Grant Castles

Castle Grant

To take a tour of the Castle, click on the links below. Castle Grant is located at Grantown-on-Spey in the Strathspey Region in the Highlands of Scotland.


Map of Grant lands in Strathspey

Map of Grant lands in Strathspey




Castle Grant is the ancient, ancestral seat of the Chiefs of the Grant Clan. There was an original fortification called “Ballachastell” meaning “Castle of the Pass” which was located about .25 miles south-east of the present castle, but the present location is on a slight rise called “Freuchie-hillock”.

Castle Grant was originally called “Freuchie”, which means “Heathery Place”, and the Chiefs of Grant were styled “of Freuchie” (“Grant of Freuchie”) from roughly the late 15th century through the early 17th century. In the late 15th century the lands and Castle became part of the barony of Freuchie. Then, in 1694, by act of William and Mary of England, the lands and baronetcy of Freuchie were erected into the regality “of Grant”. From that point the castle was renamed “Castle Grant” and the Chiefs were styled “of Grant” (“Grant of Grant” instead of “Grant of Freuchie”).

According to “Castles of Scotland”, the original building was a Z-shaped tower house, typical of many that exist in Scotland from the same period, and it dates from probably around the 15th century. The castle has had a number of additions added over the years, with the largest expansion taking place in the 1750’s. This latter expansion enclosed the main building, and attached the two outer buildings to the south, creating “wings” on the south side which now enclose the courtyard. The castle has stayed roughly the same since that period. Originally a Comyn stronghold, Clan traditions tell us that the castle was taken from the Comyns by a combined force of the Grants and the MacGregors.

The Castle sits on a little hill about 1.5 miles north of Grantown-On-Spey, in Moray. It contains dozens of rooms, one of which is a massive dining hall. While the south face of the Castle with its two extended wings protruding from it, and its large stone staircase and courtyard, make it appear to be the “front” of the castle (the side it is most often photographed from), it is actually the back! The main door in the courtyard, which looks like the front door, actually leads from the back down a long hall to the front of the castle.

From the north side, the Castle appears rather plain and unassuming, its north face consisting of a large, flat, four story stone facade that Queen Victoria rather unflatteringly described as “looking like a factory” in her journal, when she saw the Castle on her tour of the Highlands. Upon viewing the Castle from the north side, first hand, a viewer may find Victoria is not far off. The main doors on the north side are not the massive, wooden, double-doored affairs one would imagine should exist on such a magnificent structure – instead they are a small, black, set of double iron doors that seem very out of place as the main entrance to such an otherwise grand residence. It’s easy to see why it is often confused as being the back door!

Although the Castle’s north face does appear very plain there is also a very good reason for this. When “The Good Sir James” Grant (Chief from 1773-1811) set about his plans to build the town that would become “Grantown-on-Spey”, there were no masons of sufficient skill to be employed in Strathspey. Sir James set up a training school for local men at Castle Grant and the modern appearance of the north face of Castle Grant is the result.

The Castle was the centre of all clan activity, as it was the primary residence of the Chief of Grant. Here the Chief dealt with various clan matters, dealt out justice, resolved disputes, and gave grand parties on festive occasions. ​

Ballindalloch Castle 

“The Pearl of the North” McPherson-Grant

15th and 16th Centuries
Situated on the banks of the River Avon, a short distance from its junction with the River Spey, Ballindalloch Castle has been the home of the Macpherson-Grant family since it was finished in 1546.

However, the lands of Ballindalloch and Glencairnie had been granted to John Grant of Freuchie by King James IV in 1498, though his grandfather is described as ‘Crown Tacksman of Ballindalloch’ in 1457. In turn, it was John’s grandson, also named John Grant, who began building the castle around 1542.
Constructed at a time when the Highlands were rife with clan feuds and prey to the avarice of monarchs, both English and Scottish, Ballindalloch Castle was once a fortress as well as a family home. The original castle was formed in the shape of a ‘Z’ plan, with the living quarters, a three-storey square block of stone, flanked to north and south by two high circular towers, each protecting two sides of the rectangle. The Rivers Spey and Avon formed a natural moat to north and west, and the entrance to the castle was guarded by an apparatus designed to drop stones and sewage upon unwanted visitors.

It has puzzled observers ever since that John Grant did not build his castle upon the high grounds slightly to the east. If there is a strategic or geographical explanation then it is lost. All we have is a legend. John Grant ordered his stone masons to construct a castle upon the hill, but more than once a new dawn would find the foundations turned to rubble and lying across the bed of the River Avon. Eventually John Grant determined to keep a night time vigil upon his fledgling castle, only to find himself and his stonework swept off the hill by a mighty gust of wind sweeping down from the rocky tors of Ben Rinnes, accompanied by a demonic voice imploring him to build his castle “on the coo haugh”. So it was that Ballindalloch Castle came to be sited upon the ‘cows’ meadow’ running alongside the banks of the River Avon.

