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:
The Externsteine (Extern stones) is a distinctive sandstone rock formation located in the Teutoburg Forest, near the town of Horn-Bad Meinberg. The formation is a tor consisting of several tall, narrow columns of rock which rise abruptly from the surrounding wooded hills. Archaeological excavations have yielded some Upper Paleolithic stone tools dating to about 10,700 BC from 9,600 BC.
In a popular tradition going back to an idea proposed to Hermann Hamelmann in 1564, the Externsteine are identified as a sacred site of the pagan Saxons, and the location of the Irminsul (sacral pillar-like object in German paganism) idol reportedly destroyed by Charlemagne; there is however no archaeological evidence that would confirm the site's use during the relevant period.
The stones were used as the site of a hermitage in the Middle Ages, and by at least the high medieval period were the site of a Christian chapel. The Externsteine relief is a medieval depiction of the Descent from the Cross. It remains controversial whether the site was already used for Christian worship in the 8th to early 10th centuries.
The Externsteine gained prominence when Völkisch and nationalistic scholars took an interest in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. This interest peaked under the Nazi regime, when the Externsteine became a focus of nazi propaganda. Today, they remain a popular tourist destination and also continue to attract Neo-Pagans and Neo-Nazis.