Redcastle Inverness

Written by Chris Thornton | 6th of December 2023
The beautiful Red Castle on the Black Isle.

Continuing on our trip north of Inverness, my wife and I decided to visit Redcastle. I discovered this castle from a Facebook group - people were showing this amazing red-coloured ruined castle, along with photos of what it looked like before it reached this terrible state.

As you will probably realise from my obsession with castles in Scotland, this castle piqued my interest - there was something special about this castle, and it definitely struck a note with me from the first time I saw the pictures. I just had to visit.

Getting to Redcastle

Travelling on the A9, we turned off onto the A832 to Muir of Ord. Just after Fettes Sawmill, you will see a left turn along a single-track road (with worryingly few passing places) to Redcastle.

Google Maps does not actually take you to the castle; it seems only accessible by walking a short distance to it. I had already looked on Google street view for places to park and found a lovely spot on the corner overlooking the Beauly Firth... the plan worked perfectly, and we pulled up at the small picnic spot.

Parking near Redcastle
A very picturesque area to park looking out to the Beauly Firth.

Milton of Redcastle

It's difficult to put into words how peaceful this area of The Black Isle is; it's hard to believe it's just 20 minutes or so from the biggest city in the Highlands. The locals obviously take great pride in keeping this area neat and tidy; there are nice features to be found along this route, from the red telephone box, flower boxes, and what might be an old millstone with Redcastle engraved on it. There was even a crate of apples for visitors to help themselves.

Milton of Redcastle

Millstone?

Walking through the small hamlet, we made our way up to the entrance to the Redcastle grounds. There is a nice house here which I'm guessing was linked to the castle at some point, maybe for a groundskeeper or other staff.

Pretty house at the entrance to Redcastle.
Pretty house at the entrance to Redcastle.

The road to Redcastle

Bridge crossing Redcastle Burn

Final lead up to Redcastle

Passing this house, there is a long wide arcing road that leads to the right. This must have been a grand lead-up to the castle at one time. There are some enormous old trees on either side of the road that must be hundreds of years old.

Following to the right, you come to a small bridge over the babbling Redcastle Burn. Passing on past the bridge, you come to a small incline taking you up to the main frontal view of the castle.

The main south view of Redcastle | castellated and domestic architecture

Redcastle

The ruin just suddenly appears as we emerged from the forest path and arrived at an open, well-maintained castle grounds with short grass and stones to mark the perimeter of the path. The castle is built with a striking red sandstone, and it contrasts greatly with the greenery around it and sadly growing through it. Could this be the same red sandstone as Inverness Castle?

We spent some time soaking in the vista before us, noting the chimneys rising from the missing roof, a large crack down the wall of the east side and the acute angle of one of the walls to the west side.

Redcastle detail

Although the building has castle-like features, it is more akin to a large manor house, especially on the north side. Until the 1950s, the house was one of the oldest habitations in Scotland. The building looks to have 3-stories in an L shape configuration. The square and circular towers really add to the interest of this castle.

Unfortunately, this south elevation is the only view of the castle that can be seen from publically accessible areas; a large fence surrounds the castle to protect visitors from falling masonry. We had a good look around, but it seemed like there was no way to access the castle, and the fence is high and topped with barbed wire.

Redcastle detail

There is an information board, many of the photos are bleached with the sun, but it gives some more information on this wonderful ruin and even shows a picture of how it looked in better days.

It's a pity more can't be seen through the dense vegetation. Looking on the Canmore website, they have many old photos showing the north side of the building; it would be great to be able to see it in person... maybe a visit in winter would reveal more.

Redcastle Gardens
Walking down to Redcastle Gardens.

Redcastle Gardens

We followed the well-trodden path down to the overgrown gardens. There is a large perimeter wall that seems to outline the site of the castle and gardens. You really get the feeling that this was once a lovingly maintained garden is now reclaimed by nature.

There are great walks along the Beauly Firth coast and further up through Gallowhill Wood and Gallow Hill.

Redcastle Gardens
View of the castle from the bottom of the garden path. Also part of the fence to stop unauthorised access.

The history of Redcastle

1179 - The first castle, known as Edirdovar/Ederdour/Eddyrdor was built by David, Earl of Huntingdon, brother of William the Lion.

1230 - Redcastle belonged to Sir John Bysset.

1278 - Sir Andrew de Besco now owns the castle.

1455 - The crown annexes the Black Isle.

