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Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle


Postby BlackPanther » Tue Sep 04, 2012 2:41 pm

Date walked: 02/09/2012

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I have a soft spot for ancient ruins. Since I moved up to Scotland, I have already visited over 50 castles, ruined houses, brochs and ancient sites. Many of them were simply "on the way" to mountains :lol: , others required separate trips. A few times we planned castle-to-castle trials around particular area, like the Caithness Trip (http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=20630). My ever favourite old ruin is Duffus Castle near Lossiemouth, but I'd appreciate any atmospheric historical building - from big mansions like New Slains to little charming spots like Ardvreck or Rait. Every one of these trips makes a fantastic journey back in time.
The one I'm going to write today is - surprisingly! - not a popular ruin. Personally, it upsets me that some old castles get a lot of care and attention whereas some others stand neglected, forgotten and derelict :( ...

Two years ago I found "The Castles of Scotland" by Martin Covenrty under the Christmas tree. Since then, the book has been used so extensively that some pages are flying loose, it's been stained with coffee and a few times I fell asleep reading it late at night :lol: :lol: Together with "The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth century" by D. MacGibbon and T. Ross (1887), the two books are my main sources of info about castles and ancient sites worth visiting, plus whatever I can find online. And here is a story about an old ruin, completely forgotten and God-forsaken, a spooky place called...
:shock: :shock: :shock: BOYNE CASTLE :shock: :shock: :shock:
I first came across this name in Covenrty's book and to be honest, I almost overlooked it. There's only a short note about the ruin and it states as follows:

"Boyne Castle consist of a very ruinous and overgrown 16-th century courtyard castle, with four round corner towers and a twin-turreted gatehouse. There is a ditch, and the entrance is by a raised and walled causeway. Ranges of buildings were enclosed within the courtyard. It was once a fine place, and and there were two walled gardens and orchards."

What caught my eye was a re-print drawing from MacGibbon & Ross, showing the ruin from NW:
Image

I had a look in the latter book and discovered that it actually contained quite a long chapter about Boyne, with drawings and plans of the site plus its detailed history. I was fascinated by the castle and immediately put it on my "to visit" list.
Last Sunday was a semi-good day, cloudy over most mountains and strong winds predicted for higher ground. But the Moray Coast forecast looked good enough to pay a visit to Boyne. The castle is situated just east of Portsoy, to the north of B9139. Finding a place to park can be a bit tricky, as the tarmac road is very narrow and no laybys anywhere, but there is some space to leave car on the crossroads next to a farm:
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The castle is almost invisible from the road, especially in summer months, you have to be very observant to spot one of the towers peeking out from the woods:
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From the crossroads it's only a 0.5 km stroll along the road first and then on an overgrown path to the ruins:

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The path to the ruins seems non-existent to start with but after diving into the vegetation I managed to find it... Hey, here it is! Follow me!
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Wet, overgrown and not very convincing, but believe me this is the right route...
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The path takes you to a wooden gate - the ruins are hidden in the woods just past it.
A tight squeeeezzzze:
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I knew this was going to be a spooky place but, in my deepest dreams, I didn't expect what I saw. big, massive, tumbling stony walls and towers emerged suddenly from the vegetation... My jaw dropped almost to the ground... Wow!!!!!
The first encounter with Boyne:
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I walked towards the closest tower, looked up..up...up... and felt a bit dizzy!
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Then I checked inside the ground floor room in the tower - it was half filled with rubble:
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I'm not an expert on history and archaeology (I'm a biologist, for heaven's sake :lol: :lol: ) so I'll let experts speak on my behalf. MacGibbon and Ross described Boyne as follows:
"This castle is of considerable interest, from the fact that at first sight it appears to differ essentially in plan from all the other castles of the period in the north of Scotland.
It occupies a strong and picturesque site, about two miles east from Portsoy, on the top of a precipitous promontory on the south side of the Boyne Water, at a point where the river makes a sudden bend in the deep and rocky dell through which it flows. The castle is thus well defended by the nature of the ground on the north, east, and west sides, while on the south side it is artificially protected by a dry moat nearly 60 feet wide."
Indeed, the ruins are surrounded by the deep gorge from three directions - a great defensive spot! Though the castle doesn't seem to have been built as a fortress, rather as a 16-th century mansion house.
What one notices immediately are the multiple towers, some of them must have been staircases.
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The south-west view of the castle according to MacGibbon & Ross:
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Another old drawing, showing the castle in its better days, is here: http://www.scottishcastlesassociation.com/rec-id-277-cat_id-1-highlight-2.htm
I tried to position myself in the same spot to take a comparative picture but it was impossible due to the vegetation - the castle is so overgrown that it's difficult to move about the ruins. Not to mention the annoying stinging nettles and prickly thistles everywhere. Ouch! Don't visit this site in shorts!
A few shots of the ruins from south-west. This was the main entrance side, two of the towers were gatehouses:
Image

