Ochiltree Castle and its well kept gardens
OCHILTREE CASTLE Location - OS map 65 (NT 032-748)
3.5 miles east and south of Linlithgow. On minor road south of the B9080 and west of the B8046 at Wester Ochiltree.
It was a property of James Hamilton of Finnart (The Bastard of Finnart) from 1526 until 1540. It then became the property of the Stewarts of Ochiltree. It became a farmhouse and was modernised in the 1930s. It fell into disrepair in the 1970s and was restored in the 1980s.
It stands on the crest of a ridge overlooking the Firth of Forth and is surrounded by its fermtoun. It is an altered 16th century L plan tower house of three storeys and an attic. The gables are corbiestepped. Conical roofed bartizans crown two of the external corners. A stair-tower has been erected in the re-entrant angle covering the original door. An entrance was created near the foot of the stair tower, and is contained within an extension to the wall of the main block. A further new door was cut through the west wall on the opposite side to the original. This new entrance is enhanced with decorative pediments, which carry heraldic decoration. A 17th century extension has been added to the original kitchen gable.
The later main entrance in the west wall serves a wide straight stair that rises to the first floor. Internal space to create this stair was achieved by the reduction of the length of the first floor hall. A vaulted ground floor corridor runs between the original and later door positions. No other sign of ground floor vaulting remains. The kitchen fireplace is on the ground floor and was vented by a huge chimney. Access to the 17th century extension is through the back wall of the kitchen fireplace.
Niddry Castle - restored & occupied
NIDDRY CASTLE Location – OS map 65 (NT 097-743)
2 miles north-east of Broxburn, on minor roads north between the A89 and the B8020, just east of main Glasgow-Edinburgh railway line by Winchburgh.
Known as Niddry-Seaton to distinguish it from Niddry-Marischal. It was the property of the Seatons. One of the family, George Seaton, was killed at Flodden in 1513. The Seatons supported Mary Queen of Scots, and it was to here that she came in 1568 when she escaped from detention in Loch Leven Castle. After one night she rode to Hamilton to join her army. After defeat at the Battle of Langside she fled to England, imprisonment and eventual execution at Fotheringhay in 1587. The castle was acquired by the Hopes in the 17th century, but was abandoned soon afterwards. The castle has been restored and is occupied.
It is a simple 15th century tower / keep modified to L plan by the addition of a stairtower. It consists of four storeys and an attic. The corbelling that supported the parapet remains. The parapet had open rounds at all corners. The parapet was obliterated when two further storeys were added to the tower in the 17th century. A small stair turret in the re-entrant angle led to the garret storey. The lower parts of the perimeter wall with round corner towers are still visible. The remains of a large walled garden stand beside the tower.
The entrance is in the re-entrant angle and leads to a basement which contains a well. There is a dungeon in the wing. The turnpike stair climbs in the thickness of the walls to all floors. The hall on the first floor has a large fireplace.
HOUSTON HOUSE Location – OS map 65 (NT 058-716)
In Uphall, on minor roads south of the A899, just west of junction with the B8046 near the Brox Burn.
The lands were originally held, by the Houstons, one of whom was killed at Flodden in 1513. The property passed to the Sharp or Shairp family about 1569. Sir John Shairp received a pair of hawking gloves from Mary Queen of Scots. One of the family was Archbishop Sharp who was murdered at Magnus Muir in 1679. Shairp of Houston voted against the Act of Union of 1707 during the last Scottish Parliament. Houston was sold by the family. The building has been much extended and is now a hotel.
It is an early 17th century L plan tower house of four storeys and an attic. The tower was greatly altered and extended in later centuries with the addition of new wings around a rectangular courtyard. A small stair tower projects from the original house. The walls are harled.
The basement is vaulted, but the inside of the tower has been greatly altered. A scale and platt stair has replaced the original turnpike stair in the re-entrant angle. The vaulted kitchen has a large arched fireplace. The hall, now the dining room, occupied the first floor of the main block.
CARRIDEN HOUSE Location – OS map 65 (NT 026-808)
1.5 miles east of Bo'ness, on minor roads east from the A904, near the shore of the Firth of Forth.
Standing beside a Roman Fort, the lands were held by the Cockburn family from 1358 until 1541 when they passed to the Abercrombies. In 1601 the property was sold to Sir John Hamilton of Letterick. He was made Lord Bargarny, and built most of the remaining house. It was sold to the Seatons and then passed through many families including the Cornwalls of Bonhard, to the Hopes, two of whom were distinguished admirals.
It is a much altered 16th century tower house of five storeys, to which a large modern mansion has been added. Bartizans with gunloops crown the corners, but the roof pitch has been lowered. Most of the windows have been enlarged. The date 1602 appears over a first floor window. The basement is vaulted.
BLACKNESS CASTLE Location – OS map 65 (NT 056-803)
4 miles east of Bo'ness, on the south shore of the Firth of Forth from the B903 or the B9109.
Blackness was the medieval port for Linlithgow. The castle is first mentioned in 1449 as a prison. The Viponts held the lands since before 1200, but in the 15th century it passed to the Chrichtons. It was briefly seized and sacked by the Douglases. It was burned by an English fleet in 1481. James III met his rebellious nobles here in 1488. In 1537 Sir James Hamilton of Finnart started the conversion into an artillery fortress. In 1543 Cardinal David Beaton was imprisoned. Blackness held out for Mary Queen of Scots until 1573, five years after she fled to England. General Monck bombarded and captured it in 1650 during Cromwell's invasion. The damage was not repaired until 1660 when Blackness became a prison again.
