Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens

Written by Chris Thornton | 6th of December 2023
Ballindalloch Castle and gardens

Hot on the heels of our first stop at Craigellachie Bridge, food from the Spey Larder in Aberlour and a quick stop at Inveravon Pictish Stones, we arrived at Ballindalloch Castle and gardens. It was a warm sunny day, and my wife was keen to see the walled gardens; she had her Gardeners' World discount ticket in hand, ready to go!

We pulled off the A95 up the long straight towards the castle grounds. There is a small green ticket office/shed in the middle of the road where you can purchase tickets to gain access. We paid via debit card and were able to take advantage of the Gardeners' World coupon, saving £7 on the entrance free. Nice!

Ticket office
The green ticket shed!

The attendant will give you a lovely map which is a nice keepsake, and some long-winded directions to the car park, it sounds complicated, but we just followed the most obvious path and ended up in the correct place. For your interest, there is a fascinating ancient stone circle on your left just after the ticket office (more on this later).

Tickets and castle map.
The tickets and map of the castle grounds.

A dovecot (or doocot in Scotland) marks the beginning of the car park at the end of the long and winding road. We parked up and ate our sandwiches purchased at the Spey Larder; we noted a great children's playground and picnic area right next to the car park and thought it would be ideal for our kids if we came back to visit Ballindalloch Castle in the near future.

Carpark and doocot.
The main car park for the castle, doocot in the background.
Play park and car park.
Looking at the play park from the walk to the walled garden.

Ballindalloch Castle is visible from the car park and is a grand sight nestled within the magnificent Spey Valley. Known as the "Pearl of the North", it is a welcoming castle with much history like all Scottish castles. The castle's best view is on the south side, so don't worry if it hasn't won you over quite yet from the car park angle!

Lead up to Ballindalloch Castle.
Janette standing at the main path to Ballindalloch Castle.

It is considered one of Scotland's finest surviving examples of classic baronial castles.

The ticket attendant had advised us to park up and then head to the audio-visual film for a primer on the castle's history... my wife was more interested in the gardens, so we headed directly to the walled garden first!

Finely presented gardens.
Janette admiring the plants on the route to the walled garden.
Path to the walled garden.
Beautiful walk to the walled garden.

Walled Gardens Ballindalloch Castle

The path from the car park to the walled garden is very lovely, mature plants and trees line the path. Some of the trees here must be hundreds of years old, and the flowering rhododendrons are a sight to behold.

Walled Gardens Ballindalloch Castle
A good sized car park for visiting Inveravon Church.

Eventually, we arrived at the garden; its secrets were hidden from view by its large perimeter wall. Entering the gate, you are met with a lovely view of the gardens, including the waterfall at the very centre of the design.

Entrance gate.
The gated entrance to the walled garden.
Gate message.
Message on the gate.
Formal gardens and water fountain.
Water fountain at the center of the walled garden.
Rose garden not yet in bloom.
One of the many statues in the garden.
Garden archways.
Looking through the archways to the central fountain.
View of the gardens.
View of the gardens and mature forest.

As we made our way around the gardens, we were lucky enough to be approached by Clare Russell, the mother of the current owner of Ballindalloch Castle and the designer of the garden. She told us of her plans for the gardens and said her roses were late this year and had not yet bloomed. She was a nice lady and asked where we were from etc. it was a nice added extra for our visit to Ballindalloch Castle.

Rear view of the castle.
Rear view of the castle from the car park side.

Leaving the walled garden, we returned to the garden path and headed toward the castle. Passing under the tunnel of flowers, we arrived at Ballindalloch Castle. The short film was about to start so we decided to watch that first. It's a well-made film with great cinematography and tells you everything you would want to know about the castle and its owners, the Macpherson-Grant family.

Video suite.
Video suite with short informational video.

Rock Garden

Making our way out of the film suite, I wanted to head around to the main frontage of the castle... but again, Janette saw another pretty garden built into the hillside, so we went to look at that first!

