Corgarff Castle, Aberdeenshire
Corgarff Castle is located on bleak windswept slops overlooking a fomer military road. Access to the castle is very easy from the road where there is a car park with a modest fee to access the castle, which has rooms laid out as the soldiers who once garrisoned it would recognise. Am interesting tower house with an interesting history.
~ History ~
1507 ~ The Forest of Corgarff is granted to Alexander Elphinstone, Governor of Kildrummy Castle by KIng James IV.
1509 ~ Alexander is appointed 1st Lord of Elphistone.
1546 ~ The 2nd Lord Ephistone also named Alexander, bequeathes the Corgarff estate as a wedding gift to his eldest son Robert, who later builds the castle. A little later, however, Corgarff is leased to John Forbes of Towie, a member of one of the most powerful families in Aberdeenshire.
1571 ~ The Forbes clan is embroiled in bitter disputes with their neighbours. Their long-standing feud eith the powerful Gordon family eventually leads to bloodshed. Twenty Gordon's are massacred during a banquet held at Forbes Castle.
Later in the same year, the Gordon's and Forbes clash at the Battle of Tillyangus. About 150 members of the Forbes family are killed during, including their commander Black Arthur of Putachie, son of John Forbes, 6th Lord Forbes. The victorious Gordon army, led by Adam Gordon of Auchindoun, then attack Corgarff castle.
At the time, only Margaret Campbell, wife of John Forbes, remains in the castle with 26 servants, mostly women and children. Not only do the women reject the call to surrender the castle, but Margaret also fires a pistol at her aggressors, and in doing so wounds one of them in the knee. An angry Adam Gordon orders the castle to be set on fire. All the inhabitants inthe castle, along with Margaret Campbell, perish in the flames.
1607 ~ The rebuilt castle is captured by local bandits who use hammers and battering rams to break down the gate anf then fortify the castle with a garrison of "Highland thieves and limmers".
1609 ~ Another local gang raid Corgarff, stealing all the livestock.
1626 ~ The entire estate becomes the property of John Erskine, 22nd Earl of Mar.
1645 ~ The castle is occupied by James Graham, Marquess of Montrose and is used for the training of his troops.
1689 ~ During the Jacobite uprising, the castle is set on fire by supporters of the exiled King James VII & II. This action is taken to prevent it from being used by the armies of William of Orange and his wife Mary, daughter of King James.
1716 ~ The rebuilt castle is once again burned down by the Hanoverian army during the next Jacobite uprising. This action is punishment for John Erskine's participation in the uprising. Erskine, Earl of Mar, had set out at the head of his troops from his native castle of Kildrummy and followed through Strathdon and Corgarff recruiting men as he travels to Braemer Castle. Hanging the banner of James Edwardprovided the signal for the outbreak of the uprising. In connection with Erskine's subsequent loss of all rights, Corgarff is returned to the Forbes of Skellater family.
1745 ~ During the next and last Jacobite uprising the castle is occupied by the retreating troops of the "Younger Pretender", Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The Jacobites remain in the castle at least until March the following year. During this period, Corgarff also serves as the main ammunition depot for the rebels.
At the end of March, 300 Government infantrymen and 100 cavalrymen led by William Kerr, Earl of Ancrum set out from Aberdeen towards Corgarff Castle. After an extremely difficult journey through a constant snowstorm, Kerr's army are greeted with the sight of the castle still burning. According to the surviving report, the only living creature there at the time is "a poor cat warming itself by the fire."
The following month the Jacobite army is finally defeated at the Culloden Fields by government troops under William Augustus, Duke of Cumberland, son of King George II.
1748 ~ Lieutenant Colonel David Watson, Deputy Quartermaster-General, and his civilian assistant, William Roy, inspect Braemar and Corgarff Castles with a view to converting them into military garrisons. During this time, Watson is also busy rebuilding Fort Augustus, which had been destroyed by Jacobite troops.
At the time of transforming these castles into barracks, work is also undertaken on the construction of a military road leading from the Scottish lowlands to the newly built fortress of Fort George, located on the shore of Moray Bay. This road also passes close to both castles. The stronghold of Braemar becomes the main military unit in the area. Corgarff, on the other hand, is to serve as an auxiliary facility.
1749 ~ Lieutenant Leslie is put into command of the garrison at Corgarff.
1750 ~ Leslie's command is taken over by Ensign Robert Rutherford, commander of only 23 men.
Rutherford's soldiers are accommodated on two floors of the rebuilt castle, with double beds at their disposal. Their service, however, is mainly on a rotational basis. While half of the unit patrol the area, the rest of the unit is able to rest peacefully.
The day-to-day duties of Rutherford's men is primarily to patrol and maintain order in the areas of West Aberdeenshire. However, given the strong Jacobite feelings in the area they also target and arrest anyone carrying weapons or wearing kilts. In addition, the illegal production or smuggling of whisky is also to be closely watched. All offenders are temporarily detained in Corgarff Castle and then transported to the chief magistrates in Perth or Aberdeen.
By the end of the eighteenth century, the military function of the castle has lost its importance. Only two or three soldiers from the Invalid Company stationed at Fort George are sent to garrison the castle.
1802 ~ The castle is once more in private hands. Its buyer is a local farmer James McHardy, who later receives money for distilling whisky in the castle. Unfortunately for him, in July of the same year, the distillery is mysteriously set on fire. The perpetrator of this act is never found. The following year, McHardy leaves the castle, which gives the opportunity for the army to reoccupy it. From then on, the main task of the unit stationed at the castle is to fight against illegal whisky production.
1831 ~ The army finally leave the castle. The increasingly dilapidated building is inhabited by employees of a nearby farm.
1912 ~ The last residents in Corgarff are the two Ross sisters, also known as the "ladies of the castle".
1961 ~ The owners of the castle, Sir Edmund Stockdale, 1st Baronet and his wife Lady Lousie hand Corgarff over to the State. Soon afterwards, the first phase of the reconstruction of the castle begins. One of the last works carried out at Corgarff is its complete repainting. The traditional grey colour is replaced with a snow-white colour.