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29 October 2014
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Red Castle
Red Castle
As we walk along the sands at Lunan the eye is drawn to the brooding ruin on the hill overlooking the beach. This is the famous Red Castle, a former Royal pleasure palace and now serving only as a place to indulge in some birdwatching.

Red Castle was built on the orders of King William the Lion in the late 12th Century as a fortress to repel the sort of Viking invaders who had ravaged the bay in the preceding century. However, it seems to have become something more of a Xanadu to William who used it during his later reign as one of his favourite hunting lodges.

In 1194, William conferred the castle and the land surrounding the village of Inverkeilor to Walter de Berkely, the Royal Chamberlain. It passed back in to royal hands thereafter, until in 1328 Robert the Bruce gave the castle to the Earl of Ross. By this time it had been officially called "rubeum castrum", or Red Castle in deeds of 1286, referring to the red sandstone from which it is built.

Red Castle
Red Castle

The Castle remained a prominent feature of the area until the era of civil strife during the early reign of James VI. After surviving the Reformation, despite being owned at that time by the hugely unpopular Cardinal David Beaton, its downfall came in 1579, when a son of Lord Gray burned and sacked the castle after a period of siege.

The dispute arose after James Gray had married the older owner of the castle, Lady Elizabeth Beaton and proceeded to fall in love with her daughter. Lady Beaton threw him out of the castle whereupon James Gray enlisted the help of his brother Andrew of Dunninald and the Grays spent the next two years laying siege to, and burning the castle.

From then on the castle went in to irrevocable decline, and, although it remained partially roofed until 1770 it had ceased to be a seat of importance. Its last inhabitant was the locale minister of Inverkeilor, the Rev James Rait.

Nowadays, with the castle in a state of some disrepair, it is best viewed from a distance for the varieties of birds which use it for nesting.


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