Auchindoun Castle

Written by Chris Thornton | 19th of April 2024
Auchindoun Castle

Spring had officially come to Scotland, and we had an entire weekend of sunshine and blue skies to head out for a family trip. I love exploring castles so this seemed like an ideal opportunity to visit a castle I had never been to... and drag the kids kicking and screaming off their mobile phones, computers and tablets to see some of their country's stunning history right on their doorstep.

Auchindoun (pronounced "ach in doon") was the castle of choice, I had never been there but had seen many great photos online... and is located just south east of Dufftown so it wasn't that far for us to drive there. We grabbed a picnic from The Deli Shop in Keith, where there are some superb sandwiches to be found.

There is actually very little about Auchindoun Castle online, and what is available doesn't give the best explanation on how to get there, so I made this trip my mission to document our visit so others can find it easier to get there and view this stunning fortification.

How to get to Auchindoun Castle

For some reason, Auchindoun Castle is marked as being near Keith, but on the map, it is much closer to Dufftown and Huntly to the east. Depending on where you are coming from to visit Auchindoun Castle, the best plan is to make for Dufftown first if you are coming from the west, north or east. However, if you are coming from the south along the A941, you do not need to go to Dufftown.

Assuming you are coming from the Dufftown direction, you need to head south along the A941. This is a single track road so be sure to observe the passing places and take your time.

Keep your eyes peeled for a left-hand turn, it is marked by a brown tourism sign labelled "Auchindoun Castle" with a blue castle logo. To the left of the road is also a sign outlining instructions to visitors.

Dirt track road to castle car park.

To be honest, this road is not great, it is basically a dirt track that has a camber to it which isn't ideal for cars with low suspension... something to keep in mind if you are visiting in a sports car!

Main signage for the castle / iron age hillfort.

Auchindoun Castle car park

Continuing up this track we found the new car park which had been recently built. It's fairly small but enough for maybe 5 cars, which seems ample for the number of visitors this castle receives, being a little off the beaten track. You will see the small car park on your right, it is signposted with the same green sign as at the beginning of the dirt track.

The carpark at Auchindoun Castle.

Onwards to Auchindoun!

From here there were two roads, we weren't sure which one to go down, but it is the road to the right that shares a border with the car park. Again this is a dirt track/farm road, but much more easily traversed on foot.

Follow this road to reach the castle.

The castle ruin itself is obscured by trees on the left, but as soon as you turn the corner and pass the trees you can see the beautiful vista of the castle, surrounding countryside and hills.

As I'm sure you'll agree it's a very picturesque castle and seems a shame that it might not get as many visitors as the more well-known castles in Moray and beyond.

Walking to the castle.

The road terminates at a lovely farm conversion home, and a signposted gate leads you to the main path to the castle which skirts around the farm. A series of gates give access to a path lined with old trees on the main lead up to the castle.

Gate access next to farm house.

Follow the path to reach the castle.

Main lead up to the castle.

We had really picked a fantastic day for a visit to the castle, the wild grass, and castle contrasting on the bright blue sky were a sight to behold. The River Fiddich cuts through the valley far below and heather-covered hills add to the grandeur of this stunning location.

The valley below the castle.

History of Auchindoun Castle

Auchindoun Castle is around 600 years old, built in the 15th century around 1470 and is an L-plan tower castle positioned on a hilly prominence. There is evidence of an existing prehistoric hill fort. You can see why this would have been a great place for a fortification given the 360 panoramic views of the surrounding valleys. It is currently in a ruinous state, but nevertheless an imposing structure and well worth a visit.

Looking up towards the castle.

Who built Auchindoun Castle?

The construction of Auchindoun is attributed to the Cochrane family, specifically Thomas Cochrane (Earl of Mar) a known favourite of King James III. Unfortunately, all of the decorative outer stones have been lost which would have given evidence to an accurate date of construction and by whom.

The story goes that Thomas Cochrane was a favourite Architect and master mason of King James III and he was granted the Earldom of Mar in 1479, this is why the construction of Auchindoun is linked to Thomas Cochrane, however, it's hard to prove any of these details firmly.

Supposedly Cochrane was hanged from Lauder Bridge by jealous nobles, but again proof of this is hard to find.

Panoramic views from the castle.

