Tragedy at Corgarff Castle

Corgarff on a Hill

After leaving Kildrummy we drove for a bit looking for somewhere to pull over to sleep. We found a vacant parking lot and stopped for a recharge.

It wasn’t until morning that we realized we had stopped in the lot for Corgarff Castle.

In my opinion, Corgarff is one of the most compelling Castles in Scotland. It has an incredibly tragic history – and quite frankly, I felt a sense of eerie sadness from the moment we pulled into the lot.


I even had a ‘random cry’ upon awakening in the morning (remember my mention of empath ‘issues’?).

I was entirely overwhelmed with emotion from the moody landscape (unseen in the darkness the night before) and pale, haunting castle.

The expansive, barren moorland surrounding Corgarff naturally lends one to a place of observation and contemplation.

Corgarff Barren Moorland

I would imagine that if you were prone to depression, the feelings could shift to isolation, emptiness and sorrow. That is saying nothing of the energy of Corgarff itself.

I love finding an area where the landscape evokes strong emotion – whatever that emotion may be. Some areas inspire wonderment, or joy, excitement and even childishness (positively speaking, of course).

The moorlands, though they inspire none of the prior, certainly summon intense reaction.

This area of the outer reaches of Aberdeenshire must create poets, writers, deep thinkers – and those that long for the sun and the heat.

View of the Moorland

It is very different from the landscape I am used to in Canada, and I found it very captivating.

Star shaped Corgarff was built in the mid 1500’s by a Forbes – John of Towie. Immediately it became a strategic stronghold as the midway point between Deeside and Speyside. Though I did not know the history until returning home to research, I could feel the tragedy.

What transpired in 1571, would change future Clan associations and wars, indefinitely.

Wikipedia says it best;

The Forbes family were supporters of the cause of the future James VI in the years following the imprisonment of Mary, Queen of Scots, in England. The Gordon family from Auchindoun near Dufftown were supporters of the claim of Mary to the Scottish throne.

This led to feuding between the two clans, and in November 1571 Adam Gordon of Auchindoun tried to capture Corgarff Castle. The Forbes menfolk were absent, but John Forbes’ wife, Margaret, refused to surrender the castle and shot one of Gordon’s men through the knee with a pistol. In response Adam Gordon piled kindling against the castle and burned it down, killing all within the castle except for Margaret Forbes who fled to Ireland where she give birth to John’s son, Alexander. It is perhaps not surprising that the castle is believed to be haunted.

It is said that 27 women and children were murdered on that day by the Gordon clan.

We considered waiting the few hours until the castle opened for visitors, but the call of hunger was stronger – and we had already vowed a return visit to the area.

We pulled out of the parking lot before 6:30 am, into the cool morning haze, to look for a place to eat.

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To follow this trip head to the ‘8 Country EU Tour‘ section. Enjoy many more photos of Scotland at the Habitual Runaway on Facebook.



5 responses to “Tragedy at Corgarff Castle

  1. Ana Ela I need to catch up !!
    Must be really dark inside there with those tiny windows … Looking at the surroundings I would love it perhaps briefly .. but couldn’t imagine making it a permanent home Castle or no Castle !
    PS Happy Christmas 🙂


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