Auchindoun Castle

Hi friends,

What’s new in your corner of the world? It’s hard to believe that a week ago yesterday I was sitting on a crappy, cramped Boeing 757, heading home from two amazing weeks in Scotland. Why we humans consent to getting into a metal tube that shoots us through the air at 500 miles per hour and at some 34,000 feet above the ground is beyond me. Ohhhh, I know why. It’s because our love for the people and places that await us far outweigh any of the risks. And for Scotland (in the words of Adele), I’m willing to take the risk.

Today I would like to share with you one of my favorites castles on my ever expanding list. This is Auchindoun, a 15th century treasure that lies near Dufftown, in Moray.

I have told you before that I love all castles. Never let a castle go to waste, I say! But I have an extra special affinity for the lonely, romantic ruins that time has all but forgotten. Thankfully Auchindoun isn’t entirely forsaken, as it is looked after by Historic Environment Scotland. I’d wager, though, that only a tiny number of tourists ever find their way to this treasure and I have a hunch that many Scots aren’t familiar with it either. It feels like a secret that I was lucky enough to learn. And now you know it too.

Are you ready to explore? You’ll need a good pair of comfy, weather resistant walking shoes. It is quite a hike from where you park at the end of the road and you may have the feeling you are trespassing on a farmer’s land. It’s okay, you’re not. Trust, me, friend. The view from the hill that the castle sits upon is worth every single step you’ll take.

On the walk to the castle.
One of the friends you’ll pass along the way.
It’s very likely that you’ll find yourself all alone at Auchindoun. Just you, the breathtaking scenery, and the spirits of lives past.
Take a picnic and breathe in the moment.

Perched on a hillside and overlooking the River Fiddich*, Auchindoun’s history reaches all the way back to the fifteenth century. Some sources indicate the castle was built for John, Earl of Mar and then passed to Thomas Cochrane, a master mason and favorite of King James III. It appears likely that the castle was built by Thomas. Whether Thomas built it for John or for himself, though, is unclear.

By the early 1500’s, Auchindoun was in the possession of the Ogilvy family. It was later was passed to the Gordon’s (who were related to the Earl of Huntly*).

Now this, friends, is where things get interesting! In 1571, as a result of a feud with the Forbes family, Adam Gordon of Auchindoun ordered the attack by his men of nearby Corgarff Castle. Margaret, the wife of the Master of Forbes, would not surrender and the men set fire to Corgarff, killing her and the two+ dozen individuals that were inside.

Corgarff Castle as it looks today.

It is said that in retaliation for the destruction of Corgarff and its occupants, the Mackintoshes returned the favor by torching Auchindoun and that the leader of the raid – William Mackintosh – was punished with a beheading by the Countess of Huntly’s cook! These events were immortalized in the old Scottish folk song “The Burning of Auchindoun” (see lyrics below).

But because history can be biased and often tends to get skewed through centuries of retelling, it is difficult for historians to know exactly what the circumstances were behind the attack on Auchindoun. In fact, Martin Coventry, author of the fabulous tome The Castles of Scotland, says that the burning of Auchindoun by the Mackintoshes was not in retaliation of the attack on Corgarff, but “in revenge for the murder of the Bonnie Earl o’ Moray by the Marquis of Huntly and Sir Patrick Gordon of Auchindoun”. And maybe those two things are connected somehow. I don’t know. Personally, I like the first story best. Far more dramatic!

“The Burning of Auchindoun”

(a traditional Scottish song)


As I cam in by Fiddichside* 
On a May morning
I spied Willie MacIntosh
An hour before the dawning

Turn again, turn again
Turn again I bid ye
If you burn Auchindoun
Huntly* he will heid ye.

Heid me, hang me
That shall never fear me
I’ll burn Auchindoun
Though the life leaves me.

As I cam in by Fiddichside 
On a May morning
Auchindoun was in a bleeze
An hour before the dawning

Crawing, crawing,
For a’ your crouse crawin’
Ye burnt your crops and ye tint your wings
An hour before the dawning.


After the exciting events that took place in the late 1500’s, Auchindoun’s history is a little more sedate. The castle eventually made its way back into Ogilvy hands and was later passed to the Marquis of Huntly. And by 1724, the structure lay derelict.

By the way, I found a really cool song recorded by Ed & Will called “The Burning of Auchindoun”. Google that and give it a listen. It’s pretty awesome.

And there you have it. A brief history of one of the best kept secrets in Scotland. Mr. C and I never made it back up there for a picnic but believe me, it’s on the list for next year.

I hope you enjoyed today’s post, dear ones. Take care of yourself and I’ll see you next time!


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