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Castle Craig - a little gem on my doorstep
by BlackPanther » Thu Oct 04, 2012 1:13 pm
Date walked: 16/09/2012
Time taken: 1 hours
Distance: 1 km3 people think this report is great. Register or Login free to be able to rate and comment on reports (as well as access 1:25000 mapping).
The most popular ruin on Black Isle are the remains of Fortrose Cathedral, but for something more "wild" one should head for the northern coast of the isle. It may not be a widely advertised spot, but you won't regret the time spent in Castle Craig!
I first noticed the ruin from across Cromarty Firth - it can be spotted on the top of the cliffs as one travels along A9 or from Foulis Point. I found some info about it in my two "castle bibles" - it definitely looked interesting enough to pay it a visit!
One of the most cited old books about Scotland, "The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth century" by D. MacGibbon and T. Ross (1887) gives a good description of the ruin plus a drawing - it was hard to judge the actual size of Castle Craig from across the firth, but in this picture it looks impressive:
Unfortunately, reaching the castle on foot can be a bit of a problem. It is situated on the very shore and separated from the nearest road by fields. Obviously we didn't want to upset the local farmer by destroying his plants so we waited until late summer. Just to be sure that all the crops were collected and we could walk across the field to the ruin.
A short instruction how to drive to the castle: turn off towards the shore from B9163 just north of St Martins (the road is signposted "Craigton") then head straight for a short distance and turn left again. There is a small car parking space by the two houses.
To walk down to the castle we followed a signpost "to Castle Craig", and we were nicely surprised - there is actually a path down to the shore, although at this time of the year it was overgrown with stinging nettles and a bit wet Eventually, we used the field as it was much drier but good to know that there is access to the ruin all year round.
Close up from the path:
It is a short, but very scenic walk down to the ruin, with splendid views across the bay:
Quite an impressive building, Castle Craig dates from 16th century. It was most likely abandoned in 1640 so it's been ruinous for a long time...
As we got close, the castle seem to grow even bigger...
MacGibbon and Ross describe the building as follows:
"It is said to have been erected by the Urquharts, barons of Cromarty, and was at one time occupied by the bishops of Ross. The
interior is demolished or inaccessible. The structure has extended further southwards than it now does, but that end is now completely ruined. The top of the cliff on which the castle stands has been fortified with a wall, provided with round towers and crenellated for defence."
Some lovely details of the masonry immediately drew my attention. MacGibbon and Ross say: "The most interesting feature about the building is the parapet with its corbelling. This extends across the north end only, and is not returned along the sides. It is of the usual character of the work of the beginning of the seventeenth century the cable moulding and the revived dogtooth associated with the corbelling are sure indications of that date. They give great richness of effect to this part of the edifice, and show that the Scottish style, even to its latest details, was universally employed all over the country. The lower tier of corbels is managed in a somewhat exceptional but effective manner."
I stood there, just gazing up...up...
The ruin is fenced off but the fence is low and we managed to jump over it The ruin is in dangerous state so if you visit the castle, please, explore it carefully. The whole extend of damage can be seen from the SW side:
It reminded me of buildings destroyed in earthquakes - like cut in two by a giant knife, with all levels clearly visible:
The castle had a courtyard, now only parts of the outer walls remaining:
Originally, the building consisted of two towers, joined in the SW corner, but the second tower has sadly collapsed a long time ago and all that's left is a pile of stones. The castle is now cared for by The Black Isle Charitable Corporation For Castle Craig's Preservation And Restoration - they have an interesting webpage with a lot of info about the ruin with old photos showing how it deteriorated over the last 100 years (http://castlecraig.net/index.html). A detailed survey of the ruin was carried on in 2008 (pdf document available online here: http://castlecraig.net/docs/412_Castle_Craig_Assessment_1108.pdf), followed by some basic vegetation cleaning. Hopefully, the castle will be consolidated and preserved for next generations to enjoy
Over the pile of stones we climbed carefully to the first floor:
Castle Craig is a unique structure as all its floors were vaulted - I have never seen it in any other castellated building in Scotland:
The existing part of the first floor was probably a private room, with a "toilet chamber" in one corner. A few photos from the inside:
Part of the ceiling has collapsed:
Hiding inside the toilet chamber:
This picture proves that the nasty habit of writing on the walls wasn't invented in 20th century. Some of that graffiti dates from 1889:
Another "hole in the wall", the collapsed corner of the main chimney:
There are many cracks in the walls and the castle was constructed from rather poor quality sandstone which is prone to erosion:
Window with a view:
The location of the castle is fantastic - these views across the firth! On the other hand, being so close to the cliffs increases the risk of the building collapse - hopefully it doesn't!
Vegetation is taking its toll but it is not as bad as I saw in Boyne, where trees grow out of the walls!
We left the first floor and circled the building, I tried to find a way down to the basement but on the N side all the holes were just a wee bit to small for a Panther
A gun loop:
Another warning sign - this crack I'm pointing at goes all the way up:
As seen here:
We located the entrance to the basement:
It used to be a kitchen, now a bit messy...
...but the big fireplace is still more or less intact, and one can look up into the chimney:
The side opposite the fireplace is partially collapsed:
We returned to the courtyard to investigate the outer walls:
When the damaged side of the castle cannot be seen, the building looks sound:
It is so nice to know that this lovely, old tower has at least a good chance to survive. Fingers crossed that money can be found to take a good care of it, it is both a listed building and an ancient monument...
We left Castle Craig eventually as bad cloud was coming and it was certainly carrying a shower:
I will keep an eye on this ruin and visit it again for sure
So that's all for today, folks My next story will be about another castle - this time more spooky and far less optimistic...
by basscadet » Thu Oct 04, 2012 3:06 pm
I remember going out to this castle at least twice when I was living in Culloden when I was a kid.. Even in the last 25 years it has unfortunately deteriorated rather badly it seems.. Nice to know that there is someone out there now looking after the place.. Maybe even restoration one day
by rocket-ron » Thu Oct 04, 2012 5:48 pm
by mrssanta » Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:09 pm
by ChrisW » Thu Oct 04, 2012 6:53 pm
by hills » Thu Oct 04, 2012 10:37 pm
by BlackPanther » Fri Oct 05, 2012 11:53 am
I'm trying to stay emotionally detached from old ruins, at the end of the day it's just an old house. Such a shame this building is close to collapsing, surely action is needed to secure it... But as I wrote above, there is hope for Castle Craig. Quoting the last Report of the Chairman of the charity group for Castle Craig:
"The owner currently has been tasked the assignment of applying for an Ancient Monuments Grant. It is hoped this will assist with emergency repairs which, in turn, may be used for the long term preservation of the structure."
Scaffolding, proper fencing and detailed archaeological survey are also planned for the future (depending on fund rising of course) - so maybe it is not a losing battle at all, fingers crossed
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