Lands, Castles, and Estates

CLAN KEITH originally settled in Caithness, but it was in the North-east where they emerged as one of Scotland's prominent families. From impregnable fortifications to ancient lodgings and estates, below is an alphabetical list that explores a few of these places marked by the Clan Keith..

YouTube Video 1 of Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Clan Keith
YouTube Video 2 of Dunnottar Castle, Aberdeenshire, Scotland, Clan Keith
ABOYNE CASTLE

Once a strong fortress, Aboyne Castle is a tall 17th-century tower house located about 1/2 mile north of Aboyne. Originally the property of the Bisset family, the castle passed in 1242 to the Knights Templars, then to the Frasers, then in 1355 to the Keiths. By the early 15th century it had been acquired by the Gordons of Huntly, with whose descendents, the Earls of Aboyne, it remains.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Aboyne Castle

ACKERGILL TOWER

About 2.5 miles north of Wick lies Ackergill Tower, a strong 15th-century keep standing 5 stories tall, with additions made through the 19th century. The lands were property of the Cheynes before passing to the Keiths about 1350. In 1518 Keith of Ackergill and his son were ambushed and slain by the Gunns. Alexander Keith of Ackergill was kidnapped by Sinclair Earl of Caithness, and in 1556 the castle was besieged by the Sinclairs. The castle passed to the Sinclairs in the 17th century.

To arrange a retreat or party at Ackergill Tower click here.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Ackergill Tower
See also the Keith & Kin article on Ackergill, First Quarter 2001

BALBITHAN HOUSE

About 3.5 miles southeast of Inverurie, Balbithan is a fine 16th-century tower house of three stories. The lands had belonged to the Abbey of Lindores, but they were held by the Chalmers family from 1490. They moved from their previous castle at Old Balbithan because, the story goes, a cannon ball fired from the tower of Hallforest, a stronghold of the Keiths, landed in the courtyard of their old castle. Balbithan was sacked by Covenanters in 1640, and the Marquis of Montrose made the castle a rendezvous during the wars with the Covenanters in the 1640s. It provided a refuge for Jacobites after the Battle of Culloden in 1746. The house passed to the Hay family in 1690, the Gordons early in the 18th century, and eventually the Keith Earls of Kintore in 1859. It is in good condition, and still occupied today.

Sources: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Scottish Castles Association - Balbithan House - Aberdeenshire.

BENHOLM CASTLE

Benholm was a property of the Lundie family, who built the castle, but later passed to the Ogilvies, then the Keith Earls Marischal. It was from here that in 1623 the 5th Earl's widow had her money and jewels stolen 'to a great amount'. The property was sold to the Scotts in 1659.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

BENHOLM'S LODGING

Benholm's lodging is an altered 17th-century Z-pan tower house that originally stood near the Nethergate in Aberdeen. It was built by Sir Robert Keith of Benholm, who, over property disputes with family members, seized and garrisoned Deer Abbey. He also besieged his brother's castle of Ackergill in Caithness. The lodging changed hands a number of times until it was acquired by the city. The lodging was moved in 1918 to make way for office buildings, but was painstakingly reconstructed about 2 miles north of the Aberdeen railway station.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

BODDAM CASTLE

Boddam Castle was built by the Keiths of Ludquharn (who were later made Baronets of Nova Scotia) on a headland surrounded by cliffs. The 16th-century courtyard castle lies mostly in ruin today about 3 miles south of Peterhead.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

CLACKRIACH CASTLE

Very little remains of this 16th-century tower house of the Keiths about 11 miles north of Ellon.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

COVINGTON CASTLE

About 6 miles south and east of Lanark, the land was originally granted to the Keiths by Robert the Bruce, but passed to the Lindsays who built Covington Castle in 1442.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

DUNNOTTAR CASTLE

About 2 miles south of Stonehaven sits Dunnottar Castle. Built on an excellent defensive site on a high promontory 160 feet above the sea, Dunnottar is a spectacular ruined courtyard castle, parts of which date from the 12th century, although there was probably a stronghold here from the earliest times. An early castle here was captured by William Wallace from the English in 1296; one story relating that he burnt 4000 Englishmen here.

The Keiths acquired the property in 1282, exchanging Struthers in Fife for Dunnottar with LIndsay of The Byres. By the beginning of the 16th century, it was one of the strongest fortresses in Scotland. Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed here in 1562. The 9th Earl entertained King Charles II here in 1650, and in 1651 the Scottish crown jewels were brought here for safety during Cromwell's invasion of Scotland. General Lambert besieged the castle in 1652, but before the garrison surrendered, after an 8-month siege, the regalia and state papers were smuggled out to be hidden in nearby Kinneff Church until recovered at the Restoration.

In 1685 some 167 Covenanters were imprisoned in one of the castles cellars. Nine died and 25 escaped. Those released later showed signs of torture in what was one of the darkest times in the castle's history.

