Checking Out Huntingtower Castle

The architecture of Huntingtower Castle is unusual with two separate tower houses side by side.

The architecture of Huntingtower Castle is unusual with two separate tower houses side by side.

One thing you figure out quickly in Scotland is that there are dozens of castles throughout the country, and in many cases one need not travel far in order to reach them. Our first week in Scotland we signed up to become members of Historic Scotland for which we are granted free admission to many of the castles. Today, we took a local bus just five miles out of our home city of Perth to the site of Huntingtower Castle.

The gap between the two towers has been closed in.  The walkbridge is just for tourists.

The gap between the two towers has been closed in. The walkbridge is just for tourists.

The uniqueness of this castle is that it was built with two tower houses side by side but separated by a gap of a few feet. More recent renovations had the two towers joined into a single structure. The oldest part of the castle as it stands today dates back to the 1400’s. Prior to 1600 the castle was known as the Place of Ruthven. In 1480 the two sons of William, the First Lord Ruthven, were each granted letters of legitimacy, thus giving both heirs a rightful claim to the estate. This rare occurrence may explain the building of two tower houses so close together – one for each son.

A floor once divided this room into two stories. The first floor was for cooking and cleaning. The upper floor was for dining.

A floor once divided this room into two stories. The first floor was for cooking and cleaning. The 2nd floor was for dining and receiving guests.

The reign of King James VI was an unstable time politically. Even though the king made the Fourth Lord Ruthven the Earl of Gowrie in 1581, a year later the earl captured the young king and held him for ten months as a prisoner in what became known as the ‘Ruthven Raid’. The dispute was settled and the king forgave his earl.

More political intrigue followed, and in 1600 the Ruthven brothers, John and Alexander, were implicated in a plot to murder King James. The king had them executed and their families were forced to forfeit their land. The king took possession of the castle and estate and renamed it Huntingtower. In 1643 he awarded the land and the earldom to the Murrays of Tullibardine.

The top floor was the earl's bedroom. A four poster bed sat along the left wall.

The top floor was the earl’s bedroom. A four poster bed sat along the left wall.

The last of the family to reside in the castle was Lady Mary Ross, widow of John Murray, the First Duke of Atholl, whose realm included parts of what is now Perth. She died in 1767 and the castle fell into disrepair. Farm laborers occasionally used the site for shelter. Nowadays, the castle has become a popular site for weddings. The castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland and is open to visitors all year round.

The most important historic feature of the castle is this medieval ceiling painted with pigments from the 15th century.

The most important historic feature of the castle is this medieval ceiling painted with pigments from the 15th century.

The ubiquitous cross of St. Andrew on the flag of Scotland flies over the ramparts.

These days the cross of St. Andrew on the flag of Scotland flies over the ramparts.

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23 comments on “Checking Out Huntingtower Castle

  1. It must be wonderful to be able to visit these relics of history and soak up their stories of the past.

    • Mike Lince says:

      Yes, and that is why we seek to live in a country for six months. It gives us the time to find and explore out-of-the-way places that would not fit into a two week vacation trip. It is a rewarding lifestyle.

  2. nantubre says:

    I Love the painted ceiling!

    • Mike Lince says:

      Thank you. I don’t think the photo does justice to the level of craftsmanship that went into this ceiling, which is almost 600 years old. The reason it has held up was the ceiling had been boarded over for centuries and was only discovered during renovations. They use a high-tech sealant that goes on like a low-heat iron-on transfer to prevent further deterioration of the wood and paint.

  3. Love me some old castles and cool history, so this one is win win! VERY kool, Mike! Um, not sure I’d want to be called Duke Atholl… I mean, is it just me, or do you say that like I’m saying it? (Call me Beavus). He he he… ;-)

    • Mike Lince says:

      ha ha – you crack me up, Dawn. I’m sure it does not sound derogatory spoken with a Scottish brogue. Of course, if I had the duke’s money and land, I would not much care how it was pronounced. :)

  4. Sounds like there’s lots of castles to see, so it’s cool that you guys became Historic Scotland members. The only castle I’ve ever seen is the Hearst Castle. Have you been there? It’s not nearly as old as Huntington Tower, but it was still a cool place to visit. Have a great weekend Mike! Celeste :)

  5. Piggletino says:

    the bridge that closes the gap for the towers looks scary. but there is so much history that intrigues me; the room that had two floors etc. how very cool!

  6. meliaaaaa says:

    that looks really nice! I wish I could go there :((

  7. What beautiful detail this castle has! I especially am drawn to the ceiling, with its old pigments. Is Scotland the first place where you’ve stayed for 6 months? My husband and I are trying to do the same (5 months in Southeast Asia and India last year and then a few months in the Balkans earlier this year). It’s wonderful being able to immerse ourselves that way.

    • Mike Lince says:

      After four months traveling through Latin America in 2011, we settled first in Panama. We then moved to Cuernavaca, Mexico. Scotland is the most recent leg of our 6 Monther journey. Spain is next up on our list. We have not finalized plans yet for after that. However, we have tentatively mapped out the next ten years of locations where we wish to live and explore, which is shown on the ‘About’ page on our website. Like you said, cultural immersion is what we hope to achieve wherever we live. Thank you for your comments. – Mike

  8. Megan says:

    It amazes me that these glorious buildings still stand, considering the history. I’ll have to see if I can stop by this one on my way around Scotland next time! That ceiling is incredible!

    • Mike Lince says:

      The medieval ceiling at Huntingtower Castle is unique in that it is so well-preserved. I think few Scots make the visits to these castles unless family or friends come for a visit. Other than big tourist attractions like Scone Palace, we have never encountered crowds of people.

      • Megan says:

        Hum, I missed that one too. What HAVE I been doing when I’ve been in Scotland? I’ll have to go through your blog for other missed places :)

  9. reocochran says:

    I like to see the way the writing flows and this was a great piece of writing, Mike! I like the two standing buildings with their unique details and I felt a certain amount of “charm” in their antiquity and the beautiful painted designs with the ancient pigments. So awesome. I liked it because it reminds me of an old movie, “The Name of the Rose” with Sean Connery and a very young Sean Penn. The book is challenging, written by a Spanish author whose name you can look up, I read it and another which was very difficult.

    • Mike Lince says:

      You can see why movie producers like Scotland for historic scenes. There have been a number Scottish sites in films including some James Bond movies and of course the Harry Potter series. The sites naturally take you back to a different era.
      Thank you for your kind words, Robin. I try to keep my posts short and sweet. And if they are not sweet, at least they are short! :) – Mike

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