Inverharroch Farm – ‘Was there once a castle here?’

This week I set out to solve the mystery of whether there really ever was a castle at Inverharroch. There are lots of stories and rumour that the humble farm steadings at Inverharroch were once the site of a great castle visited by some of the best known Kings and Queens of Scotland but today there seems to be scant evidence of this.

However, it is exciting that this research did throw up enough evidence to be reasonably convinced that, yes, there was once a great castle on this site.

The site has been through many names over the centuries; Innerchurach’, Inverquherach, , Inverkerrach, and sitting at the confluence of three rivers, it is not hard to see where the ‘inver’ part of the name derives from; the Gaelic ‘inver’ meaning ‘meeting of the waters’. The other half of the name, now ‘Charroch’ is perhaps a corruption over the centuries of ‘davach’, or ‘dabhach’ an ancient Scottish measure of land as the earliest record of Inverharroch goes back to the 8th century, when the land was granted as one of three ‘dabhach’s’ in the Cabrach.

According to John Taylor (1914) it is probable that the castle was built between 1000 and 1200 at a time when many forts such as the still standing Balvenie Castle, were erected along the length of this important strategic route. Inverharroch was at this time a barony and seems to have had its heyday in the thirteenth and fourteenth century.

‘Edward I (Hammer of the Scots) came by on his triumphal march in 1296, the journalist of his day recording that they stayed on Monday at Interherachte (Inverharroch), where there were no more than three houses in a valley between two mountains.’ (Simpson 1929)

The road through the Cabrach linked the Province of Mar with the Province of Moravia, and was as such a strongly defended route in the 12th and 13th Centuries (Simpson 1929). There is evidence of this in the great number of castles, including Balvenie, which still mark this important trade and military route. At this time, castles would have been heavily fortified, with thick walls, a wide ditch and defensive towers.

Inverharroch came into the possession of the House of Gordon in 1488 and by 1636 Robert Gordon’s map of shows “Invercharach”, not necessarily a castle as it doesn’t have Gordon’s usual castle symbol, but certainly a settlement or manor of some kind.

During the long struggle of the Jacobites to keep the Stuarts on the throne, and later, to restore them to it, Inverharroch Castle is mentioned again (Taylor 1914, 11) as a convenient resting place for troops traversing from Speyside into Deeside. In the year of the ‘Jacobite rising of 1745 a number of the somewhat stolid and unromantic farmers joined Prince Charlie’s standard, and a certain Roy, then resident of Invercharach became Lieutenant of Scottish Royals in the Prince’s army.

The castle is said to have still have been standing in 1725, but to have fallen into ruin soon afterwards. By the late 18th century passers by note the castle as little more than ‘a visible ruin’.

Today other than some clues in the architecture of the current 18th century steadings, the historic track which joins the farm with the main road, and a few dressed stones which have been re-used in the house and other buildings, there is little to tell the story of this once great castle.

But who built the castle, who lived in it and why it fell into ruin remains a mystery; perhaps more research and a little investigative archeology can reveal more of this story.



W Douglas Simpson (1929) Craig Castle and the Kirk of Auchindoir) Proceedings of the Society of Antiquities, December 9, 1929

James Taylor (1914) The Cabrach. Delivered at the joint meeting of Northern Literary and Scientific Societies, 27th June 1914. Printed at the offices of the Banffshire Journal.

Rev. Alexander Gordon (1884) Antiquities of the Parish of Cabrach. Proceedings of the Society, May 12, 1884

Robert Gordon’s map of 1636-52 (online national map library)