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This page contains an edited extract from the following book.  You are advised to read the original publication if you are seriously researching the content.



This ancient building, situated in the parish of the same name, about six miles north of Brechin, is the most magnificent and extensive remnant of ancient baronial grandeur which the county of Forfar possesses.  It stands in solitary majesty at the bottom of the lower range of the Grampian chain, on the left bank of the West Water.

Of the Castle, the great donjon, or keep, called the "Stirling Tower," about 60 feet in height, and of great strength, is still very entire.  A range of building, two flats in height, the lower one of which has been vaulted, extends from the north side of the tower, and fronts to the west, in which is the principal entrance, a large semicircularly arched gateway.  This part of the Castle joins another range of building on the north, which contained the chapel and other apartments, and which lies parallel to the north side of the tower, the whole forming three sides of a parallelogram.  The angle formed by the junction of the north and front lines of the building is occupied by a circular tower ; which is very much dilapidated, and the stair is wholly torn down.  The wall which bounded the court on the east side has altogether disappeared ; and the inner walls of the whole building next the court, excepting those of the Stirling Tower, are pulled down to the vaults.  Under the tower there are some gloomy cells, which had been the baronial wards, one of them is believed to be of great depth. The great staircase leading to the top of the Stirling Tower remains entire.

Excepting the range of vaults, which is carried along the whole extent of the building, not a floor remains.  A small part of the cape-house, chiefly chimney-stalks, remains on the top of the tower, which has been surrounded with a capacious bartisan.  Adjoin­ing the Castle, there is an extensive garden, about an acre of which was formerly appropriated to the cultivation of flowers.  A variety of figures, cut in stone in very bold relief, adorn the inner or garden side of the walls of this very beautiful enclosure, consisting of personifications of truth, justice, charity, geometry, astronomy, &c., accompanied with their respective attributes.  On the east wall there are several figures of men in armour, rather more than half, or about three-fourths the size of full life.  Above the lintel of a door which opens into the garden at the north-east angle, the impaled arms of Lindsay and Forbes are placed, but without a crest, with the device DVM SPIRO SPERO, and on each side of the escutcheon there are the initials of the names of Sir David Lindsay, and Dame Isobel Forbes his wife, under which is the date 1605.

The Castle and extensive domains of Edzell were formerly the property of the Earls of Crawford, from whom they passed to the family of Lindsay of Glenesk, in 1544.  In the year 1562, Queen Mary passed a short time in the Castle, and held a court.

Glenesk came into possession of the Lindsays before the year 333.  Alexander de Lindsay, youngest son of Sir David de Lindsay de Crawford, married the daughter and sole heiress of John Stryveline or Stirling of Glenesk, and fell at the battle of Halidon Hill, on the 19th July 1333.

Edzell came into the same family about the year 1580, by the marriage of the heiress to Lindsay, of Invermark, in Glenesk ; and since the year 1714 Edzell and Glenesk have formed part of the extensive estates of Panmure, David Lindsay having sold them in that year to James, fourth Earl of Panmure.

From the great tower or keep bearing the name of the “Grand Stirling Tower," it may be presumed to have been originally erected by a member of the Stirling family, and to have been enlarged from time to time by the family of Crawford after it came into their possession.  It is said that formerly there were numerous dates and coats-of-arms inserted in the walls, but these have all been removed.

At the distance of about a mile east of the Castle lies the thriving village of Slateford, which owes its being as a burgh of barony to the interest of one of the old Earls of Crawford.  His Lordship procured for it the establishment of an annual fair, and also the appointment of Wednesday as its weekly market day.  He also prescribed a sett for the local government of the place and the management of its affairs.

About a quarter of a mile east of Slateford there is a small estate, not exceeding eleven acres, called Dury-Hill, which was held of Edzell by the tenure of performing the office of doomster, - that is, of pronouncing sentence in criminal cases in the Baron’s Court.  This small property was long held by a family of the name of Dury, who were the hereditary doomsters of the barony of Edzell, which office was conferred on them by one of the old Earls of Crawford.

The Old Churchyard of Edzell, on the left bank of the West Water, at the distance of half a mile from the Castle, contains the now open vault where the ancient barons were interred.  About the year 1816 the Old Church was taken down, and the materials used in part in the erection of the present parish Church at Slateford ; so that the deserted vault, with the memorials of the humble dead, are all that remain to show that the parish Church stood in this sequestered spot.  There is a part of the parish called Balfour, and estimated to a seventh part of the valuation of the whole, which is situated on the North Bank of the Northesk, and consequently is within the Mearns or Kincardineshire.  On these lands there is an enclosed burying‑ground, with some vestiges of a church, which would seem to point to a time when Balfour was a parish independent of Edzell.  These lands, we believe, are the property of Sir Alexander Ramsay of Balmain, Bart..

At Cullindie, in this parish (Edzell), there are circles of stones, which are assigned to the Druids as places where they performed their religious rites and dispensed justice.  The largest of these circles is of an elliptical form, 40 feet by 36.  The other is much less in extent.  One has a portico attached to it.  There is a third circle at Dalbog, not so perfect as these, but like them situated on ground of considerable elevation.

There are other texts about Edzell and the Castle in the series of extracts from old books which are reproduced on this website - use the website search engine to find all mentions.

The webmaster has a copy the book from which this text was taken.  Unfortunately, when purchased some years ago, it had been desecrated by the removal of the original plates and the pages reduced in size to be rebound at some stage.  However, many local buildings of note are mentioned.  A full version in original condition can be seen, on special request, at Forfar Library.  The rebound volume also includes all pages from the Second Statistical Accounts for Scotland (c.1843) for several Angus County parishes (not Monikie which is HERE, with others) and for the Scottish Border and Ayrshire counties (including maps).  The book appears to be a collection from previously damaged books which have been bound together.  A very few pages are missing.  Please ask if you would like more information from this 'book'.

Extracts of historical interest from old books.


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This page was updated - 09 December, 2014