Originally known as Mortlach, Balvenie Castle was built in the 12th century by a branch of the powerful Comyn family (the Black Comyns) and was extended and altered in the 15th and 16th centuries.
The castle fell out of use following an attack by Robert the Bruce in 1308, which left the property uninhabitable. At some point in the 14th century the castle and estates of Balvenie passed to the Earl of Douglas. Nothing is documented as to how the Black Douglases first acquired the castle but the most likely account is that it came with the marriage of the heiress Joanna Murray to Archibald, 3rd Earl of Douglas in 1362. His son and successor Archibald Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas granted his younger brother James Douglas, 7th Earl of Douglas, the lordship of Balvenie in 1408. James's main residence was at Abercorn Castle, a coastal fortress to the west of Edinburgh and Balvenie Castle's use was as temporary accommodation when the need arose.
In 1440, William Douglas, 6th Earl of Douglas was killed by James the Gross, probably in a conspiracy with William Crichton and Alexander Livingston of Callendar, the guardians of the then child-king James II. James 'the Gross then became the 7th earl. James immediately provided the lordship of Balvenie with its castle to his youngest son, John Douglas, Lord of Balvenie. Earl James's death in 1443 signaled a resumption of the hostility between the royal Stewarts and the Black Douglases. The Battle of Arkinholm in May 1455 saw the defeat of this, the main Douglas line by an army loyal to James II. All of their lands and titles were forfeited to the Crown, including Balvenie Castle. King James divided up the estates among his supporters, which included the Douglas Earl of Angus and provided Balvenie Castle to Sir John Stewart, who later became the first Earl of Atholl.
William Duff committed suicide in the castle in 1718 and it was effectively abandoned at that point. It was used by Hanoverian forces as an encampment in 1746 during the second Jacobite rebellion.
Today, the remains of the castle are managed by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument. However, ownership continues in private hands; the current owner is Jeremy Duncan Nicholson, Baron of Balvenie, who resides in Atlanta, Georgia in the United States. The castle is open to the public from the beginning of April to the end of September.
Balvenie whisky is produced by William Grant & Sons at the Balvenie distillery down the hill from the castle.References:
German crusaders known as the Livonian Brothers of the Sword began construction of the Cēsis castle (Wenden) near the hill fort in 1209. When the castle was enlarged and fortified, it served as the residence for the Order's Master from 1237 till 1561, with periodic interruptions. Its ruins are some of the most majestic castle ruins in the Baltic states. Once the most important castle of the Livonian Order, it was the official residence for the masters of the order.
In 1577, during the Livonian War, the garrison destroyed the castle to prevent it from falling into the control of Ivan the Terrible, who was decisively defeated in the Battle of Wenden (1578).
In 1598 it was incorporated into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and Wenden Voivodship was created here. In 1620 Wenden was conquered by Sweden. It was rebuilt afterwards, but was destroyed again in 1703 during the Great Northern War by the Russian army and left in a ruined state. Already from the end of the 16th century, the premises of the Order's castle were adjusted to the requirements of the Cēsis Castle estate. When in 1777 the Cēsis Castle estate was obtained by Count Carl Sievers, he had his new residence house built on the site of the eastern block of the castle, joining its end wall with the fortification tower.
Since 1949, the Cēsis History Museum has been located in this New Castle of the Cēsis Castle estate. The front yard of the New Castle is enclosed by a granary and a stable-coach house, which now houses the Exhibition Hall of the Museum. Beside the granary there is the oldest brewery in Latvia, Cēsu alus darītava, which was built in 1878 during the later Count Sievers' time, but its origins date back to the period of the Livonian Order. Further on, the Cēsis Castle park is situated, which was laid out in 1812. The park has the romantic characteristic of that time, with its winding footpaths, exotic plants, and the waters of the pond reflecting the castle's ruins. Nowadays also one of the towers is open for tourists.