1492 - The castle is now owned by Kenneth Mackenzie, 7th of Kintail and remains with Clan Mackenzie for the next 300 years.

1562 - Mary Queen of Scots visits the castle.

1570 - Castle granted to the Mackenzies of Kintail.

1641 - The current "elongated L-plan" incarnation of the castle was built by Rory Mackenzie as his own new strong house, a date stone marks this on the east gable - "R.M 1641".

Redcastle floor plan showing large central apartment

1649 - The castle was attacked by covenanters, besieged and burnt, but was repaired fairly quickly afterwards.

1790 - The Mackenzies sell Redcastle to Grant of Shewgie, who renovated the property and grounds, deftly reselling it for six or seven times the amount they paid for it.

1824 - Bought by Sir William Fettes.

1838 - The estate is purchased by Colonel H.D. Bailie. Architect William Burn was contracted to remodel and add to the structure to make it a more comfortable house; this included new stairways and enlargement of existing windows.

1885 - The estate eventually passes to Lord Burton of Dochfour.

1940s - The castle was requisitioned by the RAF in World War 2 and by the 1950s, vacated and stripped of assets.

Modern times

1986 - As reported by the Highland News, the building is now considered a derelict and roofless shell.

1991 - Highland Council tries to push for the castle to be made available to tender from restorers. The roof and internal structure have collapsed by this time. The Dochfour estate is managed by four trustees who will not agree to split the property from the wider estate.

2000 - The local planner's report states the Dochfour Estate will still not entertain the sale of the property despite having explored restoration options with American investors.

2005 - The house is in the ownership of Burton Property Trust. A fence is erected to protect visitors from the dangerous building.

2012- An external inspection of the house remains finds it in a dilapidated state with large cracks visible in the stonework.

2013 - The adjacent wood has reclaimed the building with trees growing inside and entire trunks protruding from windows.

Rebuilding Redcastle - amazing potential

Oh, to win the Euromillions and have the money available to save a castle like this. It would have unbelievable potential as a private home, hotel, fancy B&B or wedding venue. The location is just fantastic, with views out to the Beauly Firth, over its own expansive garden with Redcastle burn cutting through it; truly, it is idyllic.  Finished off with a couple of Highland cows, it would be a jaw-dropping destination for tourists.

Redcastle overlooking Beauly Firth

Being so close to Inverness gives it excellent transport links and access to modern conveniences. All the benefits of a big city but far enough away to enjoy its own peaceful surroundings.

Unfortunately, it seems that offers on the property have been turned down over the years. It seems like such a crime to just leave this building to rack and ruin when offers have been made to save it... I almost feel these old buildings should be open to compulsory purchase orders if a fair offer is made on it - especially with a good plan in place to tastefully save them.

Redcastle could easily be turned into a big tourist attraction, in line with great castles like Dunrobin and Ballindalloch. Limitless potential.

If the owners of Redcastle leave it much longer, there won't be a Castle left at all; the damage seems worse now than photos from a previous site visit I've seen online.

Landscape around Redcastle
East view from the castle showing stunning landscapes.
Farm and stables
Looking over to the farm and stables from Redcastle.

Video of Redcastle

Here is a short video clip of our visit to Redcastle.

FAQs on Red Castle Inverness

Where is the best place to park while visiting Redcastle near Inverness?

This small parking area near the castle is the best place to park. Access the castle grounds by retracing your steps up to this point.

Is Redcastle accessible to explore?

No, the castle itself is a dangerous ruin and should not be entered. The castle has a fence surrounding it; as tempting as it is to jump over, I wouldn't risk it. You can get fairly close to the castle to get a good look at it, and the grounds are lovely.

Are there toilets are Redcastle?

There are no facilities at all at Redcastle; it is an abandoned ruin.

Is there an entrance fee for Redcastle?

No, the site is completely ruinous; there is no visitor centre, toilets or any other facilities.

Is Redcastle suitable for disabled visitors?

Not really, as the paths can be fairly muddy. If you have a wheelchair that can cope with poor paths, the route is actually fairly flat until you get to the castle itself. There is a short incline to get to the frontal view.

Is Redcastle suitable for children and families?

Yes, it's a short easy walk to the castle, and everyone can get a good view of the castle from the main viewpoint. There is a large grassy area which seems well maintained, ideal for families to play or have a picnic. Just ensure your children don't enter the fenced-off area, as the ruin is very dangerous.

Can I take a guided tour of Redcastle?

