Findlater Castle

A Dramatic Edge – Findlater Castle

The ruins of Findlater Castle are truly a sight to behold. This stunning castle is situated right on top of a rocky promontory that projects out into the beautiful blue sea. It is roughly two miles east of Cullen and around a mile west of Sandend in Scotland and though it may not be as grand as other castles in the area, it still certainly deserves recognition.

It is said to be one of the most dramatic castles in all of Scotland due to the way it is situated, and it welcomes many visitors per year because of this reason. On three sides of the castle, there are sharp, dangerous, and steep cliffs that can be a danger if you’re not careful, however, they do add to the stunning landscape. In some places, the cliffs even reach a whopping 90 feet and the ruins can only be reached by a steep and irregular path.

The trip to Findlater Castle certainly isn’t one for the weak of heart, but for the brave people and adrenaline junkies, you will feel right at home! While the history of Findlater Castle may be short, there is certainly a lot of it packed into the short amount of time.

Findlater Castle - a ruined castle built into a high cliff by the ocean
Findlater Castle, Portsoy, Banffshire. A precariously sited old clan home on the Moray Firth, Scotland. Source: Wikimedia Commons

The history of Findlater Castle

When you embark on your Findlater Castle walk, you will notice that it is packed with rugged and unpredictable terrain, but it is well worth it. It is a known fact that Scotland has plenty of dangerous and rough terrain, so it comes as no shock that the utmost care must be taken when visiting. With all of that in mind, let’s take a look into the short but great history of Findlater Castle.

The early history

Nobody really knows who actually built the original structure, however, there is sufficient evidence to prove that it was there around 1246 when a reference was made in the Exchequer Rolls. The castle is exquisitely made in a strong and grand way being built in a nice position upon a tall rock. It towers around 15 metres above sea level and is only connected to the mainland by an incredibly narrow cause.

The name Findlater Castle derives from the Gaelic term fionn leitir – literally “white cliff” – a reference to the quartz found in the rock. It is said that the Danes captured the early castle, of which no certain remnants remain. The current romantic ruins that you see right now date back to around the late 14th century and it is said that it was probably the work of Sir John Sinclair. How true that is, is not known.

The 13th century

By the time the 13th century came around, the castle had become a baronial site that would have possibly been owned by the very powerful Sinclair family. It was inspected in order to be readied against an attack by the well-known Alexander III in the early 1260s as he began to fight against conflict with the Norwegians. Despite all of these preparations being put into place early and the decisive Scottish victory after the Battle of Largs, the castle still ended up being occupied by the forces of King Haakon IV of Norway.

a painting of medieval warriors fighting on a beach with swords, shields and bows
Detail from William Hole’s painting The Battle of Largs. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Later history

The last known owner that was in the Sinclair family was Sir John Sinclair who unfortunately died at the Battle of Harlaw in 1411. It isn’t known exactly when, but afterwards, the castle then fell into the hands of Sir Walter Ogilvy after he was granted a license to crenellate (fortify) Findlater in 1455. He was one of the well-known ancestors of the Earlies of Airlie and he also served in the King’s Council before he later became the Sheriff of Banffshire.

The new castle he built consisted of a large, substantial tower as well as supporting buildings all of which were built on top of the rock. A causeway was also readily constructed upon the narrow isthmus that connected the peninsula to the mainland which provided access via two drawbridges. Findlater Castle is said to have been styled upon Rosslyn Castle in Lothian. It was in 1560 that Alexander Ogilvy disinherited his son, James Ogilvy, in favour of Sir John Gordon.

At the same tie, his clan rebelled against Mary, Queen of Scots and Findlater Castle was in turn besieged and taken by the strong Royal forces. When the defeat of the Gordons happened after the Battle of Corrichie, in 1562, Sir John was then executed, and the castle returned to James Ogilvy. James Ogilvy (a descendant of the James Ogilvy just mentioned) was then named Earl of Findlater in 1638, however, it is said that this rise in status could be the reason that the castle was abandoned. He instead built the nearby Cullen House as a replacement and Findlater Castle drifted into irreversible ruin.

The Findlater Castle Ghost

The Findlater Castle Ghost is said to be the spirit of a young boy who tragically fell from a window along with his nurse many centuries ago. Many people want to explore more of the castle’s surroundings; however, the ghost story tends to put them off quite a bit as it is a very spooky place without the story so, with it, it is even more so. The story goes something like this.

Many centuries ago, a young boy and his nurse were standing beside an open window when the boy launched from her arms and down the rugged side of the cliff, supposedly to his untimely death. Afterwards, his nurse apparently went after him and also fell to her death. To this day, she is said to haunt the castle searching for the young boy. They have both been spotted many times throughout the grounds.

You may enjoy reading about other castles in Scotland such as Braemar Castle.

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