Spritual home of Clan Gordon | The Peel of Strathbogie | The Gordons of Huntly | A majestic palace
Spritual home of Clan Gordon
Huntly Castle lies in the green heart of the Aberdeenshire countryside. It is a noble ruin in a beautiful setting, remarkable both for the quality of its architecture and for its eventful history.
The earls of Fife built the original stronghold, the Peel of Strathbogie, around 1190, to guard the crossing-point where the rivers Bogie and Deveron meet. But it was the mighty Gordons who made the stronghold their own from the 14th century and renamed it Huntly Castle.
The surviving remains tell the story of the development of the castle in Scotland, from the motte and bailey of the 12th century, through the tower house of the later Middle Ages, to the stately stone palace of the Jacobean era.
The Peel of Strathbogie
Underlying the later stone buildings is a motte and bailey castle. Earl Duncan (II) of Fife was granted the estate of Strathbogie around 1190 as a reward for serving William I in his battle against the MacWilliams of Moray. He probably built the castle. In 1204, Earl Duncan’s third son, David, inherited his father’s Strathbogie estate. The Fifes of Strathbogie later became Earls of Atholl through marriage.
The circular motte, where the Fifes of Strathbogie once held court, now survives as a grassy mound. The bailey, or service court, is now covered by the later stone buildings.
The Gordons of Huntly
The Fifes of Strathbogie lost their lands and titles in 1314, after taking the wrong side at the Battle of Bannockburn. The victorious King Robert Bruce granted Strathbogie to a loyal supporter, Sir Adam Gordon of Huntly, in Berwickshire.
Around 1445, Alexander, 2nd Lord Gordon, was created Earl of Huntly. He changed the name of his residence from Strathbogie to Huntly. The Gordons went from strength to strength, and north-eastern Scotland became ‘Gordon Country’. The impressive stone structures that today grace the ancient motte and bailey mirror the rise and decline of this noble family.
A majestic palace
The stately palace that dominates the site is one of Scotland’s most impressive medieval buildings. It was constructed around 1450 by the newly ennobled Earl of Huntly. The 4th Earl, George Gordon, ‘Cock o’ the North’, extensively remodelled it in the 1550s.
His grandson, the 6th Earl, greatly embellished it, outside and in, to celebrate his becoming 1st Marquis of Huntly in 1599. It is the 1st Marquis’s work that holds the visitor in thrall today: the great inscription high upon the south front, the heraldic fireplaces inside, and most notable of all, the splendid heraldic ‘frontispiece’ over the main door.