Auchindoun Castle may have been built by Thomas Cochrane, a favourite of King James III. Cochrane was employed by the king to control the earldom of Mar after the execution of John, earl of Mar and the king’s brother. Cochrane was hanged from the Lauder Bridge in 1482 by James’s nobles during a plot to unseat the king.
The castle was owned by the Ogilvy family in the early 1500s. It’s first mentioned in 1509, when Sir James Ogilvy granted his nephew Alexander ‘the mains Auchindoun with its castle, fortalice and castle hill’. Alexander’s son sold the castle to Sir Adam Gordon in 1594.
A fierce rivalry
In 1571 a party of Gordons from Auchindoun attacked and burnt nearby Corgarff Castle, along with its occupants. This act, retold in the ballad Edom o’Gordon, was a product of an endemic Catholic/Protestant rivalry between the Gordon and Forbes families. William Mackintosh, seeking vengeance, attacked and burned Auchindoun. For this crime he was beheaded by the Countess of Huntly’s cook.
The castle was back in Ogilvy hands by 1594, and lay derelict by 1725.
View from the top
Auchindoun stands on a high bank overlooking the River Fiddich, amid a landscape largely devoid of settlements. It stands within an impressive range of earthworks, though it’s unclear whether these are the remains of an older medieval castle or an Iron or Bronze Age fort.
The tower looks desolate, but it was in its day a fairly sophisticated stronghold. The castle has a series of fine stone vaults:
- a ribbed four-part vault over the lord’s hall
- an unusual unribbed groin vault over the withdrawing chamber
- a barrel-vaulted chamber under the floor of the main cellar revealed by excavation in 1984
The vaults’ design may support the notion that Auchindoun Castle belonged to Cochrane.