Ravenscraig Castle, Aberdeenshire
North West of Inverugie, Peterhead
B road offA90
Ravenscraig Castle has one of the largest tower houses in all of Europe, being some 83 by 73 feet in dimensions with walls up to 11 feet thick. A wide quarried moat provided additional defence.
It is built near to the River Ugie on a site a few miles upstream of Peterhead, not far from Inverugie Castle. The ruin is fenced off and surrounded by thick woodlands, but accessible via a rough footpath that takes you from the roadside where you can park with consideration, towards and along the river towards the woods. Once you are within the woods you will soon see the ruins within the undergrowth. There is plenty of the ruins still to explore with care and you soon discover the scale of the castle that was once quite a formidable fortress.
Sadly, and surprisingly, there is little history associated with the castle itself, although the two clans connected with Ravenscraig, the de Cheyne's and later the Keith's do have both a rich history.
~ History ~
1181 ~ An early timber castle is built for the Norman de Cheyne's, Lords of Buchan.
1185 ~ Ricardus de Chenai witnesses a gift by Hucredus filius Fergus to the Hospital of St Peter of York.
1200 ~ William de Chesne witnesses a charter of King William the Lion.
1230 ~ William le Chen serves the King overseas.
1267 ~ Sir Reginald le Chain is awarded the title of Great Chamberlain of Scotland.
1305 ~ Sir Reginald de Chen petitions King Edward I for two hundred oaks with which to build his manor of Duffus.
1320 ~ Sir Reginald's son and heir, also named Reginald, signs the Declaration of Arbroath, Scotland's Independence.
1350 ~ Sir Reginald le Chain dies and is survived by two daughters. However, as he was renowned as a mighty hunter throughout the land, he longed for a male heir to succeed to his estates, but his wife gave birth to two daughters which Reginald had killed, or at least he thought he had killed.
Years later the childless Sir Reginald sees two beautiful young ladies at a festival. He expresses admiration for them to his wife who finally owns up to her disobedience that they were actually his own daughters. Shocked by this news Sir Reginald Cheyne decides to acknowledged them as his heirs to his lands and Castle of Esslemont, which had become the principal seat of the family through marriage to the heiress of the Marshall of Esslemont.
Marjory, one of the two daughters of Reginald Cheyne marries Nicholas Sutherland, 1st of Duffus, a branch of the Clan Sutherland.
1370 ~ Margaret Chein receveis a charter of the lands of Strathbrook and half of Caithness from King David II.
1402 ~ Clan Keith are attacked and defeated by the rivals Clan Irvine after invading their lands.
1430 ~ Sir William Keith is created Lord Keith.
1464 ~ Clan Keith, assisted by the Clan MacKay attack Clan Gunn and the inhabitants of Caithness who assemble an army and meet the MacKay's and Keith's at a place in Caithness called Blair-tannie. A terrible slaughter follows on both sides but in the end the Keith's and MacKay's are victorious by the personal feats of John Mor MacIan-Riabhaich of Assynt, who is renowned for both his martial skills and showing his manhood when charging into conflict. Two chieftains and leaders of the inhabitants of Caithness are slain.
1478 ~ A feud between Clan Gunn and Clan Keith culminates in twelve hand-picked men of Clan Gunn do battle with twenty-four men of Clan Keith. The fights ends when the chief of Clan Gunn is killed. The chief of the Clan Keith is killed soon after by the Gunn's in a revenge attack.
1491 ~ The Keith family receive a license to crenelate their holding at Ravenscraig which had previously been held by the de Cheyne's. They build a large tower house to secure their hold on their new barony.
1571 ~ Clan Keith join forces with Clan Forbes in their feud against the Clan Gordon. The Forbe's are also joined by Clan Fraser and Clan Crichton.
The Gordons are also joined by Clan Leslie, Clan Irvine and Clan Seton. The feud between the Gordon's and Forbes which had gone on for centuries culminates in full battle which sees the 6th Lord Forbes’s youngest son known as Black Aurther Forbes killed. Whilst “he stooped down to quench his thirst, one of the Gordons gives him his death blow through an open joint in his armour“.
1589 ~ King James IV visits the castle to celebrate the marriage of the Lairds daughter.
1715 ~ The Keith's forfeite their lands and castles following their support to the Jacobite cause. The castle is soon abandoned.