Ackergill Tower was built in the early 16th century. The Clan Keith, under John Keith of Inverugie, inherited the lands of Ackergill in 1354 from the Cheynes family. The Tower may have been built by his son, but was first mentioned in 1538.

A legend relates the tale of a young woman by the name of Helen Gunn, who was abducted by John Keith for her beauty. She flung herself, or fell, from the highest tower to escape her abductor's advances. Supposedly her ghost is still seen, wearing a long red rustling ball gown and a tall head of black hair. This was in the late 14th or early 15th century and is said to have been the true beginning for all feuding between the Gunns and the Keiths. It led to the Battle of Champions in either 1478 or 1464, a judicial combat which led to a massacre of the Gunns by the Keiths at the chapel of St Tear (or Tayre) just east of the village.

In 1547, the Sinclairs of Girnigoe attacked and seized the castle. Mary of Guise, then Regent of Scotland, granted the Sinclairs remission for this and returned Ackergill Tower to the Keiths. She later installed Laurence Oliphant, 4th Lord Oliphant, as keeper of Ackergill in 1549. The Sinclairs again captured the castle in 1556, for which they were again granted remission.

In 1593, Robert Keith, brother to William Keith, 6th Earl Marischal (who rightfully owned the tower), seized Ackergill by force, for which he was declared a rebel, and the castle was returned to the Earl. In 1598, another Keith, one John Keith of Subster, attacked the tower in the dead of night, taking its occupants by surprise and capturing the place.

In 1612, the Sinclairs acquired Ackergill Tower once again, but through legal means, when it was sold to the Earl of Caithness by the Earl Marischal. However, by 1623 it was under assault once more, when it was besieged by Sir Robert Gordon during his feud with George Sinclair, 5th Earl of Caithness. The Sinclairs surrendered the castle before any assault took place.

In 1651, Oliver Cromwell may have used Ackergill Tower to garrison his troops during his siege of the Keith's Dunnottar Castle, when he was hunting for the Honours of Scotland. In 1676, John Campbell, 2nd Earl of Breadalbane and Holland took possession of Ackergill Tower in repayment of debts owed to him by the Sinclairs.

John Campbell put Ackergill Tower up for sale in 1699, and it was bought by Sir William Dunbar of Hempriggs. The Dunbars began extensive renovations, including the addition of a lean-to-shaped extension to the tower. In the mid-19th century, further additions including a cap house were made by the architect David Bryce on behalf of George Sutherland Dunbar, 7th Lord Duffus. It remained in the hands of the Dunbars of Hempriggs until 1986, when it was sold. The castle underwent a two-year period of restoration work before opening as an exclusive hotel and business venue.

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Founded: 16th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Karen Carmedy (5 months ago)
Ackergill Tower is no longer operating as a hotel, as from December 2018. Since early 2019 Ackergill is now a private estate. Signs at the entrance and on the drive clearly state it is by appointment only, not open to the public. Thank you.
Andrea L. (9 months ago)
friendly, impressiv..just a Dream
Dan Ross (2 years ago)
Stunning historical location, food and staff. The best of the best.
Ellie (2 years ago)
Such a nice and interesting place. The owner and staff are just lovely!
GeoffreyL Hall (3 years ago)
Always nice to return and spend time soaking up the atmosphere. Plenty of public rooms to spend time relaxing in. Feels like home, in fact at times you do wonder who you've got staying as a guest!. Great staff do make staying here a pleasure and if conditions are right it's a good place to be for Aurora watching.
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