Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Lochindorb Castle

Most people remember the scene in 'Braveheart' when Sir William Wallace, recently appointed Guardian of Scotland, is harangued by a figure in the corner about the Comyn claim to the Scottish throne. This was the 'Red Comyn', later killed by Robert the Bruce. His father was the 'Black Comyn', Earl of Buchan, Lord of Badenoch, also sometime Guardian of Scotland, who died in 1302 at Lochindorb Castle, an island fortress on the Dava Moor just north of Grantown-on-Spey. 

I wish I could take credit for this stunning shot of Lochindorb, but that goes to 'coldwaterjohn', a skilled and very patient (or very lucky) photographer.

For many years the history, the location, the name 'Lochindorb' have fascinated me. I haved climbed all over it and last night enjoyed an excellent presentation given by Historic Scotland courtesy of the Cawdor Heritage Charity.

We learnt a lot. Lochindorb, controlling the route north from the River Spey, was one of a string of well-sited Comyn castles. They certainly had a good grip on the Highlands at that time - most of the clan's 58 castles (including Inverlochy, another favourite of mine) were in this area.

Inverlochy Castle by Fort William
But, in troubled times, they lost control and when, in 1303,  Edward I (Longshanks) was strutting his stuff around Scotland he spent ten days at Lochindorb - enjoying the hunting and destroying castles (such as Urquhart on Loch Ness). 

In 1371 the Lordship of Badenoch was granted by King Robert II to his son Alexander, hoping perhaps that he would control the cateran and bring about some prosperity in the Highlands. Far from it. He became known as the 'Wolf of Badenoch', and when denounced by the Bishop of Elgin for putting aside his wife and marrying another, he rode out from Lochindorb and burnt not just the Cathedral but also Pluscarden Abbey.


By 1456 the castle was under the control of Archibald Douglas, Earl of Moray, who 'munitioned and fortified it against the king'. King James II, having taught the Douglases a lesson, then instructed the Thane of Cawdor to dismantle the castle. This he did, assuming possession of Lochindorb's 'yett' an impressive iron gate which can still be seen outside the Thorn Tree Room in Cawdor Castle.

The only disappointment of the evening was that these cautious academics refuse to accept that a foot beneath the water here was a causeway out to the island and that only the owners (and their horses) knew which way it twisted and turned. I, for one, am not going to let a nice story like that fade away: we must get out there and find it next summer! 


Anonymous said...

Just found this article when searching for info on Lochindorb. Has your trip to find the causeway transpired?

Alastair Cunningham said...

Weather has not yet been sufficiently favourable for highland loch swimming!

K McComiskie said...

There never was a causeway at Lochindorb castle

Alastair Cunningham said...

Thanks for this. It always seemed a little unlikely but what is your evidence?

Unknown said...

Lochindorb Survey august 1993 carried out by The Scottish Trust for Underwater Archaeology

MacOogle said...

Hello. On a flight from London to Inverness a couple of years ago, we passed over the castle and I took a photograph which clearly shows a road/causeway from the shore to the castle. I will try and find it and post it. Keir Hardie. Forres. Moray.

Alastair Cunningham said...

MacOogle - would very much like to see it. Fascinating.

MacOogle said...

Hello.I found 2 photos I took in winter from a plane from London to Inverness showing the causeways. My email is keirhardie@rocketmail.com Email me and I`ll send them back to you. Ta.

Unknown said...

We stayed at a house on Dava Moor which was located right on Lochindorb. It is so beautiful there-- almost unearthly. Looking at this castle every morning from our window was amazing. We bought a blow up mattress and paddled to the castle to take a look around. The walls are in amazingly good shape but the ground is uneven due to the falling stones from years gone by. Lots of stinging nettles... but we stood on the wall and touched history. It's an incredible place. Don't know about a causeway ... but it seems odd that they could have carried stones of that size from the shore out to the island on which most of the castle sits. I guess they used some kind of ferry system with logs. If you ever get a chance---go!! It was my favorite area of Scotland other than the Isle of Skye. I will go back someday. We were there for seven marvelous days before moving on to Edinburgh.