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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 now reclaimed by nature.
There are great walks along the Beauly Firth coast, and further up through Gallowhill Wood and Gallow Hill.
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".
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.
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 4 trustees who will not agree to split the property from the wider estate.
2000 - The local planners 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 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.
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.
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 Simpsons Garden Centre and the amazing Clava Cairns.