted the hereditary role of Sheriff of Perth for their support to the nationalist cause during the Wars of Scottish Independence. With its close proximity to Perth, the site was ideally placed for the Ruthvens to oversee the area and they raised some form of fortification at this time which was known as Ruthven Castle. The gatehouse of this structure formed the foundation for a four storey, rectangular Tower House built by William Ruthven, Lord Ruthven in the late fifteenth century.

 

Following William's death in 1528, the castle was jointly gifted to his two surviving sons, John and William. This prompted construction of a second Tower House, this time built to an L-plan, a mere three metres from the existing structure. The two Towers were surrounded by all the normal domestic and support buildings which were enclosed within a strong defensive curtain wall known as a barmkin.

 

In 1565 Patrick Ruthven hosted a Royal visit when Mary, Queen of Scots stayed there shortly after her marriage to Lord Darnley. However Patrick's son, William, was an ardent Protestant and when his father died in 1566 he was hostile to the Queen's regime. The following year he was a ringleader in the murder of David Riccio, the Queen's unpopular Catholic advisor. After Mary's marriage to the Earl of Bothwell, Wiliam supported the overthrow of the Queen and her imprisonment at Lochleven Castle. His relations with the Crown improved during the reign of her Protestant son - James VI (later James I of England) - with William created Earl of Gowrie in 1581.

 

In July 1582 William formed a pact with other prominent Protestant Lords - including James Stewart, Earl of Arran - to take action against the rising number of Catholics that surrounded the young James VI. In what became known as the Ruthven Raid, they seized the King whilst he was hunting near the castle. Held for ten months at properties owned by sympathetic magnates, the plot eventually failed when James slipped from their custody. Although pardoned, William became involved in other conspiracies against the King and ultimately was executed for treason.

 

Eighteen years later, the Ruthven family were disinherited following the so-called Gowrie Conspiracy. On 5 August 1600 King James VI of Scotland was hunting near Falkland Palace when he was approached by Alexander Ruthven, younger brother of John, Earl of Gowrie advising him that a foreigner had been detained at Gowrie House and should be interrogated by James himself. The King arrived at Gowrie House early in the afternoon accompanies by a number of retainers and took lunch with the Ruthvens. Thereafter the King was taken to a room in the upper storey of the house where a struggle ensued in which both Ruthvens were killed. The King claimed they had attempted to kidnap him - as their father had done in 1582 - and confiscated their estates and renamed the structure Huntingtower Castle in an attempt to expunge the Ruthvens from history . Held by the Crown until 1643, the lands were then granted to John Murray (later Earl of Tullibardine).

 

The Murrays made significant modifications to Huntingtower not least by converting the twin Towers into a single, integrated building. They also inserted numerous windows into the walls to make the structure more suitable as a high status residence. It was used in this role for around one hundred years and in 1694 Lord George Murray, who would later command the Jacobite forces during the 1745/6 rebellion, was born in the castle. However, by the mid-eighteenth century Huntingtower Castle had ceased to be a high status residence. It was briefly used in 1805 as accommodation for workers in a nearby cloth factory and there thereafter was allowed to drift into ruin.

 

Bibliography

 

Coventry, M (2001). The castles of Scotland. Musselburgh.

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

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

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.

Tabraham, C (2000). Scottish Castles and Fortifications. Historic Scotland, Haddington.

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

What's There?

Huntingtower Castle consists of an unusual arrangement of two adjacent Tower Houses that are physically connected. The Great Hall includes the oldest painted ceiling in any Scottish residence.

Huntingtower Castle Layout. The castle consisted of two Tower Houses. The east one was built on remnants of an earlier Gatehouse whilst the western tower was built from scratch in an L-plan configuration. The Towers were connected in the seventeenth century.

Two Towers. The two Tower Houses were not connected until the seventeenth century. Until then they were separated by a gap of three metres known as the Maiden's Leap to commemorate a young lady who jumped from the bedchamber of one tower to the other to avoid discovery with her lover.

Original Tower House. The first Tower House was a simple rectangular structure. The attached building to the left with the sloping roof was the structure built to fill the gap between the two towers.

Parapet Access. The parapets on both towers are accessible.

Getting There

Huntingtower Castle is found off the A85. The site is sign-posted from the main road and there is a car park immediately adjacent.

Huntingtower Castle

Castle Brae, PH1 3JN

56.409367N 3.488514W