Rock garden.
Rock garden built into the hillside.
Another photo of the gardens.
Beautiful multi-levelled garden.
Castle view from the hillside rock garden.
View of the castle from the hillside garden.

The main castle self-guided tour - A historic house

Walking into the main tower of the building, you are greeted by a lovely lady at a desk on your left. She will check your tickets at this stage and give you further information about your visit to the castle's interior.

View of the castle.
Another view of this fantastic castle.
Clan Macpherson ; Motto, Touch not the cat but a glove.
Clan Macpherson ; Motto, "Touch not the cat but a glove."

The Front Hall

The first room after the reception is full of interesting items, such as flintlock pistols and dirks on the wall and a beautiful grandfather clock that chimes on the hour. A navel dress sword adorns the mantelpiece, once owned by Sir Guy Russell (2nd Sea Lord and ADC to the queen from 1953 to 1955), the Laird's grandfather.

The Drawing Room

The next room we visited was the drawing room, beautifully decorated by the Laird's mother, Clare Russell. There are many items of interest here, including:

  • A portrait of General James Grant as a young boy.

  • A stunning brass and glass colza-oil hanging light.

  • A clock made in 1830 in the William IV style.

The Library

Following a spiral staircase, we arrived at the library, a room unchanged since the 1850s.

  • Sir John Macpherson Grant designed the library in 1850.

  • Two thousand five hundred books exist in the library and are recognised as one of Scotland's best country house libraries.

  • One of the Laird's favourite rooms in the castle, as seen in the informational video when arriving at the castle.

It was fascinating looking at all the old book titles on the shelves.

Lady Macpherson-Grant's Bedroom

The cherry wood four-poster bed dominates this beautiful room; there is even a little step to climb onto it! I would hate to fall out of it in the middle of the night.

The decor in this bedroom was completed in 1965 and had previously been Sir George Macpherson Grant's sitting room. The ceiling was lowered 2 ft and hid an ornately carved wooden one behind it.

Continuing on, we climbed to the highest room on the tour; there is a window that looks out onto the car park. Some rifles adorned the wall here, and information on James Grant's correspondence with George Washington during the American war of Independence.

Car park from the upper window.
View of the car park from the highest window on the tour.
Spiral staircase.
One of the spiral staircases, not for the faint hearted!

Many parts of the tour showcase items of family memorabilia, especially dealings with royalty. The tour loops back toward to entrance where you first came in. We didn't see the dining room, which is said to be haunted by a ghost known as the Green Lady. Maybe we missed it, or it is not part of the tour.

Tea Room & Gift shop

There is a bustling tea room and gift shop built into the castle. We didn't eat here as we were still full after eating our sandwiches from Spey Larder; I did note a selection of great cakes, though. Gifts-wise, there is an extensive collection of high-end items; we purchased two fridge magnets - this is something we always do now for each place we visit.

Tea room and gift shop.
Photo of the tea room and gift shop.
Fridge magnets.
Our souvenir fridge magnets!


The bathrooms are located in a separate wood-panelled building near the castle. They were very clean and had nice soaps.

Toilet block.
Very clean toilets at the castle.

Ballindalloch Castle history

The Macpherson Grants have lived at Ballindalloch since 1546, and they still use it as a family home to this day. Let's briefly look at 500 years of highland history at Ballindalloch Castle.

1498 - John Grant of Freuchie is given the lands of Ballindalloch and Glencairnie by King James IV.

1542 - The first Z plan castle was built. A legend says that the original location for the castle was in a better defensive position, but each time work began, the work from the previous day was destroyed. A mysterious voice bellowed out, "Build in the cow haughs, and you will meet with no interruptions." so the Laird did just that, and the castle stands today in the cow haughs... a good thing as it seems a much more picturesque place!

