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Noblest of northern castlesThe great castle of Kildrummy stands serene and confident, even in its present ruined state. In its heyday, back in the Middle Ages, it dominated Strathdon as the castle of the mighty earls of Mar. Of all the many fine castles of NE Scotland – a region dubbed ‘Castle Country’ – Kildrummy has no rivals. Not for nothing is it known as ‘the noblest of northern castles’.
A mighty castle of enclosureKildrummy is one of a select group of Scottish castles that belong to the great age of castle-building in the 13th century. It was built as a large curtain-walled castle, in which a strong stone wall was drawn around a courtyard much like a curtain. Tall, circular towers projecting from that curtain wall housed the apartments of the lord and his senior household. The once mighty Snow Tower, where the earl himself resided, collapsed in 1805. However, the Warden’s Tower and two other lesser towers stand largely complete. So too does the castle chapel, a handsome building with three tall elegant windows that once lit the high altar at its east end.
The castle and Edward I of EnglandEdward I of England stayed at Kildrummy twice, in 1296 and 1303. The ground plan of Kildrummy’s great twin-towered gatehouse is so remarkably like that at Edward’s great castle of Harlech, in north Wales, that it is possible this part of Kildrummy may well have been built for the ‘Hammer of the Scots’. It may be no coincidence that Edward was at Kildrummy in 1303 with his favourite master of works, Master James of St George, the builder and first constable of Harlech.
The castle and the Jacobite Rising of 1715The Erskine earls of Mar regained their ancestral seat in 1626. After the flight of the Catholic King James VII and II in 1688, the earls remained faithful to their exiled sovereign. In 1715, John Erskine returned to Kildrummy to begin a rising in support of James Stuart, ‘the Old Pretender’. When that third Jacobite Rising failed in 1716, the earl went into exile himself, so ending Kildrummy’s days as a noble residence.