Image
OK, some more professional description:
"The castle itself is evidently of one design, and has been built at one time. It consists of a courtyard, forming a parallelogram measuring 89 feet from north to south and 104 feet from east to west, with a projecting round tower 22 feet in diameter at each angle. The walls of enceinte vary, but average about 5 feet in thickness. There have been ranges of buildings on the east, west, and south sides of the quadrangle, but not, apparently, on the north side, which was enclosed with a wall. The walls of the west side are still standing, but those of the south side are greatly destroyed, while the eastern range has been almost entirely demolished.
Unfortunately the freestone dressings of the doors and windows have nearly, without a single exception, been torn out and removed, so that few details are left to enable a judgment to be formed of the style and date of the finishings."
Image
We scrambled carefully to the first floor - it contained the main hall. I was overwhelmed...
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Gazing through one of the open holes that once were windows, I saw the eastern corner tower - and a huge tree trunk growing from inside of it... Good Lord, how long has this site been neglected?
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The SE tower is almost gone, now only some skeletal remains...
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The fireplace was on the opposite wall:
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In the NW corner, another tree found its home...
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The SW corner from the inside:
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MacGibbon and Ross state what follows:
"The hall and withdrawing-room seem to have occupied the whole of the west range, with a private room off each in the angle towers. A small stair has been corbelled out in the angle of the south-west tower at a later date, which may have conducted to the owner's private apartments over the hall. But the first and upper floors are so entirely ruined internally that nothing can clearly be ascertained as to the arrangements."
The NE tower is still relatively safe and one can venture inside:
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A short look from a different perspective: the first floor from inside the tower:
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This little room (probably a private chamber) has two windows and a small fireplace:
Image

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Definitely not ancient drawings!
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The ruin is big and the fact that it's so overgrown and tumbling only increases the spooky impression. I don't really believe in ghosts and ghouls, but I wouldn't dare spend a night in Boyne Castle! :shock:
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Back to the reality, it was a nice sunny day and we continued to explore the site. We descended back to the ground level, though it was a bit tricky in places...
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We somehow managed to make our way through the stinging nettles to the main courtyard. Now we could see the SE corner, the most damaged part of the complex:
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Trees, trees, growing everywhere! It is a scary thought, that the trees will eventually tear this beautiful ruin apart!
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The eastern side from below:
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From the courtyard, there are four entrances on the ground level - they lead to well-preserved, vaulted cellars:
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MacGibbon & Ross description:
"The basement floor of this range is the only part of the castle still in fair preservation, and is divided into vaulted cellars, each furnished with a door and window to the courtyard. The kitchen alone can be distinguished in the eastern range, from its fireplace being preserved."
...is a bit out of date, doors and windows in the cellars are long gone, but the chambers themselves are safe to explore:
The first cellar:
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The second cellar:
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The last cellar (the northernmost one) was obviously used as a kitchen, with remains of the oven on the northern wall. It connects to another room, on the groundfloor of the NW tower:
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The oven:
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Inside the kitchen:
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Eventually we emerged outside the building and decided to circle it to get some good snapshots from the distance. We suffered the attacks of some more aggressive plants :shock: but the result was satisfying...
The Northern side of the castle, still looking very impressive:
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A few steps back and we can fully appreciate the size of this ruin:
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The outer corner tower:
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MacGibbon and Ross give a short statement on the history of the site:
"Little is known of the history of this building. The Thanedom of Boyne was granted by David n. in 1368 to Sir John Edmonstone. In
I486 the estate passed by marriage to Sir John Ogilvie, in whose family it long remained. Sir George Ogilvie of Dunlugas acquired the estate in 1575 from the elder branch of the family, and it continued in his family till purchased by the Earl of Findlater in 1731."
When wandering about this mind-boggling place, one has to wonder why it's in such a bad state, why wasn't it preserved, even if only as a ruin, for visitors to enjoy?
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It is obvious that some parts of the castle are on the very edge of collapse and if nothing is done soon to protect this charming ruin, it will soon be gone!!!
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We walked around the castle and took even more photies from every possible angle - enjoy it while it still lasts...
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The western side:
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A few little details of masonry:
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NW tower from the outside:
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Kevin was just as bewildered as me...
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One last sentence from MacGibbon and Ross, I think this sums up all my thoughts and feelings about Boyne:
"In any case the design is remarkable, and it is greatly to be regretted that this interesting edifice has been suffered to fall into such a state of decay."
Don't forget that this statement was written over a century ago!
We had to leave eventually and though I'm smiling in this photo, I felt a sudden wave of sadness when we walked back to the car...
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I don't know who owns this site or are there any chances whatsoever to consolidate it. The vegetation is pretty aggressive, especially trees growing inside the walls. Some basic clearing would certainly help... It hurts my heart to think that an ancient monument like this may disappear soon - only because nobody bothered to do anything :( :( :(
I hope you enjoyed this little journey, dear reader. Thanks for taking your time to read it.
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby ChrisW » Wed Sep 05, 2012 5:15 am