The castle was forfeited by the Keiths following the 1715 Jacobite uprise due to the families support of the Stewarts. The Duke of Argyll partly destroyed Dunnottar in 1716, and it was more fully slighted in 1718.

To visit Dunnottar Castle click here.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry
Additional information: A Guide to Dunnottar Castle by Alastair Cunningham, 1998.
Wikipedia - Dunnottar Castle

FETTERESSO CASTLE

The lands about 1.5 miles west of Stonehaven were a property of the Stachans, but passed by marriage in the 14th century to the Keith Earls Marischal, who built the original castle here. It was completely rebuilt in 1671 as a mansion. James VIII, the old Pretender, stayed here over Christmas in 1715 during the Jacobite Rising. Additions were made by the Duffs in 1782 and 1808. It became ruinous and was stripped in 1954. It has since been rebuilt and divided into seven apartments.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

FORSE CASTLE

Standing on a promontory 4.5 miles northeast of Dunbeath, the ruins of Forse Castle include a 12th or 13th century keep, courtyard and outbuildings. It was property of the Cheynes, but later passed to the Keiths, then the Sutherlands, and was abandoned in the 18th century.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Forse Castle

HALLFOREST

Hallforest Castle is a ruined 14th -century keep of five or six stories. It was built as a hunting lodge for Robert the Bruce, and given to Sir Robert Keith, Marischal of Scotland, in 1309. The castle was visited by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1512. Hallforest was used until about 1639.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

INVERUGIE

Once an imposing castle, Inverugie Castle is a ruined 16th-century tower house, which incorporates work from the 13th century. The River Ugie formed a natural part of the defenses of the castle. Built high up on the north bank, the river looped around the castle giving all the security and protection of a moat but presenting a much more dangerous obstacle during the winter months, when floodwater surged around the castle on its way to the sea. The property belonged to the Cheynes but later passed to the Keiths by marriage. It was forfeited by the Keiths after the 1715 Jacobite Rising. The castle was blown up in 1899 to clear the land - unsuccessfully - for agriculture. Today only the basement remains of the main block, and it is located about 2.5 miles north-west of Peterhead.

Sources: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry
Nothing But My Sword by Sam Coull, 2000.
Wikipedia - Inverugie Castle

Additional Information: See also the Keith & Kin article on Inverugie, Second Quarter 2001

KEITH HALL

About one mile southeast of Inverurie, Keith Hall was once called Caskieben. It consists of a 16th century Z plan tower house to which has been added a large mansion. The old part consists of a main block of four stories and garret with square towers, projecting from opposite corners, and round stair-towers. The Johnstones held the property until it was sold to the Keiths, later Earls of Kintore, in 1662. The Hall was remodeled in 1984, and sold in 1985 as six houses and eight flats.

Sources: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry; Keith & Kin, Summer 2001.

"I love living at Keith Hall, the geese in winter, the oyster catchers in early spring, and the nesting wrens, swallows, blue tits in the summer, and all the other birds. We have herons at Keith Hall and there is a saying that when the Herons leave Keith Hall so do the Keiths. I'm glad to say that I saw one last week. The roe deer easily seen in winter and not so easily seen with their young in summer. Those who walk on the estate will know the carpets of snowdrops, and our beautiful nature trees, and autumn colouring.... Michael, like his father and uncle before him, [was] a conserver of trees.... I've always been made so welcome from all my friends in and around Inverugie, and Inverurie and the Keith family have continued side by side for almost eight hundred years, and long may it continue so." - excerpted from The Countess of Kintore's article "The Keiths", Keith & Kin, Second Quarter 2001.

KEITH HALL ESTATE - THE STABLES

After Keith Hall was remodeled and sold as flats, the Earl and Countess of Kintore moved their residence to the converted Stables on the estate. In 2002, the 13th Earl hosted several events at the Stables during the Keith Millennial Celebration.

KEITH HALL ESTATE - CLAN KEITH MEMORIAL CAIRN

Unveiled during the 2002 Keith Millennial Celebration, the Clan Keith Memorial Cairn celebrates the first 1,000 years of the name Keith and is dedicated to the generations of the next millennium. The 13th Earl of Kintore and Countess were instrumental in the development of the cairn, along with the leaders of Clan Keith Society USA, Inc. It is located on the Keith Hall Estate and was funded in part by the many contributions of Clan Keith Society USA, Inc. members.

KEITH INCH TOWER

Keith Inch is located about 1 mile east of Peter head on the north side of Peterhead Bay. Little or nothing remains of the 16th-century L-plan tower house and courtyard belonging to the Keith Earls Marischal. The 4-story tower was later extended with artillery fortifications. After 1715, it was bought by the Arbuthnotts.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

KEITH MARISCHAL

Keith Marischal incorporates a very altered late 16th-century L-plan tower house. To this has been added a long 17th-century L-plan extension to form three sides of a courtyard. The courtyard was filled in by a castellated block in the 19th century.

