Castle Roy

Castle Roy (Caisteal Ruadh), Moray

~ History ~

1226 ~ James, son of the Earl of Mar, having received the title Lord of Abernethy from King Alexander II, is encouraged to build himself a castle, as part of the King's efforts to counter the threat of the powerful Clan MacWilliams.

Upon the death of James, Walter Comyn of Badenoch is granted Abernethy.

The Comyn's originally came to Scotland from Normandy some hundred years earlier under King David I to secure his throne.  Wilhelmus Comyn, Bishop of Durham rising to the position of Chancellor of Scotland. They eventually marry into the Celtic Buchan family and so inherit the Earldom of Buchan to become  one of the most powerful in Scotland, holding 13 Scottish earldoms.

1286 ~ Following the death of King Alexander III, his infant grand-daughter and successor, Queen Margaret, the "Maid of Norway", the all powerful John Comyn, Lord of Badenoch and Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan are appointed two of the six "Guardians of the Realm".

1290 ~ Following the death of Queen Margaret on her way to Scotland from her native Norway,  John Comyn's son, the "Black Comyn", is one of the six competitors for the Scottish throne as a descendant of King Donald III.

The other principle claimants include John Balliol and Robert Bruce.

1292 ~ King Edward I of England, is invited to adjudicate the claims to the Scottish throne, selects John Balliol as King, believing that he will be able to dominate him and complete his conquest of all of Britain, having recently conquered Wales.

In a move designed to strengthen his hold on his new Kingdom, King John's daughter marries "Red Comyn", and in doing so also strengthen's the Comyn's claim to the throne, whilst weakening their rivals Bruce's claim and influence.

1294 ~ King Edward demands Scottish troops support his war against France. Under pressure from his council, Balliol not only refuses, but formalises a mutual defence agreement with King Philip IV of France against England.

1296 ~  King Edward sacks the critically important port town of Berwick-upon-Tweed, taking just a few hours, albeit killing many thousands of its inhabitants as a warning to Balliol takes several more days.

The Scottish army is later defeated at the Battle of Dunbar where Balliol is captured by King Edward's troops. He is later forced to sign a document admitting he had allied himself with his feudal overlord's enemies and surrenders his Kingdom to Edward. He is imprisoned in the Tower of London.

Seeing the only way the Bruce's could recover their claim and influence in Scotland would be the removal of the Balliols and defeat of their allies the Comyn's, the Bruce's have already alled themselves with King Edward I.

1299 ~ Many of the nobles fail to actively support to the efforts of William Wallace to remove the English domination of Scotland, but Red Comyn is one who does. As one of the Guardians of Scotland he quarreles with the other nobles, and at one point seizes the Earl of Carrick, later Robert the Bruce, by the throat.

1303 ~ At the Battle of Roslin, an invading English army led by Sir John Segrave is defeated by Red Comyn.

1306 ~ Following the death of Wallace, Bruce and the Red Comyn appear to be moving to an alliance to join forces to rise up against the English.

The two meet at Greyfriar's Kirk, but again they quarrel, resulting in Robert the Bruce stabbing the Red Comyn. Bruce ensures that the following month Comyn's uncle is also killed as the fued erupts into open clan warfare.

The excommunicated King Robert crowns himself as King and ruthlessly raides the Buchan lands, destroying their castles including Castle Roy.

1314 ~ The Comyn's follow the Bruce's strategy in allying themselves with the English in order to reclaim their lands and power, to defeat their arch enemies the Bruce's and again persue their own claim to the throne of Scotland, as loyal subjects to the English cause. Red Comyn's only son is killed at the Battle of Bannockburn fighting for the English. The Comyn's are stripped of all their remaining titles and lands. Castle Roy is left derelict.

1381 ~ Alexander Stewart, son of King Robert II is made Lord of Badenoch, and in doing so gains the Lordship Abernethy and Castle Roy.

1501 ~ The Lordship of Abernethy, including Castle Roy, is granted by King James IV to his illegitimate son who he also makes Earl of Moray.

1544 ~ Moray dies.

1549 ~  George Gordon, Earl of Huntly is granted the Earldom of Moray, which includes Abernethy and Castle Roy.

Castle Roy is eventually subletted to the lairds of Grant, by which time Castle Roy is in a state of disrepair, but still inhabited. It is however later abandoned.

~ Legend ~

Having dreamt of a buried treasure at a certain place in Strathspey an Irishman arrives in the area. When he recognises the spot from his dream he asks a local lad by the name of Allan to help him dig. But after they unearthed the treasure the Irishman pays Allan a pittance for his trouble and sets off back to Ireland while Allan returns home. When Allan tells his lover what had happened she calls him a fool and says that she would marry him if he terieved the treasure.

Allan goes after the Irishman and encounteres him in Castle Roy where he kills him with his spade.

Some say that the treasure is still buried under Castle Roy as Allan could not bring himself to take it, perhaps due to remorse. It is also said that the soil is infected with the plague and that those who have searched for the treasure have all perished!


Grantown Road, Nethy Bridge




PH25 3EA

Castle Roy takes its name from the Gaelic Caisteal Ruadh, meaning 'Red Castle'. The castle is a ruinous 13th century courtyard castle, originally with a tower in one corner.

It's walls still stand to a height of 25 feet and is one of the oldest castles of its type to be found anywhere in Scotland.

Although there remains very little of the castle to explore, its history is woven into the history of the powerful Comyn clan, which itself is extensive and very important to the history of the Scottish Crown.

The castle is currently in the care of a conservation trust, who have cleared the castle of rubble and continue to undertake preservation and research work on the castle.

They have made a car park next to the castle just off the road, so access is very easy, albeit a yellow hard hat is required to be worn by the trust if you want to enter within the castle walls.