Great report BP, really interesting find too....I'm a sucker for an old building. It's always such a shame when these things are left to die. I think because we have so many castles in the UK we don't have finances to look after them all because if the owner wanted to tidy it up there would suddenly be a plague of people telling him exactly how it had to be done, using special contractors and equipment at a rate at least 2000 times higher than his initial estimate. He would not then be allowed to open it to the public to recoup some of the cost until at least a bajillion pounds was spent on access/egress, protective barriers, netting to catch falling masonry etc.

Then there would be car parking issues so special reports would be needed on number of visitors anticipated, then there would be noise issues with all those cars arriving/departing, then the road widening required to facilitate the additional traffic not to mention the environmental studies on ecological impact and water run off collection, toilet facilities and effluent control, and lets not forget the crowd control and evacuation planning, fire and explosion hazard assessment and control ........... :roll:

This is why we can't have nice things :lol:
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby Ian Johnston » Wed Sep 05, 2012 8:06 am

What a super report!

Despite living within 45 minutes of Portsoy and regularly kayaking the coastline hereabouts (in fact i was in boyne Bay just this week) I had no idea that this impressive ruin was here. I really must get to visit the site, perhaps in winter when the vegetation has died back a bit.

I guess you already took in Findlater Castle just to the west of Sandend?

thanks for posting this - really great

Kind Regards

Ian
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:23 am

Thanks, folks, I'm glad to know that you enjoyed my story :D
I know it is not a "walking" report but I hope Admins don't mind... I have already posted stuff about Duffus, Rait and Glenbuchat, but all these ruins are well preserved and cared for and this one is sadly falling apart. Let's say it's a cry for help to save this grand ruin.

ChrisW wrote:Great report BP, really interesting find too....I'm a sucker for an old building. It's always such a shame when these things are left to die. I think because we have so many castles in the UK we don't have finances to look after them all because if the owner wanted to tidy it up there would suddenly be a plague of people telling him exactly how it had to be done, using special contractors and equipment at a rate at least 2000 times higher than his initial estimate. He would not then be allowed to open it to the public to recoup some of the cost until at least a bajillion pounds was spent on access/egress, protective barriers, netting to catch falling masonry etc.

