Braemer Castle

Braemer Castle, Aberdeenshire

~ History ~

1628 ~ Braemar Castle is built in a commanding position overlooking the River Dee. The lands around the castle are owned by the Earls of Mar, one of the most powerful political families in 17th century Scotland. 

The 2nd Earl of Mar, John Erskine, is a childhood friend of King James I of Scotland and England.  His principal residence is Alloa Tower but he also has apartments in Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh, Stirling Castle and a town house on the Gallowgate in Aberdeen, as well as another castle on Deeside, Kildrummy.

The main threat to the power of the Earls of Mar on Deeside are the Farquharsons, who hold lands all around the Braes o’ Mar. 

1688 ~ The Government deposes the Catholic King James II in favour of his son in law, the Protestant William of Orange.

1689 ~ Jacobite supporters of King James, including many Highland Clans are still staunch Catholics They rebel under the charismatic leadership of John Graham of Claverhouse, also known as Bonnie Dundee.

Braemar Castle is burnt down by a Jacobite, John Farquharson, who is also a notorious outlaw on Deeside, known as the Black Colonel for his swarthy looks and dark deeds. 

Dundee holds a quick war council with those clan leaders who have arrived, and then immediately sets out for the field with his force, now numbering about 2,400. He arrives at the pass before Mackay's Government troops and sets up position on a ridge above the pass.

When Mackay's troops arrive, they see they have no hope of attacking Dundee's force. They instead deploy in a line and started firing on them with muskets.

It is late afternoon, and the Jacobites have the sun in their eyes, so they simply wait for sunset under the fire from Mackay's forces.

As the sun begins to set, Dundee gives the order to advance, at which point the Highlanders drop their gear, fire what muskets they had and charged. Mackay's forces, realising the battle was on, step up their rate of fire; however, due to a shallow terrace on the hillside shielding the advancing Jacobites, this fire is partly masked. Eventually the lines meet, and Mackay's men in the centre are "swept away by the furious onset of the Camerons". Killiecrankie is the first recorded use of the plug bayonet by British troops in battle. However; inexperience in this relatively new weapon and the speed of the Jacobite charge means Mackay's force are effectively defenseless once the Highlanders came to close quarters and their retreat quickly turned into a rout in which 2,000 are killed.

The cost of victory is enormous. About one-third of the Highlander force are killed, and their leader Dundee is fatally wounded towards the end of the battle. With the death of Bonnie Dundee, the rebellion loses momentum and fizzles out.

After the Battle of Killiecrankie, the British army take revenge for the rebellion, and burn down the Colonel’s stronghold at Inverey.

1715 ~ The Jacobites rise again, this time under the command of the 6th Earl of Mar, a government supporter turned rebel.

John Farquharson, 9th Laird of Invercauld fights as a Jacobite with the Earl of Mar. The clans gather at Braemar Castle, but once again the rebellion is squashed.

Farquharson is imprisoned in Marshalsea Prison in London for treason, but is eventually able to plead for clemency. He is able to keep his lands and wealth.

1732 ~  John Farquharson buys the ruins of Braemar Castle, and steps into the power vacuum left by the Earl of Mar.

1745 ~ Once more the Jacobites rise, this time led by King James II’s grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie.  John Faruharson this time does not join the rebel cause. The rebellion, which at first seems very promising, leads only to the final bloody defeat of the Jacobites at Culloden Moor.  Braemar Castle is taken over by the British Army, to quell any further thoughts of rebellion in the Highlands.

1748 ~ The British troops garrison Braemar Castle.  The castle is still partially ruinous, having never been repaired after the fire nearly sixty years before. The British troops repair the roof, and build a new star-shaped curtain wall, in the style of the latest French military architecture. 

The British troops remain in Braemar to ensure that the Act of Proscription is being upheld.  This law is passed after Culloden to ensure that the Highlands never rise in rebellion again. The law bans the wearing of tartan and any form of Highland dress, the speaking of the Gaelic language, and the playing of the bagpipes and restricted the possession of weapons.

1820s ~ The need for a garrison at Braemar has waned and negotiations begin between the British army and the Farquharsons for the return of the Castle. However these negotiations are protracted over many years with the castle not being finally vacated until eleven years later.

1831 ~ Catherine Farquharson, who has inherited Invercauld estate from her father, sets about a refurbishment programme to turn Braemer Castle once more into a comfortable family home.

1850 ~ Deeside has become established as “Royal Deeside” following the decision of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert to buy the nearby Balmoral Castle as their highland holiday residence. The royal couple regularly attended the Braemar Gathering in the grounds of Braemar Castle and take tea in the drawing room with the Farquharsons.


Braemar, Ballater




AB35 5XR

Braemar castle is an L-shaped tower,built primarily as a hunting lodge.  It was a base for grand hunting parties going to hunt deer, wild boar and perhaps the last few wolves that haunted the ancient forest.  It replaced a much older royal castle, Kindrochit, built by Malcolm Canmore in the 11th century.  Recent stabilisation work at Kindrochit has revealed what is possibly the oldest stone-built castle in Scotland.  The ruins of the castle can be seen opposite the butchers in Braemar village.

There is car park for the castle which is well signposted and the castle can be seen from the road. Its grounds provide a lovely walk with wonderful views.