- Structures have dotted the land of Garth Castle since 1100 AD according to the monks of Fortingall records. The first Castle of Garth was built in the early 1200s by Alexander II, King of Scots (and grandson of Robert Bruce). Edward I of Englandsent his soldiers to destroy the structure, breaking down the massive stone walls with catapults and fierce fighting men.
- The heir to Garth, Alexander Stewart (the Wolf of Badenoch) rebuilt and fortified the castle structure in 1384, to resist the onslaught of flaming arrows and rocks hurled from catapults. This is much as the exterior structure appears today with outside walls 8’ to 12’ deep and inner walls 4’ to 6’deep. The stones wereruggedly cut of varying sizes, a memorial testimony to the common men, women and even children of the 14th Century. The builders were drawn from farmers and laborers in the off-seasons of the year. For that reason, the stones varied widely in size and
weight, but all were quarried locally. “Dressed” stones were commissioned
to form the massive corners of the fortress tower.
Children carried smaller stones to help form the architectural
mosaic of the structure.
- Alexander Stewart, Earl of Buchan and son of Robert II is branded in
history as the villainous Wolf of Badenoch. The castle housed the family of
the laird, servants, and six or seven armed soldiers resided on the upper
most floor (the guard walk and sleeping shelves are still evident today.) When enemies threatened or storms arose, people from all around sought refuge in the castle.
- Life at Garth Castle continued through Medieval times for several centuries, with farmers raising root vegetables (turnips, parsnips and later potatoes) and grains like oats and barley. Game and fish teemed in the forests and streams then, as they do today. In 1502, Neil Gointe Stewart became the Laird of Garth Castle and for years he and his henchmen attacked only the king’s enemies. Wild-tempered and probably bored when the king’s enemies were not around, Neil led his many sons and soldiers against his neighbors in an attempt to seize more land. They burned nearby Castle Menzies to the ground and captured Sir Robert Menzies, throwing him into the dungeon at Garth. Through starvation and ill-treatment his captors tried to force him to sign over all of his nearby lands to Neil, the Laird of Garth.
- King James (Stewart) IV went north with his knights to sort out the mess at Garth. Neil quietly released the Laird of Menzies after extracting a signed document of forgiveness from him, but Neil was rebuked by the king and warned to keep to himself.
- Neil could not avoid conflict. Suspected of killing his second wife Mariota McQueen Stewart by dropping a rock on her head as she strolled through the burn below the castle and near the stream where it flows yet today, folk stories tell how Neil was sentenced by the King to dwell in his own dungeon for nine years until his death in 1554.
- One hundred years later in 1654, Royalist Colonel Henry Wogan and 30 men occupied Garth Castle during Oliver Cromwell’s War. Cromwell’s men pummeled the castle walls with cannon balls, destroyed the drawbridge and burned the roof. [Cannon balls continue to be uncovered today at Garth and remnants of the damage to the stones may still be seen.] After the Cromwellian Wars, the Stewart family built a new home down in the valley but Major General Alex Stewart continued to visit Garth Castle as the seat of their family and forebears.
- In the latter 1800’s, Donald Currie, owner of Castle Shipping Line bought up the lands and the ruins of Castle Garth. One of his steamers was christened Garth Castle in 1881. The famous Fry’s Chocolate Company, a family-owned business, bought Garth in the 1960’s. They restored and rebuilt the castle for family and corporate use as a private hunting hostel.
- Garth continued to host families and sportsmen until the early 1990’s when Neil Rose, a Scot by birth, bought the castle and soon after became the Baron of Garth. Castle ownership was passed to his sons, but he maintains the title.
Two excellent website resources that may interest you are:
An academic review of the builders and occupants of Garth Castle through the ages: https://www.academia.edu/9509707/An_Ancient_Scottish_Castle_That_Lives
A rarely found history of the Stewart/Stuart family in Scotland (including Garth Castle): https://archive.org/details/historicmemorial00stew