Huntingtower Castle

Huntingtower Castle, Perthshire

~ History ~

1127 ~ Thora Sweynssona of Northumbria, first recieves her  confirmation of noble rights in Scotland. King David I of Scotland confirms this further in charters dated 1151.

1188 ~ Thora's son, Sweyn Thorsson is the overlord in the county of Crawford, formally belonging to a powerful royal vassal William de Lindsay. He leaves this barony for the more furtile lands  of Perthshire. Here he establishes the barony of Swayne and builds himself a wooden fortess defended by a moat and drawbridge.

His son Alan Sweynsson marries Cecilia de Maule, daughter of Sir William Maule de Folis.

1234 ~ Alan's son Walter takes the name Ruthven, derived from the Gaelic word Ruadh which means Red. Walter marries Cecilia of Strathearn, daughter of Gilbert, Earl of Strathearn.

1245 ~ Walter dies, leaving two sons William and Gilbert.

1291 ~ William Ruthven vows alliegance to King Edward I of England. He repeats this show of loyalty five years later.

1297 ~ During the Scottish wars of Independence, along with thirty of his armed men, they help William Wallace during the siege of Perth against the English.

1313 ~ In gratitude William is then appointed Sheriff of Perth.

1314 ~ William demonstrates further loyalty to the Scottish cause by helping King Robert Bruce in the capture of the Jedburgh Castle.

1330 ~ William dies, leaving his son Walter as heir, who dies sixteen years later.

1388 ~ Sir William Ruthven joins forces with the Scots in their victory agaunst the English at the Battle of Otterburn.

1394 ~ Sir William Ruthven becomes sheriff of Perth, before his death two years later.

1427 ~ Sir William's son, also names William, is kept hostage in England as part of the guarantor for the ransom of King James I.

1444 ~ Sir John Ruthven serves as sheriff of Perth, dying ten years later. His son Sir Patrick Ruthven follows in in fathers footsteps as sheriff.

1488 ~ William Ruthven fights alongside King James III at the Battle of Sauchieburn and later guardian of the young King James V.

1513 ~ William's grandson, also named Williams dies at the Battle of Flodden fighting the English.

1552 ~ William's son and heir, another William, dies. During his lifetime he became a member of the royal council, and through marriage to Janet, Lady Dirleton, extends families fortunes to include Dirleton Castle.

1565 ~ Patrick Ruthven, member of the Royal Scottish Council and sherriff and mayor of Perth, is appointed Warden of the Middle March to protect the Scottish Borders with England. Under his rule  Huntingtower hosts the honeymoon Queen Mary Stuart and her husband, Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley'em.

1556 ~ Patrick takes part on the murder of the Queen's Private Secretary - David Riccio. Riccio is assassinated in Edinburgh's Holyrood Palace. As a result of this crime 3rd Lord Ruthven flees to Newcastle, where he dies after 2 months on May 13.

1557 ~ His eldest son Sir William Ruthven, also took part in the murder of Riccia, but returns to Scotland the following year.

1567 ~ Together with Patrick Lindsay, they visit imprisoned in the castle of Loch Leven - Mary Stuart and force her to abdicate in favour of his son. Later in the same year he takes part in the coronation of James VI King of Scotland.

1571 ~ William Ruthven is appointed treasurer of Scotland.

1581 ~ William receives from the hands of King James VI the 1st Earl of Gowrie. To the newly created county also includes the lands of the Abbey of Scone.

1582 ~ The 16-year-old king, playing on hunting in the vicinity of Atholl, is invited to visit the castle of Ruthven. The next morning, after arriving at the castle he is trapped, remaining in captivity for the next 10 months. Under pressure from William Ruthven he promises to dismiss and banish from Scotland his advisors Esme Stewart and imprison James Hamilton. William in effect becomes the actual ruler of Scotland for a period of the kings imprisonment. 

1583 ~ King James VI escapes with considerable help from his brother Earl of Arran, Sir William Stewart, and gains refuge in the castle of St Andrews. Although initially the king forgives Ruthven over his kidnapping, he later orders him to leave Scotland. Just before he sets off, hiding earlier in the castle Rohallion - Ruthven is captured at the port of Dundee by the Kings brother William Stewart who delivers him to Stirling Castle.

1584 ~ At Strling castle, following a brief trial William Ruthven is accused of treason and is beheaded. Ruthven possessions including Huntingtower are fonfiscated by the Crown.

1586 ~ The king restores the title of Earl of Gowrie, to William's eldest son James.

1588 ~ Aged just 14, James dies. The title of Earl of Gowrie falls to his younger brother John.

1600 ~ John's younger brother Alexander arrives at the Kings Falkland Palace with information about the capture of a mysterious messenger carrying a huge amount of gold. In the words of Alexander the money is to be used against the King by the Catholics. Upon arrival at the Gowrie House in Perth, the king realises that actually the whole story is just a cleverly invented ambush. Remembering his previous entrapment and imprisonment, this time the king reacts instantly. Shouting from the window he alerts his attendant nobles. After a short battle, both brothers Ruthven are killed.

The bodies of both brothers are taken to Edinburgh, where they are put before the court and sentenced for treason. Their remains are hung, drowned and quartered. Their parts hung publicly in Edinburgh, Stirling, Dundee and Perth. Simultaneous decision of Parliament is that the name Ruthven is liquidated, and their emblem removed from the Herbarium (Book of Arms) Scotland. All living members of the family deprived of all honors, property and the possibility of performing any public function. The same decision, the original name of the castle - Ruthven, was changed into the present - Huntingtower. Huntingtower castle becomes royal property.




Off A9, A85



Huntingtower Castle's history is inextricably linked with the history of the family Ruthven.

The oldest part of the current building is the Eastern Tower, built around 1460..

Ornaments on the ceiling date back to about 1540 and are the oldest surviving this type of images in the whole of Scotland. They were discovered again during the restoration works in 1913, when removing pine panels. Among the decorations on the western side of the main beam appear images of a dog and a lion with a human head and head of a dragon.   

The Western Tower was built after 1480, with just 10 feet seperating the two towers. Together they constituted an inseparable element of defense against a possible attack. Joined by a wooden bridge, which  could be easily destroyed.

The gap between the two towers was known as "The Maiden's Leap", originating from the romantic legend from the days when the two towers were not yet connected.

This is an absolutely fabulous castle to explore.