Castle myths and legends

Who doesn’t enjoy tales of mystery and intrigue? Add a castle and enter the realm of folklore. The Cairngorms National Park has an impressive number of castles, from standing ruins to lived-in residences.

Legends abound but when it comes to the past, what is fact and what is fiction?  Check out our selection of castle ‘stories’ and make up your own mind.

Loch an Eilein

Loch an Eilein is a well-loved attraction in Rothiemurchus (Aviemore) and, like most castles, it harbours an intriguing history.  The island, on which the castle sits, was separated from the shore when waters in a channel, used for floating felled timber down the Spey, rose and so obscured the causeway for ever.

Did you know?

-Some of the ruins date back to the 1380s when a fortified hunting lodge was built on the island by Robert the Bruce’s grandson, who was known as the ‘Wolf of Badenoch’*.

-The castle has been a place of shelter for centuries; in 1690 it was besieged by the Jacobites after the Battle of Cromdale and in 1745 it harboured fugitives after Culloden. More recently the island loch has protected osprey nests on the castle.

Loch an Eilein by Brian Partridge

Ruthven Barracks

The castle ruins that once stood on the site of Ruthven Barracks (Kingussie) was occupied in the 14th century by the ruthless ‘Wolf of Badenoch’ Alexander Stewart. * see Loch an Eilein                               

Did you know?

-In revenge for being excommunicated the ‘Wolf’ burned Elgin cathedral to the ground, ravaged the town with his army and so gained a reputation for brutality.

-Legend has it that Alexander played a game of chess with the devil – and lost! A mighty thunderstorm ensued and the following day the ‘Wolf’ is found with the nails of his boots torn from the leather.

Ruthven Barracks by Craig Cantwell

Castle Roy

The origins of Castle Roy (Nethy Bridge), one of Scotland’s oldest unchanged castles, now in ruins, go back to Norman times.

Did you know?

-There are tales of treasure hidden within the castle walls and a connecting secret passageway to the nearby Old Kirk. However, potential explorers would be at risk of plague, which is said to be hidden in the walls also.

Castle Roy courtesy of Castle Roy Trust

Ballindalloch Castle

Ballindalloch Castle lies just outside the boundary of the National Park. Once a fortress, the castle is today a stately family home, open to the public.

Did you know?

-Strange happenings surrounded the site of the castle. Several times the newly laid foundations on the hillside ended up as rubble in the river below. A night time vigil to solve the mystery resulted in the Laird, and the stonework, being blown off the hill by a powerful gust of wind while a fiendish voice declared that the castle should be built on the meadow by the Avon – which is where it sits today.

Ballindalloch Castle courtesy of

Blair Castle

Blair Castle (Blair Atholl) boasts a 700-year history. Recognised as the home of Scotland’s only private army, there is much for visitors to do and see in the castle and its extensive grounds.

Did you know?

-The castle’s power is generated by a hydro-electric system from the Edwardian period. It began operating in 1908 but was de-commissioned in 1951 after the arrival of the National Grid. Following refurbishment, it became fully operational in 2015.

-In the siege of 1746, the Duke’s own son, Lord George Murray fought with the Jacobites to capture the castle – his own home!

Blair Castle. Image: Paul Booth.

Corgarff Castle

Corgarff Castle (Strathdon) stands in a remote spot. Throughout its history the castle has been strategically important, guarding the quickest route from Deeside to Speyside. Its location ensured an eventful, tragic past.

Did you know?

-The castle is said to be haunted following an incident in the 16th century between the feuding Gordon and Forbes clans after 28 women, children and servants perished in a fire.

Corgarff Castle by Marty Davis

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