There has been a castle on the site of current Balnagown Castle since the 14th century, although the present building was remodelled in the 18th and 19th centuries. Balnagown is the ancestral home of the Chiefs of Clan Ross.
In the early 14th century, a castle was begun at Balnagown by Hugh, Mormaer (Earl) of Ross. Hugh was husband of Maud, sister of King Robert the Bruce, although after Hugh's death in 1333, his family lost royal favour and their lands were forfeit. Balnagown was acquired by a stepson of Hugh in 1375 who expanded the estate, a process which continued over the following centuries. In 1585 Alexander Ross, 9th laird of Balnagown, was outlawed, as was his son George.
During the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, David Ross, 12th of Balnagown, fought for King Charles II at the Battle of Worcester (1651), although he was captured and died in the Tower of London. The 13th laird, another David, married Anne, daughter of James Stuart, 4th Earl of Moray, in 1666. David and Anne rebuilt Balnagown, as attested by a datestone of 1672 on the castle, although they left no heir, and the estate passed to the Rosses of Halkhead in 1711.
In 1754 Balnagown passed to another branch of the family, when it was inherited by Admiral Sir John Lockhart-Ross, 6th Baronet. The admiral spent much time and money improving the Balnagown estate. His son and heir Sir Charles Lockhart-Ross consulted James Gillespie Graham on Gothic Revival style alterations to the castle, and Italian gardens were laid out. Sir Charles Ross, 9th Baronet, inherited in 1911. He continued the tradition of agricultural improvement, introducing the silo and the combine harvester to the estate. He also invented the Ross rifle, which he had manufactured in Canada. To prevent the seizure of Balnagown by the Inland Revenue, Ross had the estate declared a ward of the court of Delaware, and he was subsequently unable to return to Britain for fear of imprisonment. From his death in 1942, until 1972, the castle was unoccupied and became dilapidated. In 1972, it was purchased by Mohamed Al-Fayed, who began restoration of the house and grounds.References:
Derbent is the southernmost city in Russia, occupying the narrow gateway between the Caspian Sea and the Caucasus Mountains connecting the Eurasian steppes to the north and the Iranian Plateau to the south. Derbent claims to be the oldest city in Russia with historical documentation dating to the 8th century BCE. Due to its strategic location, over the course of history, the city changed ownership many times, particularly among the Persian, Arab, Mongol, Timurid, Shirvan and Iranian kingdoms.
Derbent has archaeological structures over 5,000 years old. As a result of this geographic peculiarity, the city developed between two walls, stretching from the mountains to the sea. These fortifications were continuously employed for a millennium and a half, longer than any other extant fortress in the world.
A traditionally and historically Iranian city, the first intensive settlement in the Derbent area dates from the 8th century BC. The site was intermittently controlled by the Persian monarchs, starting from the 6th century BC. Until the 4th century AD, it was part of Caucasian Albania which was a satrap of the Achaemenid Persian Empire. In the 5th century Derbent functioned as a border fortress and the seat of Sassanid Persians. Because of its strategic position on the northern branch of the Silk Route, the fortress was contested by the Khazars in the course of the Khazar-Arab Wars. In 654, Derbent was captured by the Arabs.
The Sassanid fortress does not exist any more, as the famous Derbent fortress as it stands today was built from the 12th century onward. Derbent became a strong military outpost and harbour of the Sassanid empire. During the 5th and 6th centuries, Derbent also became an important center for spreading the Christian faith in the Caucasus.
The site continued to be of great strategic importance until the 19th century. Today the fortifications consist of two parallel defence walls and Naryn-Kala Citadel. The walls are 3.6km long, stretching from the sea up to the mountains. They were built from stone and had 73 defence towers. 9 out of the 14 original gates remain.
In Naryn-Kala Citadel most of the old buildings, including a palace and a church, are now in ruins. It also holds baths and one of the oldest mosques in the former USSR.
In 2003, UNESCO included the old part of Derbent with traditional buildings in the World Heritage List.