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Pearl of the North – Ballindalloch Castle

Ballindalloch Castle is a beautiful castle located in the very heart of Speyside, Scotland’s most prolific whisky region. Often referred to as Pearl of the North, this is one of the very few private castles in Scotland that has been continuously lived in by its founding family, the Macpherson-Grants.

The history of Ballindalloch Castle

Ballindalloch Castle was originally a fortified tower house erected long ago. However, it has undergone serious renovations and extensions during the Victorian era. This renovation can be seen to this day as it hasn’t seen change since Victorian times.

This castle has seen its fair share of crime, murder and hauntings but remains such a beautiful spectacle despite its relatively dark history.

Ballindalloch castle with plants growing up the walls
The castle has undergone serious renovations during the Victorian period. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

The Ballindalloch Castle we see today is a lot different to the original castle. The very first tower at the castle was built in 1546. From there, the rest of the castle was built in a beautiful Z-plan.

Chaos ensues

In 1590, the widow of the Grant of Ballindalloch married a man by the name of John Gordon, the son of Thomas Gordon of Cluny. A feud began when John Grant, former Tutor of Ballindalloch, also the administrator of the Ballindalloch Castle estate, brutally killed one of the servants within the castle.

This led to rage between the Earl of Huntly and the Earl of Moray. In November of 1590, the Earl of Huntly went to Ballindalloch Castle in an attempt to arrest the Tutor. The Chief of Grant, John Grant of Freuchie had promised that he would deliver the Tutor as well as all his accomplices accused of murder and other crimes, to Huntly Castle to meet whatever punishment would befall on them.

view of the whole ballindalloch castle
The first tower was built in the 16th century. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Freuchie’s deceit

In a twist nobody saw coming, Freuchie took back his promise and joined with the Tutor, his men, and the Earl of Moray. They then went to Darnaway Castle and shot pistols at Huntly’s officers and shot cannons from the castle. In turn, John Gordon, brother of the Laird of Cluny, was killed.

It was soon after plundered and burned by James Graham, the first Marquess of Montrose. Finally, in 1645, it was restored.

Restoration and extensions

In 1770, extensions were added by General James Grant of the American Wars of Independence. His ghost is said to still haunt the castle to this day. Further on, in 1850, more extensions were added by the architect Thomas MacKenzie. Extensions continued in 1878. However, the restorations were mostly demolished in 1965 when modernizations were enacted.

The current day

Throughout its existence, it has been continuously occupied by the Russell and Macpherson-Grant family. Today, the castle is still occupied by the Macpherson-Grant family. Tourists can visit during the warm summer months.

You may enjoy reading about other Scottish castles such as Carrick Castle.

File:Ballindalloch Castle - geograph.org.uk - 968658.jpg
Beautiful vegetation grows on one side of the castles walls. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Ballindalloch Castle Timeline

  • 1546- The very first tower at the castle is built
  • 1590- The widow of the Grant of Ballindalloch marries a man by the name of John Gordon, the son of Thomas Gordon of Cluny
  • 1645- After being burned and plundered, the castle is finally restored
  • 1770- Extensions are added by General James Grant of the American Wars of Independence
  • 1850- More extensions are added by the architect Thomas MacKenzie
  • 1878- Extensions continue
  • 1965- Extensions are demolished when modernizations are enacted

Ballindalloch Castle facts

  • Ballindalloch Castle has been occupied continuously by the same family that founded it
  • Ballindalloch Castle was originally built in a lovely Z-plan
  • The largest room in the castle is the dining room that started out as the great hall
  • The castle has gone through a lot of renovations in its lifetime
  • Ballindalloch Castle is often referred to as Pearl of the North

Books on Ballindalloch Castle

  • The best of Ballindalloch: favourite recipes from the castle by Clare Macpherson-Grant Russel (1991)
  • BALLINDALLOCH CASTLE: HIGHLAND HOME OF THE LAIRDS OF BALLINDALLOCH- Author Unknown (2004)

Who owns Ballindalloch Castle?

Even now, the castle is still owned by the Macpherson-Grant family. They live within the castle and care for the Ballindalloch Castle and gardens. Guy Macpherson-Grant, his wife, Victoria, and their three young children, are the 23rd and 24th generations of the family to live here.

Tourism

These days, the castle welcomes many visitors. The Ballindalloch Castle and gardens opened this year on Sunday 13 June, and following renovations, the Castle will open its doors once again to visitors from Sunday, 22nd of August. The castle shop stocks a huge variety of lovely Scottish crafts as well as goods.

You can also buy the popular recipe books written by Clare Macpherson-Grant Russell. You can also enjoy refreshments in the tearoom. Nearby, you can visit the Glenlivet Distillery, Cragganmore Distillery, and the Old Bridge of Avon.

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