The castle was a family home and defensive fortification in a naturally defensible position between the rivers Avon and Spey.

1590 - A feud started between the Earl of Huntly and the Earl of Moray in the late sixteenth century.

1645 - The castle was restored after being sacked and burned by James Graham, the first Marquess of Montrose.

177o - General James Grant, famous for serving in the American War of Independence and acting as the governor of East Florida, added extensions to the castle for his french chef!

1878 - Extra extensions were added but removed by 1965.

Ballindalloch Castle.
Ballindalloch Castle

 Ballindalloch Castle near video show and tea room

Ballindalloch Distillery

On the south side of the Ballindalloch Estate lies Ballindalloch Distillery. The brainchild of Clare and Oliver Russell in 2011, a derelict steading dating from 1848, was converted into a state-of-the-art whisky distillery over the course of two years. A grant of £1.2 million was sourced from the Scottish Government

Skilled craftsmen from no further than 25 miles away were asked to do the majority of the work for this new endeavour. There are some excellent photos of the build process on their website.

Ballindalloch Distillery went into full production in September 2014.

Some fairly expensive tours are offered of the distillery costing from £75 to £195 per person depending on the selected tour... I think these tours do look a lot more in-depth into the whisky-making process, and some last an entire day, so the knowledge and experience probably would be worth the money if you are passionate about whisky.

Ballindalloch Distillery
Ballindalloch Distillery in late October. Photo by Jaimie Wilson.

Ballindalloch Estate

The wider estate of the castle offers other activities normally associated with a Highland estate, such as a Golf Course, shooting, fishing, farming, forestry, and property development, in addition to the distillery mentioned above. Two major rivers, the River Avon and River Spey, pass through the estate.

Bridge of Avon / Porter's Lodge

You can walk from the castle through the forest track to the Bridge of Avon - a 200-year-old bridge and gatehouse / Porter's Lodge. It is a fairly long walk but a great place for a photo. Please read more about Bridge of Avon in my dedicated article. It looks like there are some fantastic riverside walks here too if you are the adventurous type.

View from the walk to Porter's Lodge.
View of the castle from the walk to the Porter's Lodge.
Porter's Lodge.
Porter's Lodge, near the Bridge of Avon.

Ballindalloch stone circle and standing stones

Before leaving Ballindalloch Estate, I had to check out the stone circle and standing stone. It's not as grand as some of the other stone circles in Scotland but still impressive in its own right and gives off that same ethereal magic of other cairns and monoliths. I made sure to touch each stone, just in case it embued me with luck or special ability... I haven't won the lottery yet, so no help there!  Read more on the Marionburgh Cairn here.

Upper and lower Lagmore Stone Circles also exist on the south side of Ballindalloch Estate near the distillery.  Some distance to the south near Nethy Bridge is the ruined Castle Roy; definitely check it out if travelling the A95.

Chambered Cairn.
Chambered Cairn on the Ballindalloch Estate.

Who are the current owners of Ballindalloch Castle?

Guy and Victoria Macpherson-Grant and their three daughters are the current owners.

When is Ballindalloch Castle open?

Ballindalloch Castle and gardens are open between the summer months - 12th of April to 30th of September 2022, 10 am - 5 pm, with the last admission at 4 pm.

Can you stay at Ballindalloch Castle?

No, it is a private family home, but the nearby Delnashaugh Hotel exists on the estate.

When was Ballindalloch Castle built?

The first castle was built in 1542.


Ballindalloch Castle and Gardens was a great second stop on our trip around central Scotland for my 40th birthday. The castle and gardens are outstanding, the interior self-guided tour had much to see, and the cafe and gift shop was great. Ballindalloch is one of the best stops on the North East 250 route and one of the finest castles in Moray.

We continued our journey for my birthday trip a short distance south to Drumin Castle. By this time, the rain was threatening, but we soldiered on to explore this interesting hilltop ruin.

Ballindalloch Castle Location

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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