Boyne Castle, fantastic ruin near Portsoy
Living in Moray I have visited many of the local castles, such as Duffus Castle, Balvenie Castle, Spynie Palace, and neighbouring Findlater Castle, but when I heard mention of Boyne Castle it piqued my interest. Why had I or any of my relatives never heard of this castle? Surely it must be quite an insignificant ruin to not be worthy of any local knowledge... wow was I wrong!?
While visiting my brother in Cullen, we had a free afternoon so decided to grab some lunch at The Royal Oak Hotel and then head over to try and find Boyne Castle. It does appear on Google maps but there are no road signs or any guidance to show you where to go.
Where is Boyne Castle?
The castle lies 1.5 miles east of Portsoy in Aberdeenshire, Banff lies further to the east. When leaving Portsoy head up the B9139, this is a small single-track road with passing places. You will come to a couple of very cool-looking houses in the middle of the forest, the road will cross over a tight bridge with walls crossing the Burn of Boyne. Just up the hill a short distance and on your left is a gated field with a small area for parking.
Parking at Boyne Castle
On our visit, the parking spot was already occupied by some youngsters in an old beat-up car... having a smoke - I think away from prying eyes! We found a parking spot further up the road and walked back to the gate. Feeling slightly wary of the car full of kids we walked up to the gate, only to be greeted by them and given directions to the castle... it just shows - don't judge a book by its cover.
There is a lightly trodden path through the field, there didn't seem to be any animals in the field, although we did have a slight panic at one point looking over at a pile of car tyres which at first glance looked a bit like a bull! After confirming it was not a dangerous animal we trudged onto the tree line to be met with a gate with a sign on it. The sign said there was a ruinous structure ahead and to be very careful. There is a deep gully plunging down to the left with the Burn of Boyne far below which winds down to the Boyne Bay.
We still couldn't see the castle at this stage but went a short distance ahead you suddenly it just appeared with parts of the castle poking through the overgrown weeds and tree line. Time to explore Boyne Castle!
The castle is extremely impressive and blew away my expectations. This was not a basic ruin of a simple castle, this was a significant structure, sadly reclaimed by nature.
There are large high walls, circular towers, underground vaults. Some of the areas are in great condition while others are completely ruined. There were even original wooden window lintels still used in the structure, the wood must be over 500 years old!
Entering the Castle
We gingerly made our way into the main courtyard area of the castle, creeping past shoulder-high nettles, weeds, and snails - the new overlords of the castle - they were everywhere!
Peering into the pitch black of the vaults we did the customary spooky noise sounds and tried to scare each other. I had the overwhelming feeling that I should have been wearing a hard hat while exploring the castle, there were large blocks of freshly fallen masonry all around. These vaults must have been used as kitchens and storerooms.
Emerging from the vaults, we took a walk around the perimeter of the castle, the north east side is in much better condition for some reason, with one of the corner towers almost completely intact. From there we backtracked and went up and into the upper level of the castle which was the main hall block. The ruin of Boyne Castle looks really impressive from here, you can see right through the interior of the castle. You can see where fireplaces were, where floors would have been, and old chimney stacks rise up high. It almost feels like the castle could fall in on you and gobble you up.
Looking out of the windows the walls seemed to be about 5ft thick.
Etched in time
In one of the towers, we found an area where people had signed their names over the last 100 years, the earliest one we could find was from 1928, but there was one that said 18-- but it was too hard to make out the final two digits.
Some of the towers look in danger of falling over, it's amazing they are still standing with huge columns of stone missing.
Built in the late 1500's Boyne Castle (sometimes called Boyne Palace) is a quadrangular castle built on a prominence above the Boyne Burn which surrounds three sides of the castle. The remaining side was protected by a dry moat that would have been around 60ft wide. Its location gives a supreme tactical advantage. The castle would have been accessed by a drawbridge/ walled causeway with twin turreted gatehouse.
At one point there were orchards and two walled gardens.
Sir George Ogilvy of Dunlugus is credited as the builder of the castle in around 1575. The castle was abandoned by 1723 and has languished in this decayed state ever since.
Boyne Castle left to ruin
I'm not sure why this castle is not maintained like the other well-known castles in Scotland. Is it due to a lack of funding? Boyne Castle could be a major tourist attraction if the castle was made safe and the grounds/dense vegetation were tidied up... I'm sure tourist contributions would make up a significant part of the cost to maintain the site. In some ways the Castle is more impressive than Duffus and Balvenie Castle's, both receive funding for maintenance... it's odd that Boyne Castle doesn't receive the same treatment. It would be a fantastic stop on the famous NE250 route. Scotland's history is dissolving before our eyes.
There is a large plaque mounted on the wall reading "Ancient Monuments Acts 1913 and 1931: Any person who injures or defaces this monument may be fined and ordered to pay the cost of repairs or be imprisoned"... so at one time the preservation of the castle was an ongoing concern.
If I ever won the Euromillions I think I would invest some money in preserving this castle and making it safe again for visitors.
Is Boyne Castle dangerous?
Yes, very dangerous - as amazing as the ruin of Boyne Castle is, I can't recommend that you visit due to the dangerous state it is in... as mentioned above fresh masonry and rubble lies all around the site and could easily kill if hit by one of the falling pieces. It would also be easy to fall down a hole or for the castle to subside while you explore it.
Where is the best place to park at Boyne Castle?
There is no ideal spot to park. Every place near the Castle is a bit of a "cheeky" parking spot that you shouldn't really stop at. There is a small amount of space near the gate where you pass to get to the castle but it's not really meant as a parking place and would block access to the field.
Do I walk down the quarry road?
No, this road is off limits and does not lead to Boyne Castle.
Can I wild camp at Boyne Castle?
It's possible to find a spot, but could be quite spooky at night! Don't camp in or near the Castle because of falling stones.
Despite our initial problems finding the Castle, and its very dangerous remnants, we really enjoyed exploring Boyne Castle and may return at some point to get more photos. Boyne Castle truly fits the definition of a hidden gem and "off the beaten track".