Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The Destruction of Herbertshire Castle

Herbertshire Castle was a great L-plan tower house which stood on elevated ground above the River Carron at Dunipace, not far from Stirling. It formed a landmark for miles around and appears to have dated from the 16th century, at which time it belonged to the Sinclairs of Rosslyn. Certainly its plan and profile, together with the continuous corbelling, would support such a date.

Herbertshire Castle went through many alterations over the centuries

In 1657 Herbertshire was noted as a ‘Houss with yairds, orcheards, woodes, fishing parkes and mylnes’. In 1697 a traveller wrote: ‘Hence I went to Harbertshire. This is a strong, high tower house built by the Laird of Rosin in King James the 5th time’.

The Jacobites and later history

The following century, however, did not deal gently with Herbertshire which underwent alterations and additions – not, one may add, to its advantage.

A notable event occurred in 1746 when the Jacobite army, fresh from their victory at the Battle of Falkirk, left their badly wounded there. Shortly afterwards the Prince’s army were forced to quit their camp at Stirling, in disarray, and these unfortunates were left to the tender mercies of the government army.

The information board at Herbertshire Castle depicts the Jacobite visit in 1746

In the 19th century it functioned as a holiday home for the poor children of Edinburgh to breathe the fresh country air. After this interlude it reverted to a private residence.

The destruction of the castle

At 5.30 am on 20 December 1914, Mr and Mrs Forbes, the then owners, were awakened by the screams of their four daughters – the tower house was on fire. The smoke was so thick that nothing could be seen and the parents escaped via a back staircase. A maid had led the four girls to a window where they were rescued by a ladder but two housemaids were trapped on the upper floor. In desperation they jumped from a window ledge 21 feet onto the flat roof of an adjoining building to their severe injury. There were two other girls in the tower, friends of the daughters who were staying over for Christmas, who were even less fortunate – they died in their beds.

Shortly afterwards a great portion of the walls fell. Herbertshire remained a gutted ruin until 1950 when, in spite of protests, it was entirely destroyed by explosives.

The present day

In recent years the grounds have been tastefully laid out as a park. Of the castle itself, nothing remains, but the site is marked by an ancient Spanish chestnut tree which once stood in front of the entrance.

Herbertshire Castle once occupied the green sward behind the chestnut tree

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 17 Mar 2024 Updated: 21 Mar 2024
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