Then there would be car parking issues so special reports would be needed on number of visitors anticipated, then there would be noise issues with all those cars arriving/departing, then the road widening required to facilitate the additional traffic not to mention the environmental studies on ecological impact and water run off collection, toilet facilities and effluent control, and lets not forget the crowd control and evacuation planning, fire and explosion hazard assessment and control ........... :roll:

This is why we can't have nice things :lol:


You are absolutely right with your list Chris, I bet you probably missed a few points :lol: :lol: like protecting against unexpected UFO landings and facilities to accommodate Snow White & Seven Dwarves. On one side, there is no law to force the owner (or whoever responsible for the ruin) to restore/consolidate the building. On the other, if somebody is brave enough to touch a listed building, suddenly he meets another wall - the one of bureaucracy and multiple issues to solve, like you said.
A few years ago I watched an episode of "Grand Designs" about a couple who decided to restore an old castle (somewhere down south, don't remember exactly where). Of course, before they were even allowed to begin clearing the site, they had to obtain lots of permissions, spend hundreds of thousands on archaeology, and every single bit of restoration had to be accepted by English Heritage. They spent twice the money they planned to spend, but the castle was brought back to life and they run it as B&B. Sadly, I think Boyne will never be so lucky, the ruin is massive and restoration would cost a fortune...

The funny thing is, there is an old plate on one of the outer walls:
boyne.jpg

Having read that, my chum said:
"Let's arrest all the trees and stinging nettles!!!"
I wasn't sure, should I laugh or should I cry...

Ian Johnston wrote:What a super report!

Despite living within 45 minutes of Portsoy and regularly kayaking the coastline hereabouts (in fact i was in boyne Bay just this week) I had no idea that this impressive ruin was here. I really must get to visit the site, perhaps in winter when the vegetation has died back a bit.

I guess you already took in Findlater Castle just to the west of Sandend?


Findlater Castle is in my top five :D I visited it four times in 5 years, usually combined with cliff-walking, here is my report on this one from last year: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/Forum/viewtopic.php?f=9&t=10850

After exploring Boyne, we stopped in Portsoy for lunch and then went for a walk on the cliffs to the east of the village. We saw a guy in a kayak just off the shore - maybe it was you? :D :D

I guess the ruins will be easier to access in winter (or early spring), at least the nettles will be gone by then. If you prefer a longer stroll, you could walk to the ruin from Portsoy, it's only 1.5 mile walk along a quiet countryside road with lovely views.

Cheers
BP
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby basscadet » Wed Sep 05, 2012 10:53 am

Oh what a great report.. I must get up there this winter with the kids.. I think castles are better in grim weather :thumbup:

It really is a shame that we have too many castles in this country to maintain them all.. :(
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby Ian Johnston » Wed Sep 05, 2012 11:55 am

BlackPanther wrote:





After exploring Boyne, we stopped in Portsoy for lunch and then went for a walk on the cliffs to the east of the village. We saw a guy in a kayak just off the shore - maybe it was you? :D :D



Cheers
BP


If it was on Sunday 2nd, a yellow kayak and blue top/buoyancy aid, then it was me :) Small world isn't it?!

Kind regards

Ian
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby BlackPanther » Wed Sep 05, 2012 12:23 pm

Ian Johnston wrote:If it was on Sunday 2nd, a yellow kayak and blue top/buoyancy aid, then it was me :) Small world isn't it?!


The world is small indeed, it was on Sunday and I remember the kayak was yellow... So we almost met :lol: :lol:
I'll post a separate short report on that coastal stroll.

basscadet wrote:Oh what a great report.. I must get up there this winter with the kids.. I think castles are better in grim weather :thumbup:

It really is a shame that we have too many castles in this country to maintain them all.. :(


Thanks, basscadet, and I bet the kids will love the castle! Just make sure they don't venture into the tumbling SE tower, that part looks very unstable. And on the first floor it is better to stay in the middle of the main hall, just to be on the safe side. :D
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby basscadet » Wed Sep 05, 2012 2:57 pm

Aye, good advice.. last time I took the bairns oot, I lost one in a bramble patch, which resulted in a very scratched (but happy) young lassie.. Oh what I lot of trouble I was in when I took her home to her parents though.. :?
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby foggieclimber » Wed Sep 05, 2012 7:27 pm

Have previously walked this section of coast and it is only 10-15 minutes from home but didn't realise there was a castle there :oops:
Thanks for sharing your photos.
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Re: Hidden gems of Portsoy: Boyne Castle

Postby The Rodmiester » Sat Sep 29, 2012 10:43 pm

Great report BP, I MUST visit the next time I'm up North, I have never seen anything like that in design or layout before, thank you for sharing. :D
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