Visit the ruin of Findlater Castle on the Moray Firth Coast
Findlater Castle is located on a 50 foot (15 metres)-high cliff overlooking the Moray Firth on the coast of Banff and Buchan, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The Castle is extremely ruinous and perched on a rocky outcrop attached to the mainland by a thin access point at the cliff top. The name "Findlater" may originate from the Gaelic term "Fionn Leiter" meaning white cliff.
Sheer cliffs surround the site of the Findlater Castle making it an extremely defensible position. The castle was only accessible by a drawbridge which could be withdrawn if the castle was under siege. Findlater Castle would be impossible to attack from any of the remaining three sides due to the near-vertical cliffs. It is a fantastic spot for a castle and must have been some feat of engineering in its day.
History of Findlater Castle
There is evidence that an early castle at Findlater has existing since the 1200s however the current ruin dates from the 1300s. There is a reference to Findlater in the 1246 Exchequer Rolls. The castle was strengthened by Alexander III in the 1260s in anticipation of an attack by King Haakon IV of Norway. The current castle was built in the same style as Roslin/Roslyn castle in Midlothian and therefore is likely to have been built by Sir John Sinclair.
In 1455 James II ordered Sir Walter Ogilvy of Auchlevin a license to fortify the existing castle at Findlater even more.
The Castle has a substantial political history with Mary Queen of Scots in the 1560s. Sir Alexander Ogilvie granted Findlater to Sir John Gordon, and not to his son James Ogilvie. Enraged, James used his influence with Mary Queen of Scots to instigate a visit to the castle, but her entry was refused. Mary's forces attacked the castle but were repelled by Gordon... but he was captured a short time later at the Battle of Corrichie. John Gordon was beheaded and Findlater was given to Sir James Ogilvie. Sounds very Game of Thrones!
As time passed Findlater Castle became too old fashioned (and probably cold!), and by the 1650s was abandoned by the Ogilvie family in favor of a new residence - now the site of Cullen House, in Cullen.
In a field near the castle is a beehive style doocot that was restored in 1992. Doocot is the Scottish equivalent for "Dovecote" with a pigeon being called a "Doo". The birds would nest in one of the 700 nesting boxes. The Doocot would have provided food all year round for Findlater Castle in the final century of its inhabitation.
Castle Ruins of Findlater Castle
Unfortunately, time has not been kind to Findlater Castle, and there doesn't seem to have been any support given to the castle to maintain it like other more popular castles in Scotland. It's a real pity as even photographs from 100 years ago show serious degradation in the castle's structure, with masonry erosion and collapsed sections. The original access point with a drawbridge along the narrow isthmus no longer exists.
I feel bad that future generations may miss out on the mystique and grandeur of Castle Findlater, our history is literally slipping into the sea and lost forever.
The ruins of Findlater Castle can be explored at your own risk but there is always the fear that the castle could slip down the cliff into the sea, or the lower rooms could collapse, it really does look that unstable.
For those less brave, you can walk down the cliffside path - which is fairly steep - but you can walk down to the beach at the west side of the castle.
How do I get to Findlater Castle?
Castle Findlater is located on the Aberdeenshire coast between the settlements of Cullen (to the west) and Sandend, and Portsoy further to the east. You can walk from Cullen to Findlater along a fantastic coastal route through Sunnyside Beach (which would also be a great wild camping spot).
If visiting by car you would travel along the A98 from West or East, it is well signposted with brown tourist signs. There is a small car parking area near Barnyards of Findlater and a grassed path between fields that leads to the information board on the castle. Again the path near the castle and the castle itself could be dangerous so approach at your own risk.
Where can I eat after Findlater Castle?
Cullen is ideally situated to grab a bite to eat after your visit to Findlater Castle. Rockpool Cafe is fantastic but might require booking first due to its popularity. There is also a Fish & Chips takeaway and an excellent ice cream shop on Seafield street.
Banff Springs Hotel further to the east in Banff has really great food.
What wildlife can I see at Findlater Castle?
It is possible to see a wide variety of wild life at Findlater Castle on it's coastal prominence. Dolphins, seals and Orca have been seen here in the past, but there is also a wide variety of birds.
A visit to Findlater Castle makes for a great day out, even better with a walk along the stunning Moray coast, a picnic, or a camp on the beach. Just approach with extreme care, it is a very ruinous castle and not well maintained.