There are no official guided tours of Redcastle. However, you may find local guides in the area who can provide historical context and share stories about the castle. Alternatively, you can research the history of the castle prior to your visit and view the ruins at your own pace.

Where can I visit after Redcastle?

I would consider travelling further to Beauly, it's a lovely little town, and you can explore the amazing ruin of Beauly Priory. Inverness has a great deal to offer; I highly recommend the Botanic Gardens and the Ness Islands Walk to the town centre.

Key information on Redcastle near Inverness

  • Redcastle is located on the north shore of the Beauly Firth, just south of Fettes Sawmill.

  • There is a small parking area looking out onto the Beauly Firth.

  • The first castle was built in 1179.

  • Redcastle was significantly rebuilt in 1641.

  • A "modern" extension was added in 1838.

  • The castle is significantly ruined today.

  • There is no entry fee, visitor centre, cafe or toilets.

Conclusion

We left the tranquillity of Redcastle, amazed at what we had seen but a little sad that nothing was planned for this fantastic site. Hopefully, Highland Council will continue to push the current owners to sell the house. Billionaires, if you are reading this, make them an offer they can't refuse and restore Redcastle to its former glory!

A trip to Rogie Falls and Redcastle would make for a great day out while visiting Inverness.

We continued on our journey back south to check out Beauly Priory, Simpsons Garden Centre and the amazing Clava Cairns.  The Fairy Glen Falls walk is well worth your time while in the Black Isle area.

Redcastle 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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Comments:


Alan O'Brien
3rd of March 2024 @ 17:17:09

We cycled out from Inverness to visit Redcastle today and the ruin has had a considerable facelift. The ugly fence restricting access has been removed and replaced with metal gates on all accessible doors and windows so you can now look inside. All the overgrown vegetation around the building has been removed, stone walls repaired and the gardens below the castle tidied up. The whole area now looks much better but no sign of any actual restoration yet.

Regan Walker
26th of September 2023 @ 19:59:47

Great blog post! I learned about Redcastle while doing research for my next novel, Born to Trouble, about Alexander of Islay, Lord of the Isles and Earl of Ross. His son, Celestine Macdonald, was Sheriff of Inverness in 1461 and keeper of Redcastle from 1457-60. Regan ReganWalkerAuthor.com

Carol Hart
15th of June 2023 @ 10:51:17

We visit Redcastle quite frequently as we live in Inverness. I always feel at peace there for some reason. Lat time we visited (a few weeks ago), there seemed to be building work going on. Not sure if it's just to make it a bit safer, but wouldn't it be great if they were starting to restore it?

David Munro
8th of November 2022 @ 02:34:37

We have traced our 4th great grandfather Alexander Munro son of Alexander Munro and Ann Urquhart of 1770 and their son Alexander Munro who was listed as the gardener of Red Castle 1790 on his marriage to Anne Mac Kenzie.

Margie Jacobs
24th of June 2022 @ 18:05:56

My mother had MacKenzies way back in her family, and Jane MacKenzie was my 4th gr-grandmother. I was so interested to know about Redcastle. Thank you. I hope to visit in the near future, and it would be great to see the Graham family restore it to it's original beauty.

ChrisLBS
9th of April 2022 @ 12:06:20

Hi Mandie, It is indeed a fantastic castle, the location alone makes it special. When the gardens were developed and the castle was in its hay day, it must have been something quite amazing. That's great you were able to go inside, it was all fenced off when I visited, I would have loved to explore a bit more. I'm hoping a billionaire will read this article and bring it back to its full glory!

Mandie Murray
9th of April 2022 @ 12:00:42

Thank you for your article. I loved learning about the history of this castle. Despite being brought up near it, I never knew it's history. It is indeed sad that it has been left to rot. I was brought up on the Black Isle and often visited the castle. We were able to go inside it back then and there was something very magical about it. You could feel the history of the place. Wouldn't it be great to see this magnificent castle brought back to life.

ChrisLBS
24th of March 2022 @ 08:25:58

Hi Shirley, That's super interesting. It is an absolutely stunning castle and a real travesty the condition it is languishing in now. I don't think I've ever seen another property with so much potential. Many thanks for your comment.

Shirley Mackenzie
24th of March 2022 @ 01:37:25

My 7th great grandmother was Isabella MacKenzie b1699. I believe she lived at Redcastle. Her father was Roderick MacKenzie. Seems a huge shame to see such a landmark fall to ruin, while there is so much potential for this glorious place to not only teach its viewers something of Scotland's history, but show off its incredible beauty and architecture.