Boyne Castle, fantastic ruin near Portsoy

Written by Chris Thornton | 19th of March 2024
Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire | Castellated and domestic architecture

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 we 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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire | Sir George Ogilvie

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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

Directions to Boyne Castle.

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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

There is a lightly trodden path through the field, and 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 Boyne Bay.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

We still couldn't see the castle at this stage but went a short distance ahead, then suddenly it just appeared with parts of the castle poking through the overgrown weeds and tree line. Time to explore Boyne Castle!

Castle Boyne

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, and 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!

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

Emerging from the vaults, we took a walk around the perimeter of the castle; the northeast 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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

16th-century castle

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 a 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.

Destroyed eastern range of Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

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 of maintaining the site. In some ways, the Castle is more impressive than Duffus and Balvenie Castle; 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.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

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.

FAQs on Boyne Castle

Here are a few frequently asked questions about Boyne Castle.

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 it could be quite spooky at night! Don't camp in or near the Castle because of falling stones.

Is there a fee to enter Boyne Castle?

There is no entry fee to visit Boyne Castle, as it is an unstaffed historical site. Visitors are welcome to explore the ruins free of charge.

Are there any facilities or guided tours available at Boyne Castle?

There are no facilities or guided tours offered at Boyne Castle, as it is an unstaffed historical site. Visitors can explore the ruins independently, but it is recommended to conduct research or read about the history of the castle before visiting for a more informative experience.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

Key information on Boyne Castle

  • Located between Portsoy and Banff in Aberdeenshire, on the Moray Firth Coast in northeast Scotland.

  • The castle was built in the 1575s by the Ogilvy family.

  • A quadrangular castle with traces of a moat and a walled garden.

  • Very ruinous, unkept and frankly dangerous to visit.

  • Access the site via the farm gate southwest of the site. Do not follow the quarry road.

Boyne Castle near Portsoy, Aberdeenshire

Conclusion

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".

Why not check out Boyndie Visitor Centre or Macduff Aquarium after your visit?

Interested in more castles?  Please read my dedicated castles in Moray article.

Boyne Castle location map | Findlater Castle to the west.

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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Comments:


Sonia
16th of November 2023 @ 16:06:25

Hi Chris, thank you for this interesting article. I grew up nearby and descend from the Ogilvies. I tried to find it once but it was raining heavily and I gave up. Alexander Ogilvie 4th of Boyne is said to have built it for his wife, Mary Beaton (one of the 4 Marys, maids to Mary Queen of Scots) but he ran out of funds. They had 3 sons and I allegedly descend from the middle son, Andrew. When Mary died, he married Jean, Countess of Sutherland. An excellent book called Daughters of the North, is mainly about Jean but also describes Boyne Castle and the orchards. I may be brave enough to visit again and hopefully find it using your directions.

Caroline
27th of May 2023 @ 20:09:38

We are staying over in Portsoy and looking for places to visit. Thankyou so.much for sharing we will be visiting this site.

ChrisLBS
15th of May 2023 @ 15:35:26

That's a really interesting PDF Tom; thanks for sharing.

Tom Innes
15th of May 2023 @ 11:35:22

I came across this article (a nice read) when reading up on the Innes family history (the family held land within the Forest of Boyne through the centuries). I also found some useful information on the castle at Banffshire Field Club

Quarry worker
31st of March 2023 @ 09:35:54

I only found this gem as I worked in the quarry next door what a cracker of a fund just got to find time one night after work to get a closer look

Sallye S Smith
30th of July 2022 @ 20:32:40

This Castle was in my family 1500 ‘s … I would love to see it

lizlavery
12th of June 2022 @ 21:14:33

A fasinating ruin. We loved it.

ChrisLBS
9th of April 2022 @ 21:22:06

Hi Anna, thanks for your comment. I know what you mean, it's kind of nice to have a secret castle that not many people know about. Its dilapidated state does give it a whole extra ambience of its own. When I visited there was a great deal of wild garlic, I wonder if this was originally planted by the inhabitants of the castle.

Anna
9th of April 2022 @ 20:51:13

Thank you for this website! I've read it after visiting this castle but I enjoyed your article. I agree with all your comments however I wondered maybe it is good that the castle has not any maintenance funds - I know how it sounds - just because of one reason: not every tourist will respect the place the way it should be respected. We all know it - wondering off a path, littering around etc. That was my only concern. Anyway I've been lucky enough to survive the exploration but I am not sure I want to share my experience. The place is unique and it's a pity it will crumble away without any patronage.

dcaynes
18th of January 2022 @ 08:04:47

Hi, My Father told me recently that the British government offered this castle to my grandfather but proposed exorbitantly expensive upkeep bills, so he had to turn it down. Not completely sure if this is true, but as you say Boyne Castle is a little known mystery so perhaps it is true. Cheers, D. Charles Caynes

ChrisLBS
20th of January 2022 @ 23:27:49

That's very interesting Dcaynes, it would take a great deal of money to refurbish this castle. Making it safe as a tourist attraction would be quite lucrative I think though. Many thanks for your comment.