The house, located about 3 miles south of Pencaitland and 1 mile northwest of Humbie, was built by Keith Earls Marischal. George Keith negotiated James VI's marriage to Anne of Denmark, and in gratitude the King of Denmark sent him a ship-load of timber that was used in the building.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Keith Marischal

KEITH, BANFFSHIRE

An agricultural, distilling and woolens center, Keith stands beside the Isla and is the second largest town in Banffshire. Belying appearances, it is of considerable antiquity. Today the town has numerous distilleries, including Strathisla which produces the popular blended whisky Chivas Regal. The name supposedly derives from gaoth, the Gaelic for 'wind'; the Keith family derived their name from the area.

Source: Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland, p. 566 and Wikipedia - Keith, Banffshire

KINTORE CASTLE

About 3.5 miles south of Inverurie is the site (little to nothing remains) of the 12th-century castle, which was used as a royal hunting lodge. Edward I of England stayed here in 1296. The property was granted to the Keiths by Robert the Bruce in 1309. The family were made Earls of Kintore in 1677.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

LUDQUHARN

About 5 miles west of Peterhead, near the Burn of Ludquharn, is the site where a Keith castle once stood. Geographic decimal coordinates are 57.486227, -1.951616.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

MARISCHAL COLLEGE

James VI gave a charter for Marischal College to be established in 1593. The original buildings, those of the Franciscan (or Greyfriar) monks who had vacated them in 1560, were gifted to the new university by its founder, George Keith, 5th Earl Marischal, who saw it as a Protestant rival to the Catholic King's College also located in Aberdeen. When questions were raised as to the sources of his wealth, and to the propriety of using a Catholic establishment for a Protestant university, the Earl replied, 'They haif said, Quhat say they? Let thame say' - an inscription which is to be found carved into the fabric of the building to this day. Today, the college has been joined with King's College to from Aberdeen University. The buildings of Marischal College hold a treasured place in the hearts of Aberdonians who look upon it as 'the second largest granite building in the world' (after the Spanish Escorial) .

Source: Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland and Wikipedia - Marischal College

PETERHEAD

Peterhead is the largest town in Buchan and second largest in Aberdeenshire. It occupies an exposed promontory that is now the most easterly point on the Scottish mainland. In the mide-16th century Robert Keith, Abbot of Deer, exchanged some lands for those of Altrie. In 1593 hi nephew, the 5th Earl Marischal, founded the village of Peterugie (which later became renamed Peterhead). In front of the town house stands a replica of the statue erected in Potsdam honoring James Francis Edward Keith, brother to the 10th Earl Marischal, and highly honored Prussian Field Marshal. Peterhead served as a fishing town until even the cod became scarce. Today the town services the off-shore rigs and pipelines of North Sea oil and gas.

Source: Collins Encyclopedia of Scotland, p. 773 and Wikipedia - Peterhead

PITMEDDEN HOUSE

About 4 miles west and south of Ellon is Pitmedden House, a 17th- century house built on the site where a castle once stood. The property passed from the Setons to the Bannermans in the 17th century, and then to the Keiths. The house was remodeled in 1853 and 1954. Today the 17th-century gardens are open to the public, as well as the Museum of Farming Life and visitors center.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Pitmedden Garden

RAVENSCRAIG CASTLE

Ravenscraig Castle is a massive ruined L-plan tower house of four stories about 2.5 miles northwest of Peterhead. The lands originally belonged to the Cheynes, but passed to the Keiths of Inverugie in the 14th century, and they built the castle in about 1491. James VI visited the castle in1589.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

SORN CASTLE

About 3 miles east of Mauchline, Sorn Castle consists of a much-altered 14th-century keep, which was extended in the 16th and 19th centuries. The lands belonged to the Keiths of Galston, but passed by marriage to the Hamiltons of Cadzow in 1406.

To arrange a visit and stay, click here.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Sorn Castle

STRUTHERS CASTLE

Located about 4 miles south of Cupar, Struthers was originally property of the Keiths, but was exchanged for Dunnottar in 1392. Today stands the ruined 16th-century L-plan tower house.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

URIE HOUSE (ALSO SPELLED URY)

Urie House was a large 1885 mansion that incorporated parts of a Z-plan tower house dating form the 16th and 17th centuries. It was property of the Frasers, but passed by marriage to the Keiths Earl Marischal. It was sold in 1415 to the Hays of Errol, and then sold back to the Keiths in 1647. A year later, it was sold to Barclay of Mathers. The Baird family acquired the property in the 19th century. Today, the derelict house sits about 1 mile north and west of Stonehaven.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry and Wikipedia - Ury House

USAN HOUSE

About 2.5 miles south of Montrose, the Leighton family built a castle on the site as early as the 13th century. The castle was rebuilt several times, including in 1608. The property passed from the Scotts to the Keiths, and is now occupied by the Alstons.

Source: The Castles of Scotland by Martin Coventry

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