Dalhousie Castle was the seat of the Earls of Dalhousie, the chieftains of Clan Ramsay. The patriarch of the clan was Simundus de Ramesie (Simon of Ramsey), an English knight of Norman descent from the Huntingdonshire village of Ramsey. Simundus, a vassal of David, Earl of Huntingdon, followed his lord to Scotland in about 1140, when David inherited the Scottish crown. He is considered the founder of the Ramsay clan and the first to have lands at Dalwolsey.
The first castle at Dalhousie was constructed by him. The red stone castle is situated in a strategic spot overlooking the River Esk. The drum tower, the oldest part of the current structure, an L Plan Castle, dates to the mid 15th century. The majority of the current castle dates to the 17th century. There was originally a dry moat surrounding the castle. The moat was later filled in but partially excavated in the late 20th century.
Dalhousie Castle has seen much history. King Edward I (Longshanks) stayed at the castle on his way to meet Sir William Wallace at the Battle of Falkirk. In 1400, Sir Alexander Ramsay withstood a six-month siege at Dalhousie by English forces led by King Henry IV. Oliver Cromwell used the castle as a base for his invasion of Scotland. Many Earls of Dalhousie have taken an active part in British political and military leadership.
Around 1800, Walter Nicol designed the new layout of the walled garden.
At the turn of the 20th century, the seat of Clan Ramsay was moved to Brechin Castle, although the Ramsay family continued to retain ownership of the castle until 1977. At the time of the sale, Dalhousie had been in the same family for more than eight centuries, longer than any other castle in Scotland. Throughout the 20th century, the castle was leased out to a series of tenants, including a boarding school. In 1972, the castle was converted into a hotel. In 2003, Dalhousie Castle was purchased by the Von Essen Hotels company.
On 26 June 2004, a major fire erupted in the castle's roof area. The building was evacuated and the Lothian and Borders Fire Brigade were called to extinguish the blaze. The damage was significant but limited to a relatively small area of the building, and no major structural damage occurred. The damage was repaired and the hotel resumed normal operations.
In April 2011, Von Essen Hotels fell into administration. In March 2012, it was announced that Robert Parker, owner of Doxford, Eshott and Guyzance Hall in Northumberland, had purchased Dalhousie Castle for an undisclosed sum.References:
From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.
The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.
At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.
The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.
The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.
Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).
The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.
At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».
The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.