Featured image of Balfour Castle

The History of Balfour Castle

LocationShapinsay, Orkney Islands, Scotland (Google Map Location)
Open for VisitorsNo
Owned ByChristopher Harrison (Private Owner)
Official WebsiteBalfour Castle
Rooms AvailableYes

Balfour Castle is a historic building located on Shapinsay Island and is known for its regal-looking towers and spires and fascinating wilderness surrounding. It is known for its oldest structures, rebuilt in 1847, commissioned by Colonel David Balfour, and designed by David Bryce. It is now a private home with perfectly decorated Victorian interiors and mesmerising exteriors.

History of Balfour Castle

Balfour Castle was initially built around 1620 as a residence of Sir James Balfour of Glenawley. It was one of those castles whose purpose was to secure the plantation of Ulster while offering a proper place to live. Although it is known as the oldest structure in the country, the present castle was built in 1847 by David Balfour. The overall construction took almost three years, and much of the stones used in its structure were quarried on the island.

During the construction of the Balfour Castle, David Balfour and his wife Eleanor took a grand tour and spent most of the time in Italy. When they returned, they were amazed to see that the architect had hired several Italian artisans to make castle interiors look a bit italic. At that time, the castle was remodelled using the already established woodlands. After the construction was completed, the family spent over a century in the castle until the family line expired in the early 1960s. At that time, the castle lost much of its former glory.

In 1961, Captain Tadeusz Zawadski and his wife Catherine maintained the castle and transformed it again into a family home. They became friends with the last of Balfours and purchased the Balfour mains from him before Balfour castle. Later, the Zawadski family converted it into a country hotel and it remained with them for almost 60 years. Now, Balfour Castle is privately owned by Christopher Harrison.
Its formal gardens and landscapes are listed in the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland.


Balfour Castle
Balfour Castle”, by Bingar1234, is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Balfour Castle is known for its Scottish-style architecture. It is a rare example of a Scottish house planned to be built with seven turrets, 365 window sections, 12 external doors, and 52 rooms. The original and detailed fixtures and furniture from the 1840s give the castle an authentic feel. Also, the gilded plaster ceilings, handmade wallpaper, and marble fireplaces enhance the castle’s interior aesthetically.

The castle has large grounds and stands in front of a woodland belt near the shores and is clearly visible from the top of St. Magnus Cathedral tower, Kirkwall. And the real attraction of the castle is its suite of first-floor public rooms, the south-western touch of a huge dining table in the dining room, and walls packed with fascinating pictures.

The west side of the Balfour castle has a drawing room with a grand French Chateau and a window view of the West Sea and blooming garden. The castle also has a big library and an interesting secret passage hidden behind the false bookshelves that lead off the long gallery room. It also has many statues and paintings that enhance its interiors even more.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who owns Balfour Castle?

The Balfour Castle is now privately owned by Christopher Harrison. It was earlier owned by Catherine Zawadski since 1961. In early 1960, the Balfour family line expired, and the Zawadskis decided to buy the castle and take its maintenance into their hands. The family remained the real owner of the castle for almost 60 years.

Can you stay at Balfour Castle?

No, you can not stay at Balfour Castle. This castle is now a private property.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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