The Ogilvy family

The first proper mention of Auchindoun in history is in 1509 when Sir James Ogilvy granted "the mains of Auchindoun" to his nephew, Alexander Ogilvy.

Sir Adam Gordon

Come 1567 the castle was sold to Sir Adam Gordon, a Scottish Knight, brother of the Earl of Huntly, and Mary Queen of Scot's supporter. Sir Adam Gordon was infamous for massacring the Forbes family at Corgarff Castle in 1571 by burning all the occupants alive in the castle. The victims included Margaret Forbes and many women and children. Gordon gained the nickname - "the Herod of the North" after the biblical figure.

William Mackintosh attacked and burnt Auchindoun in retaliation for this heinous act. The castle was repaired and again the Ogilvy's became keepers of the castle.

The castle was granted to the Marquis of Huntly by Charles II in 1660, but by the 1720s it had become a derelict ruin.

During the first Jacobite uprising, the castle was used as a headquarters in 1689 by John Graham, 1st Viscount Dundee and his Jacobite army.

Some of the castle was "quarried" as easy pickings for new buildings in the area, but thankfully a great deal of it has survived. Some of the stone was used for the "new house" after nearby Balvenie Castle was no longer in fashion.

Up close to the castle.

Excavation in 1984

An archaeological dig took place in 1984 and uncovered a barrel-vaulted stone-lined chamber beneath the main cellar.

Auchindoun opens to the public

After a great deal of work by Historic Environment Scotland, the castle opened to visitors in 2007. There are many photos of this process on the Canmore website.

Cross section of the tower.

Design of Auchindoun Castle

Built upon the castle hill, there are some obvious signs of extensive earthworks. The building itself is a huge L-plan tower house protected by a large defensive curtain wall. Part of the tower has been lost to time but gives an interesting cross-sectional view of the interior.

The lower and upper levels have impressive vaulting or arches which is a testament to the skilled artisans of the time and sets this castle apart from others in the area.

Many outbuildings surrounded the structure including stables, a bakery, a guard room and a kitchen.

Lauren looking out to the wide open countryside.

What is the price of admission to Auchindoun Castle?

There is no fee to visit the castle, but why not give a donation to Historic Scotland which has done an excellent job of looking after the castle.

Looking in to the courtyard.

Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Scotland cares for the site and generally, it seems to have been maintained well with the grounds around the castle nicely kept. The addition of the new car park is welcome, I just hope they can also upgrade the road to access it.

The main tower.

The outer curtain wall.

Blocked off entrance to the castle.

Closed for maintenance

Please bear in mind when we visited the castle there were many warning signs placed around the lead up to the castle, including at the beginning of the farm road, the car park and all of the gates leading to the castle.

The signs warned not to go to the castle because of freshly fallen masonry. We decided to still visit the castle, but keep a respectful distance just in case, we did note there were large pieces of new rubble around the site. We witnessed tourists turn around and leave after reading the signs, so I hope they will expedite the process of reopening the castle.

So at the moment, I cannot recommend you visit Auchindoun Castle for safety reasons, but hopefully, Historic Environment Scotland will make the required repairs to make it safe again so visitors can visit this excellent monument. I will update this article when the castle is open to visitors again.

Upper levels from the air.

What else can I see near Auchindoun Castle?

Auchindoun Castle from the air

Overhead view of Auchindoun Castle.

Another overhead view of Auchindoun Castle.

The setting of Auchindoun from the air, showing man made earthworks.

Alternate view from the air showing the farm and car park in the middle of the trees.

Auchindoun Castle surrounded by desolate moors.


We loved our day trip to Auchindoun Castle, after a long cold winter it was a pleasure to get out into the Scottish countryside and visit this fantastic castle.  Auchindoun is comparatively in the middle of nowhere compared to castles nearer Edinburgh, but you will be rewarded for leaving the trodden path and exploring some of Scotland's more remote history.  Why not read more about castles in Moray?

Eager to continue our day we left to visit Balvenie Castle in Dufftown, where we also spotted some fine Highland Cows. We finished our day with a visit to Linn Falls in Aberlour, a really lovely walk, especially in these warm spring conditions.

Auchindoun Castle location | Google Street View

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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19th of June 2022 @ 11:21:31

Very interesting, I would love to visit,but my mobility limits me!