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Redcastle, the forgotten place

Redcastle, the forgotten place


Postby BlackPanther » Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:09 pm

Date walked: 13/01/2013

Time taken: 2 hours

Distance: 4.3 km

Ascent: 82m

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My first report of 2013, I had hidden hopes for a January mountain, but with weather gods in sulky mood, a low level walk had to suffice. Not complaining though - this stroll includes a visit to an intriguing ruin!
Sunday conditions: wet and cloudy. Not a day to run the hills, especially if your husband is still fighting a cold, but good enough for some lurking in the neighbourhood. We haven't been to the hills for over a month and I'm in a state of banging my head against the wall :lol: :lol: Luckily, this little trip has a lot to offer, so the symptoms of mountain madness (Munroclimbus crazus :wink: ) have been temporarily healed.
Before I started serious mountaineering in Scotland, we used to come to Black Isle for Sunday strolls, sometimes we would walk all the way along Beauly Firth - from Milton to Charleston and back. We knew that there was a castle hidden somewhere in the forest, but we never pursued the subject any closer. We assumed that the building was private and not available for visitors :(
But last year, having done a bit of research on Redcastle, I was happy to find out it was possible to walk up to the ruins - and also, that the neighbouring Gallowhill Woods are available for walkers :D Therefore, with another gloomy weekend in sight, I thought it would be a nice idea to pay a visit to this hidden corner of Black Isle.

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Gallowhill Woods look tempting with a whole network of paths marked on the map. We will definitely come back here to lurk more (in mushroom season perhaps :wink: ) - on Sunday we only walked a short 4km circuit. The ruins of Redcastle are the piece de resistance of this route.
We parked at a small parking area in Milton (there are picnic tables with good views to the firth - for summer visitors). The small circle begins by the estate gatehouse - we walked past this building and continued on the track (a bit wet and boggy this time of the year). The track crosses a small stream:
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Doesn't really look like winter, does it?
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Peeking through the dense vegetation, the first glimpse of the ruin...
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The castle looked spooky...
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We approached the front side of the building. I knew it was in ruined state but didn't expect it to be exactly as bad...
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The first thing I noticed was a date panel on the North East wall...
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...and then, a big crack in the external wall:
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MacGibbon and Ross, in their famous book about Scottish castles and castellated houses (MacGibbon and Ross, D and T (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries) give a good description of this particular building:
"A modern mansion in which several portions of an older edifice have been incorporated with good effect. It stands about six and a half miles west of Inverness, on high ground, on the north side of the Beauly Frith, over which it commands a fine view, extending from Inverness to Beauly.
The building seems to have been originally a structure of an elongated L Plan, with a staircase turret in the re-entering angle. The
hall would in that case occupy the large central apartment, with the private room at the east end, and probably the withdrawing-room at the west end. The small apartment which fills up the angle in front of the staircase tower is a more modern addition; indeed, almost all the external features may be so regarded, but the angles at which they are set to one another, and the mode in which the design is carried out, produce a picturesque effect. The two angle turrets on the west wing, with their corbelling, are of some age."
The castle was originally built as L-plan, but with later additions it is now difficult to trace the original shape:
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The original building - plan:
redcastle plan.jpg