External and internal views
The 15th century curtain walls were much modified and strengthened for artillery in later centuries. The main entrance to the courtyard has an iron yett, and is protected by a defensive spur with caponier and gun platforms. The oldest part of the castle is the 15th century central square keep of four storeys. Chambers on each floor having their own fireplace and latrine. Nobles were imprisoned here. The keep was heightened in 1553, and altered again with the addition of a projecting round stair tower. The landward tower mainly of 1540 contained the main residential accommodation, it probably stands on the site of the 15th century hall. The sea tower served as an artillery platform and as a secondary prison. A hatch gives access to the pit prison which is open to the sea at high tide.
OLD SAUCHIE Location – OS map 57 (NS 779-883)
3 miles south-west of Stirling on minor roads west of the A872, west of Howieton fishery at Old Sauchie.
It was the property of the Erskines, but passed to the Ramsay family in the 18th century, then in 1865 to Sir Alexander Gibson-Maitland. The battle of Sauchieburn was fought nearby in 1488 where the forces of James III were defeated by his rebellious nobles. The king was murdered after the battle and is buried in Cambuskenneth Abbey.
It is a ruined L plan tower house of four storeys. The gables are crowstepped and two bartizans crown the walls. A stair turret rises from first floor level. The walls are pierced by gunloops and shot holes. A wing was added in the 17th century. The property continued to be used as an estate office.
The entrance is in the re-entrant angle and leads to a vaulted basement which contained the kitchen and cellars. A wide stair leads up to the first floor. Upper floors are reached via the stair turret from first floor.
BLAIRLOGIE CASTLE Location –OS map 57 (NS 827-969)
3 miles north-east of Stirling on minor road just north of the A91 west of Blairlogie.
It was a property of the Spittal family from the late 15th century until 1767, when it passed by marriage to the Dundases of Blair. The castle was used as a farmhouse and is occupied.
It is a small rectangular tower standing in a strong position in the Ochil hills. It seems to date from 1513 and is of two storeys and an attic. In 1582 a stair wing was added making it an L plan layout. The tower was later extended and altered.
The basement was vaulted and the hall was on the first floor.
PLEAN CASTLE / PLANE TOWER Location – OS map 65 (NS 850-870)
6 miles south-east of Stirling, on minor road south of the B9124.
The lands passed to by marriage to the Somervilles in 1449. The property was sold in 1643 to the Nicholsons, and was later held by the Elphinstones. The castle was abandoned and became ruinous. It was remodelled about 1900, then became derelict again. It is now restored and occupied.
Plean or Plane is an altered 15th century keep, originally of three storeys to the parapet, above which there would have been an attic within gables at the parapet level. Outsize windows were added to a new storey above the parapet, which destroyed the original upper structure during work of about 1900. A courtyard housed ranges of buildings, including a kitchen. Recent rebuilding has recreated the main range on the visible foundations.
The basement of the tower is not vaulted. A straight stair climbs to the first floor hall. The upper floors are reached by a turnpike stair.
TORWOOD CASTLE Location – OS map 65 (NS 836-844)
4 miles north-west of Falkirk, on minor roads west of the A9, about 0.5 miles south of Torwood, near the course of the Roman road.
Torwood or Torwoodhead was a property of the Forresters of Garden who were the keepers of the nearby forest of Torwood in the 15th century. Sir Duncan Forrester was killed at the battle of Pinkie in 1547. The present castle was built after the lands had passed to the Baillies of Castlecary, in 1653 it returned to the Forresters of Corstorphine
It is a ruined 16th century L plan tower house. It had a courtyard enclosing 17th century outbuildings. The tower consists of a main block of three storeys and a projecting wing, which rises two storeys higher. A square stair tower in the re-entrant angle is a storey lower than the wing. The walls are pierced with shotholes and gun-loops.
The moulded entrance, in the re-entrant angle, leads through a lobby to the main turnpike stair. The basement is vaulted and contains three cellars. One of these is the wine cellar with a service stair leading to the hall above. Another cellar contains the kitchen with an arched fireplace. The hall on the first floor has a decorated fireplace and an adjoining private chamber. The upper floors are ruinous.
CASTLECARY Location – OS map 64 (NS 786-775)
2 miles north-east of Cumbernauld, on minor roads south of the A80, just east of the Walton burn, and south of the railway bridge at Castlecary.
The property was owned by the Livingstones until the first half of the 17th century, when it passed to the Baillies. The castle was burned by Jacobites during the 1715 rising. In 1730 the property passed by marriage to the Dunbars of Fingask. It is said that the castle is haunted by two ghosts; General Baillie the Covenanter General who was defeated by the Marquis of Montrose at the battle of Kilsyth which happened close by, and by Lizzie Baillie who ran off with a poor highland farmer, but reputedly haunts the castle searching for her father, as the news of her elopement is said to have killed him.
It consists of a rectangular late 15th century keep with crenellated parapet To this has been added a 17th century L-plan wing of two storeys and an attic. The small wing contains a turnpike stair. A caphouse surmounts the turnpike stair.
The entrance leads to a barrel vaulted basement and to a turnpike stair which rises to the parapet. The hall at first floor level has a moulded fireplace. The interiors have been altered but an iron yett survives within the ground floor of the building.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS
Details here are extracted from -
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume II Central Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions
Mike Salter – The Castles of The Heartland of Scotland