Glenbuchat Castle was built in about 1590 for John Gordon of Glenbuchat and his wife Helen Carnegie.
It was home to two branches of the Gordon family, which exercised widespread power and influence in north-east Scotland in the 1500s.
Home of the Gordons
The oldest surviving record of the glen dates from 1438, when it was held by the Crown. There was probably an early hall or manor house somewhere in the glen.
The castle’s builder, John Gordon of Glenbuchat, was involved in the conflict between the Gordons and their rivals. These feuds dominated the political life of north-east Scotland in the later 1500s. John was allegedly involved in the burning of Donibristle and the murder of the Earl of Moray in 1592.
In 1701, the castle changed hands to another branch of the Gordon family. John Gordon of Knockespock bought the lands for his son, also John, who later gained the sobriquet ‘Old Glenbucket’.
A fine tower house
The tower house was the conventional form of residence for Scotland’s nobles in the 1400s and 1500s. Glenbuchat takes a Z-plan form, comprising a main block with square wings projecting from the north-east and south-west. The castle is unusual in the region for this emphasis on horizontal rather than vertical mass, giving it the appearance of a fortified house rather than tower house.
The roof line is elaborated by a number of round and square corbelled turrets. Its entrance retains a much-repaired old oak door. Above the entrance, an inscription reads: ‘JOHN · GORDON · HELEN · CARNEGIE · 1590/ NOTHING · ON · EARTH · REMANIS · BOT · FAIME’
This can be taken to mean, ‘Nothing earthly can endure without good repute.’
The arches which support the projecting spiral staircases are an oddity in the castle. They may have resulted from French influence – Helen Carnegie’s father was an ambassador to France – but they could also have been inspired by Scottish medieval corner arches known as squinches.
The castle was extensively remodelled at some point, probably after John Gordon of Knockespock took possession in 1701. The hall was divided in two, and its ceiling lowered to create an additional floor.