Urquhart Castle

Urqhuart sits beside Loch Ness in the Highlands of Scotland. The castle is on the A82 road, 21 kilometres (13 mi) south-west of Inverness and 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) east of the village of Drumnadrochit.

The present ruins date from the 13th to the 16th centuries, though built on the site of an early medieval fortification. Founded in the 13th century, Urquhart played a role in the Wars of Scottish Independence in the 14th century. It was subsequently held as a royal castle, and was raided on several occasions by the MacDonald Earls of Ross. The castle was granted to the Clan Grant in 1509, though conflict with the MacDonalds continued. Despite a series of further raids the castle was strengthened, only to be largely abandoned by the middle of the 17th century. Urquhart was partially destroyed in 1692 to prevent its use by Jacobite forces, and subsequently decayed. In the 20th century it was placed in state care as a scheduled monument and opened to the public: it is now one of the most-visited castles in Scotland.

The castle, situated on a headland overlooking Loch Ness, is one of the largest in Scotland in area.

It was approached from the west and defended by a ditch and drawbridge. The buildings of the castle were laid out around two main enclosures on the shore. The northern enclosure or Nether Bailey includes most of the more intact structures, including the gatehouse, and the five-story Grant Tower at the north end of the castle. The southern enclosure or Upper Bailey, sited on higher ground, comprises the scant remains of earlier buildings. 

The Grant’s tenure

Huntly brought in Sir Duncan Grant of Freuchie to restore order to the area around Urquhart Castle. His son John Grant of Freuchie (d.1538) was given a five-year lease of the Glen Urquhart estate in 1502. In 1509, Urquhart Castle, along with the estates of Glen Urquhart and Glenmoriston, was granted by James IV to John Grant in perpetuity, on condition that he repair and rebuild the castle.

The Grants maintained their ownership of the castle until 1512, although the raids from the west continued. In 1513, following the disaster of Flodden, Sir Donald MacDonald of Lochalsh attempted to gain from the disarray in Scotland by claiming the Lordship of the Isles and occupying Urquhart Castle.

Grant regained the castle before 1517, but not before the MacDonalds had driven off 300 cattle and 1,000 sheep, as well as looting the castle of provisions.  Grant unsuccessfully attempted to claim damages from MacDonald. James Grant of Freuchie (d.1553) succeeded his father, and in 1544 became involved with Huntly and Clan Fraser in a feud with the Macdonalds of Clanranald, which culminated in the Battle of the Shirts. In retaliation, the MacDonalds and their allies the Camerons attacked and captured Urquhart in 1545. Known as the “Great Raid”, this time the MacDonalds succeeded in taking 2,000 cattle, as well as hundreds of other animals, and stripped the castle of its furniture, cannon, and even the gates. Grant regained the castle, and was also awarded Cameron lands as recompense.

The Great Raid proved to be the last raid. In 1527, the historian Hector Boece wrote of the “rewinous wallis” of Urquhart, but by the close of the 16th century Urquhart had been rebuilt by the Grants, now a powerful force in the Highlands. Repairs and remodelling continued as late as 1623, although the castle was no longer a favoured residence.

In 1644 a mob of Covenanters (Presbyterian agitators) broke into the castle when Lady Mary Grant was staying, robbing her and turning her out for her adherence to Episcopalianism. An inventory taken in 1647 shows the castle virtually empty.  When Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland in 1650, he disregarded Urquhart in favour of building forts at either end of the Great Glen.

When James VII was deposed in the Revolution of 1688, Ludovic Grant of Freuchie sided with William of Orange and garrisoned the castle with 200 of his own soldiers. Though lacking weapons they were well-provisioned and, when a force of 500 Jacobites (supporters of the exiled James) laid siege, the garrison were able to hold out until after the defeat of the main Jacobite force at Cromdale in May 1690. When the soldiers finally left they blew up the gatehouse to prevent reoccupation of the castle by the Jacobites. Large blocks of collapsed masonry are still visible beside the remains of the gatehouse. Parliament ordered £2,000 compensation to be paid to Grant, but no repairs were undertaken. Subsequent plundering of the stonework and other materials for re-use by locals further reduced the ruins, and the Grant Tower partially collapsed following a storm in 1715

Churches in Grant Country

The US Society have identified a number of beautiful churches located in ‘Grant Country’ following the link