One of the turrets:
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From the first encounter, it became clear to me why this house was called Redcastle - it was built using red sandstone bricks. Similar material was used in the construction of another Black Isle castle, Craig.
Such a shame this fascinating building is derelict and taken over by trees...
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The main structure seems still pretty sound, regardless of a few cracks in the walls and the lack of roof. It is hard to say, how far the damage has progressed inside - the castle is fenced off and there's no way to inspect it any closer :(
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Looking from the castle site to the Gallowhill Wood. The red and grey building to the right are Redcastle Stables:
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A bit of imagination game: this turret looks like a head: the small windows make eyes, with long eyelashes :lol: :lol:
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It is not possible to walk around the ruin, but a narrow, boggy path descends along the SW side of the castle. From this angle, it looks even bigger - and more spooky:
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A few more words from MacGibbon & Ross:
"At this end the ground dips rapidly towards a small burn, and the buttressing and intakes of the base add to the character of the design. The turret at the east end probably contained a private staircase from the private room to the bedroom floor above. The dormer windows, we understand, were brought from Inverness."
The date 1641 carved in the wall as well as the basic L-plan shape suggest that Redcastle is indeed a late 17th century castellated mansion. MacGibbon and Ross agree:
"From the above particulars it is evident that this structure is not of great age, probably not earlier than the sixteenth century; but it occupies the site of a much older castle. It was here that William the Lion, in the twelfth century, erected the fortress of Ederdour, to strengthen his position in the country north of the Beauly Frith, which he had just acquired as an addition to his Scottish kingdom. In 1179 he also constructed another castle in the Black Isle, called Ormond or Avoch Castle. This fortress was situated on the north side of the Frith of Inverness, at the entrance to the Bay of Munlochy.
The Castle of Redcastle belonged in 1230 to Sir John Bysset, in 1278 to Sir Andrew de Bosco, and in 1455 the Black Isle or Ardmannache was annexed to the Crown."
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The later story of the site is no less interesting. It came into the possession of the MacKenzies in 1570 who held it until 1790. It was burned to the ground in 1659 when Rory MacKenzie joined Montrose. It was then the property of the Baillies of Dochfour in the 19th century, who had it remodelled in 1840 (by William Burn). It was used to house troops in WW II, but after the war the building became derelict after it was neglected and its roof stripped (according to: M. Coventry "The castles of Scotland"). It seems tax avoidance goes way back - and I thought that it was a recent discovery :lol: :lol:.
With such a rich past, one would expect a building like this to be in good state, well cared for and saved for future generations. Sadly, not the case here...
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It's worth noticing that when MacGibbon and Ross visited Redcastle, it was still in good condition and most likely occupied. The drawing from the book will help you see the castle in its full glory:
redcastle ph1.jpg

Webpage ScotlandsPlaces published a few older photos of the building, including some from the 50s, when it was still roofed. Link here:
http://www.scotlandsplaces.gov.uk/search_item/index.php?service=RCAHMS&id=12662&image_id=SC400808
Redcastle is on the Buildings at Risk register and some more details on the property and its current situation are available here:
http://www.buildingsatrisk.org.uk/details/891553
It is sad how some listed buildings meet their fate. These few sentences (copied from above mentioned BaR page) will speak better than me:
"January 2000: Local planners report that the Estate still does not wish to sell. February 2005: Strutt and Parker report that the house remains in the ownership of Burton Property Trust. It is ruinous and cordoned off by fencing to stop unauthorised access. Although the owners have explored restoration options with American investors in the past, no investors are currently involved. The owners would not consider selling the house.
18 June 2012: External inspection finds that since the previous site visit the building has deteriorated with further loss of masonry. There is a large crack on the east section of the south elevation. The adjacent wood has annexed the building."
It is obvious to me that this beautiful listed building will not be renovated or even stabilised, in the near future... :( :( :( On the positive side, it still seems strong so it won't fall apart in a year or two. But what a shame anyway.
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We investigated as far as we could...
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...though from the back, it is not easy to get through the vegetation. Winter or early spring is probably the best time to visit this site if you want to have a good look at the details of the house:
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Having spent enough time photographing, filming, admiring and secretly swallowing tears (I always get emotional when it comes to old, unwanted and unloved ruins :( ) we left the castle behind and walked along the track, just to add some lurking to our day out. But I kept glancing back...
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Eventually, the castle fell out of sight and we enjoyed our stroll:
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In places, where trees are not dense, there are good views down to Beauly Firth:
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The track continues through the forest:
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The day was wet and the ground was slippery, but in drier conditions this could be a lovely walk, with plenty of wildlife to study. All we saw was a couple of pheasants, but we'll be back in warmer time to do some more investigating :lol:
The track we followed comes to a crossroads - two branches lead up to the forest on Gallowhill, but as it was beginning to rain, we decided to return to the car. We took the track downhill and soon emerged on the tarmac, just next to Corgrain Point:
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We managed to get back to the car before the big grey cloud (seen coming in the last photo) arrived eventually and opened the gates of heaven :lol: :lol:
I'm so glad this particular spot is only 10 min drive from home, and we will return to Redcastle and the surrounding woods for sure. Maybe the card will turn for this grand ruin and it will yet return to its former glory. Fingers crossed. :D
Hopefully, my next report will be about some great hillwalking, but for now, thanks for reading. Meow!
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BlackPanther
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby The Rodmiester » Tue Jan 15, 2013 2:35 pm

