Huntingtower Castle

Ruthvenfield, United Kingdom

Huntingtower Castle was built in stages from the 15th century by the Clan Ruthven family. It was known for several hundred years as the 'House of Ruthven', until the family was forfeited for the Gowrie Conspiracy in 1600 and the Ruthven name was suppressed by Act of Parliament.

In the summer of 1582, the castle was occupied by the 4th Lord Ruthven, who was also the 1st Earl of Gowrie, and his family. Gowrie was involved in a plot to kidnap the young King James VI, son of Mary, Queen of Scots. During 1582 Gowrie and his associates seized the young king and held him prisoner for 10 months. This kidnapping is known as the 'Raid of Ruthven' and the Protestant conspirators behind it hoped to gain power through controlling the king. James eventually escaped and actually forgave Gowrie, but after a second abortive attempt by Gowrie and others to overthrow him, Gowrie was finally executed and his property (including Huntingtower) was forfeited to the crown.

The Castle and lands were restored to the Ruthven family in 1586. However in 1600, the brothers John and Alexander Ruthven were accused, some say falsely, of attempting to kidnap King James, and were killed by an overwhelming number of the king's armed men. This time, the king was less merciful: as well as seizing the estates, he abolished the name of Ruthven and decreed that any successors would be ineligible to hold titles or lands. Thus the House of Ruthven ceased to exist and by royal proclamation the castle was renamed Huntingtower.

The Castle remained in the possession of the crown until 1643 when it was given to the family of Murray of Tullibardine. John Murray, The Castle began to be neglected and it was abandoned as a place of residence except by farm labourers. The last inhabitants of the castle were the family of the castle custodian Niel Cowan. The Cowan family of Niel, Margaret, Alexander and Lorraine left in late 2002.

Today, the castle can be visited by the public and is sometimes used as a venue for marriage ceremonies. It is in the care of Historic Scotland (open all year; entrance charge).


The original 'Huntingtower' was a free-standing building, constructed primarily as a gatehouse. It consists of three storeys and a garret under the roof. Around the end of the 15th century a second tower (the 'Western Tower') was built alongside the Huntingtower, with a gap of about 3 metres between them. This second tower was L-shaped in plan and was connected to the Huntingtower by a wooden bridge below the level of the battlements. It is thought that this construction was for defensive reasons: if one tower was attacked and taken, residents could flee into the second and draw up the bridge between the two. The space between the two towers was built up in the late 17th century resulting in the Castle as it stands today. At the same time the number and size of windows was greatly increased, particularly in the Western Tower.

A great hall was built against the north side of the Western Tower in the 16th century, but nothing remains of it above ground except a raggle showing the position of the roof against the Tower. The defensive walls that originally enclosed the Castle (and probably other vanished subsidiary buildings) have also been removed.

Among the features of interest at Huntingtower are early 16th-century paintings which survive on the first floor of the Eastern Tower. These include fragmentary wall paintings showing flowers, animals and Biblical scenes, and a largely complete decorative scheme on the wooden ceiling. Among the designs are grotesque animals (including a version of the green man) on the main beams, and Renaissance-style knotwork patterns on the overlying planks. This painted ceiling is believed to be the earliest of its kind to survive substantially in Scotland. Minor fragments of wall-paintings also survive in the Western Tower.


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Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Cliff Cairns (2 months ago)
Very informative young lady was very informative not only on the hunting tower but other local sites around the areas I was traveling to. It was much is well worth a visit.
Joseph Kincaid (4 months ago)
A great example of a tower, with a bonus, there’s two of them. Entry is by a small road with a car park that tries to maximise the number of cars by having diagonal parking bays. The idea is to drive right up into the castle ground and turn around before parking. Means just reverse to get out. If you do reverse park instead you need free space to do a 5 point turn or more to get out. Alison in the ticket office is great, enthusiastic and informative as well as helpful. A little shop there (of course) and a toilet block. The whole castle is open, top to bottom. The best is great hall with painting ceiling and walls in parts. Quite a climb up both towers on circular staircases with handrails. There are panels to explain the most important features and events. There is a doocot (dovecote ) at top of one tower. Unusual to have one actually in the castle.
Dotty Bice (5 months ago)
Our favorite castle of the trip! So much of the original structure and interior painting remains! Truly like stepping back 500 years. We also liked the kind and helpful woman working at the ticket desk. Clean bathrooms. Highly recommended.
Derek Cubis (5 months ago)
Not the biggest of castles but this did not disappoint me in any way. What a magnificent place to visit.
Carsten Baumann (10 months ago)
This is an amazing little castle. I love that you can go everywhere and imagine how life must have been 500 years ago. Terrific wooden ceilings. Steep and narrow staircases. Fantastic. The host, Allison was great. She gave us a few historical facts. We bought the Historic Explorer Pass for £44 each, which gives you free access to multiple Castles incl this one. Simply a better deal.
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