Friday, 3 April 2015

Braemar Castle

Braemar Castle dates from 1628, built by John Erskine 18th Earl of Mar, as a hunting lodge and to check the growing power of their neighbours and vassals, the Farquaharson's of Invercauld. The strategic importance of Braemar had long been recognised and the present castle replaced the 13th century royal castle of Kindrochit  whose ruins can be seen nearby in the village of Braemar. Braemar is an altered L-plan tower house protected by a star shaped curtain wall of six salient angles and with three storey angle turrets that were added when it housed Hanoverian troops in 1748. The central tower is built of granite covered with harl.

The Farquaharson's were Jacobites following the 'Glorious Revolution' of 1688. When in 1689 John Graham of Claverhouse, "Bonnie Dundee" tried brilliantly, but unsuccessfully to restore James VII (and  II), the Earl of Mar opposed him while the Farquharson's gave him all the support they could. With Claverhouse marching north, Braemar Castle was occupied on behalf of King William. William and Mary's supporters narrowly missed capturing the Farquharson leader, John Farquharson of Inverey ("The Black Colonel"), who attacked Braemar castle at night, sent the garrison packing and burnt out the castle to prevent it from being reoccupied.

In 1716 the castle and estate was forfeit to the Crown  following the 23rd Earl of Mar's (1685-1732)  leadership of the Jacobite Rising of 1715. Known to history as "Bobbing John" he had raised the standard of King James VIII on September 6th 1715 in Braemar village where the Invercauld Arms Hotel now stands. The castle and estate was bought by John Farquharson, 9th Laird of Invercauld, however the castle was left in ruins until 1748 when it was leased to the Hanoverian government. Once it had been rebuilt under the direction of Master Mason of the Board of Ordinance, John Adam it was used as a garrison for the army of occupation.

 It was not until 1831 that  the army withdrew from Braemar and the castle returned to the Farquharsons. The 12th Laird of Invercauld restored the castle as a family home and he entertained Queen Victoria to tea in the castle when she attended the Braemar Gatherings held in the grounds of the castle. For the next 100 years the Farquharson family were to use Braemar castle as a holiday home.


The main entrance of the castle retains its iron yett, thought to have been brought from Kindrochit Castle. On the ground floor are stone vaulted rooms which contained the original kitchens, storerooms, the guardroom and an iron grill in the floor which gave access to the laird's pit or dungeon. In Victorian times a second kitchen was added next to the staff accommodation.


Access to the upper floors is by a stone turn-pike staircase.


In 1948 the 16th and present laird of Invercauld, Capt. Alwyne Compton Farquharson married the extremely stylish American, Frances Lovell Oldham. Mrs Farquharson had been a fashion editor of Vogue and Harper's Bazaar in the 1930's and in the 1950's she decorated and refurbish Braemar Castle, using her favoured palette of yellow and pink. The chic yet comfortable interiors remain a tribute to her wonderful taste, taste that did not compromise comfort; if a castle could ever be described as cosy then it would have to be Braemar.

Capt. Alwyne and Mrs Frances Farquharson

On the upper floors of the castle a large room and a small room occupied the two wings of the castle. On the first floor are the morning room and the dining room. In the Morning Room is a display case containing some of the family's Jacobite treasures including a piece of the plaid worn by Prince Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie) and given by him to Lady Mackintosh as a mark of gratitude. Another piece of tartan was brought from the battlefield of Culloden. There is also a precious medal struck by Prince Charles in 1745 commemorating his adventure and inscribed Spes et Amor Brittannie.

The Morning Room

Around the table diners cat on a fine set of Hepplewhite chairs, and others like the sideboard are of Adam design.
The Dining Room

On the second floor is the Drawing Room, the Laird's Day Room entered by a curved door and opposite the Rose Room with between the two a small bathroom, installed in 1901.

The Laird's Day Room

The Drawing Room is where Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were entertained by the Farquharson family when they came to tea. She reputedly sat on  the sofa to the right of the fireplace. Another  point of interest is the graffiti incised by Hanoverian troops on the window shutters."John Chestnut 1727"

The Drawing Room

George B. Campion: The Gathering at Mar Castle
1834
The painting hangs in the Drawing Room

Hanoverian soldiers graffiti

Bathroom installed in 1901

On the third floor is the Four Poster Bedroom. The 18th century bed is hung with the Farquharson tartan.

The Four-Poster Bedroom

On the fourth floor is the Principal Bedroom, with a brass door knocker; the Ladies Guest Bedroom and the Gentleman's Guest Bedroom. These rooms were used by the Farquharson family in the latter years of their visits to the castle.

The Principal Bedroom

The Gentleman's Guest Bedroom

Rumour has it that the Duke of Rothesay  wanted to sit on this throne..


In 1982  Capt. Farquharson owner of the 120 000 acre Invercauld Estate, decided to sell Braemar Castle. In the end he leased it to a trust, for fifty years, for the benefit of the local community. Capt. Farquharson and his second wife live in Norfolk.