Very enjoyable read :) , what a great shame a building of this quality has been allowed to fall into disrepair like this :( . Thanks for posting, one small point re report, you mention red sandstone bricks, surely not, you must mean stone. I must visit, the next time I'm visiting Inverness.
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby BlackPanther » Tue Jan 15, 2013 4:27 pm

The Rodmiester wrote:red sandstone bricks?


I'm not an expert on building materials :lol: :lol: :lol: especially English names for them... So apologies if something I wrote was confusing. The point is, the building's name definitely comes from the red colour. The rcahms page describes Redcastle's structure as "Rubble with ashlar flush quoins and chamfered margins". Experts needed :wink:

It's an interesting place to visit if one happens to be in Inverness. Again, what I hope for is to spread the word about this castle - another historical site forgotten and overlooked, it deserves some care and attention.
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BlackPanther
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby The Rodmiester » Tue Jan 15, 2013 5:48 pm

BlackPanther wrote:
The Rodmiester wrote:red sandstone bricks?


I'm not an expert on building materials :lol: :lol: :lol: especially English names for them... So apologies if something I wrote was confusing. The point is, the building's name definitely comes from the red colour. The rcahms page describes Redcastle's structure as "Rubble with ashlar flush quoins and chamfered margins". Experts needed :wink:

It's an interesting place to visit if one happens to be in Inverness. Again, what I hope for is to spread the word about this castle - another historical site forgotten and overlooked, it deserves some care and attention.


Apologies 'BP', that's me being very petty, really. No doubt you could knock me for my grammar and spelling :lol: Anyhow very pleased you posted, looks a really interesting place to explore, and I must sometime. You are very lucky as you seem to have ample of old buildings up in your part of the woods. Hope you get back out on the hills soon, the problem just now is getting to them. :(
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby dogplodder » Tue Jan 15, 2013 6:00 pm

Thanks for this BP. We've often walked along the shore road between North Kessock and Red Castle but have never been in to investigate the castle. I thought it was in private grounds but your report will encourage me to go and take a closer look! So if there's a sudden influx of folk going in there it will be down to you! :lol:
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby Sarah86 » Wed Jan 16, 2013 11:52 am

I can see the face :-) It is funny the things you spot if you look closely enough. This looks an interesting place to visit as I do enjoy old ruins, full of history and character.
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby ChrisW » Thu Jan 17, 2013 1:11 am

Another lovely ruin explored BP, its such a shame that there are so many of them. This actually looks like it could have been saved, and what a wonderful home it would have made. It really doesn't look like winter over there does it :crazy: If ever I win the lottery I'm going to buy one of these and restore it....maybe this very one :D
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby rachelle_kr » Thu Dec 05, 2013 10:18 pm

This is amazing thank you so much! I have been researching my family history and this was my great great great great great great grandfathers castle (Roderick Moir Mckenzie 6th) :) very cool. It is such a shame that it isn't getting the care that it should be.
I would love to visit one day
Thanks again Rachelle Richards
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Re: Redcastle, the forgotten place

Postby Sarahdw » Thu Apr 13, 2017 9:34 pm

I have visited this beautiful Redcastle twice. The last time was in July 2016. It has gotten even worse. I really wish this could have been saved. Search the scottish images link for some really good photos of it when it was more complete
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