The Castle is sited on an elevated position commanding extensive views of the surrounding parklands and panoramic views in several directions. The parkland (470ha/1,161 acres) lies on the west banks of the Alltan Fhithich. The parkland is crossed by several minor burns, lined with trees. The designed landscape incorporates significant areas of woodland, the majority now forestry plantations. Numerous ornamental specimens, e.g. horse chestnut, lime, cedar, fir, spruce and Wellingtonias are planted throughout the policies.
Type of Site
Designed landscape with informal parklands, with features surviving from its previous formal landscape design.
Location and Setting
Castle Grant lies in Strathspey, 1km north of Grantown-on-Spey, bordered to the west by the A939, Carrbridge-Nairn road. The Alltan Fhithich burn forms its eastern boundary.
Here, Strathspey is enclosed by the Monadhliath range to the north-west and by the Hills of Cromdale to the south-east. These hill ranges define the visual horizons from Castle Grant and the setting of the designed landscape. The designed landscape lies on the lower-lying valley slopes, which comprise a varied, rolling topography. The Castle is sited on an elevated position commanding extensive views of the surrounding parklands and panoramic views in several directions.
Castle Grant designed landscape extends to c 470ha (1161 acres). Comparison of Roy's Survey (1747-55), the various surveys commissioned by the Grants (Winter, 1748; Robinson, 1764) and subsequent maps (1868-71, OS 6"; 1903-4, OS 6") indicate that the parkland was enlarged so that the early 18th century formal landscape lay within outer informal parklands. Thereafter the area of parkland has remained unchanged.
The core of Castle Grant is formed by an early 16th century, L-plan tower house, extensively enlarged and altered. A major phase of rebuilding in 1753-6, is to John Adam's design, whereby he built a new front block across the north elevation, changing the main entrance to the north. The south court is raised above a basement and enclosed by a low crenellated wall reached by a flight of steps. The Castle is harled with ashlar margins, except the north facade composed of squared and coursed ashlar granite. It comprises an austere symmetrical, four-storey, seven-bay facade with central entrance.
The East Lodge, Railway Bridge over A939 and Entrance Arch date from 1863-4, and compose a dramatic entrance to the estate. The lodge is Scots Baronial in style, with a projecting wing at the south and a drum tower at the north-west. It is sited to enable access directly from a railway carriage. The Railway Bridge, designed by Joseph Mitchell c 1863, is a single-span coursed rubble bridge with tooled ashlar dressings. Another Railway Bridge (also by Mitchell), carrying the north drive from Cottartown to the Home Farm, is a three-arched tooled granite bridge with crenellated parapet.
The late 19th century West Lodge, (formerly called the South Lodge) lies on the road to Grantown. It is Scots Baronial in style, composed of square-tooled granite, with ashlar dressings. A drum tower is set at its south-east angle, flanking the entrance pier.
The rectangular Walled Garden lies in Milton Wood, to the south-west of the Castle. The Garden Cottage, a simple single-storey building with dormers, sits to the east of the garden. North-west of the Castle is the Home Farm and the Laundry Cottage is to the south-east.
Drives and Approaches
The main approach to Castle Grant leads in from the south (from Castle Road East, Grantown), through the West Lodge. The drive leads through mature Scots pine woodland, then across the south park to cross the Allt a' Bhacain, west of the Walled Garden. At this point the drive divides, one branch leading towards the Castle and the other north-westwards, along a lime avenue, to the Home Farm.
A drive from the 'East' Lodge, situated west of the Castle on the Old Military Road, leads north-east towards the Home Farm. It is tree-lined in part, punctuated by specimen cedars. At the Home Farm it joins a drive leading northwards to Cottartown and, to the south, the Castle.
A network of drives leads through the parkland and woods, to the outer policies.
The parkland (470ha/1,161 acres) lies on the west banks of the Alltan Fhithich, with the Allt a' Bhacain flowing west to east, though Milton Wood to join the Alltan Fhithich. It is enclosed by woodland, including Scots pine plantations. The parkland is crossed by several minor burns, lined with trees.
The East Parkland was the Deer Park (1868-71, OS 6") but is now part of the Home Farm tenancy and farmed with areas of permanent pasture and cultivated grassland. A distinctive feature of the East Park is Freuchies Hill, a conical mound on which a Pictish stone was found.
To the west of the Castle, lines of mature lime trees demarcate the site of the mid-18th century formal gardens. A stone wall defines the western perimeter of this area.
The designed landscape incorporates significant areas of woodland, the majority now forestry plantations. These are long-established forests with large compartments of mature Scots pine mixed in part with birch, rowan and oak. Smaller areas of mixed woodland, comprising primarily beech, oak, willow and birch grow along the watercourses, on hill ridges and around buildings. Numerous ornamental specimens, e.g. horse chestnut, lime, cedar, fir, spruce and Wellingtonias are planted throughout the policies.
The Walled Garden is situated c 1km south-east of the Castle, on a plateau above the Allt an Fhithich. It is sheltered on its western side by pine woodland.
There is a range of buildings at its northern corner. The garden is currently disused and contains some mature larches from an earlier plantation. An overgrown box hedge defines the former site of ornamental beds. Outside the walls, to the west, is the disused Garden Cottage and to the east is an overgrown beech hedge.
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The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:
Reason for Inclusion
Castle Grant makes an important scenic contribution in Strathspey, and has a well-documented history of landscape development from earlier 18th century formal design to the existing informal 19th century parkland design.
Main Phases of Landscape Development
Early-mid 18th century, 19th century.
Ballachastel, also known as Castle of Freuchie, was a Comyn stronghold acquired by Duncan Grant, son of a Sheriff of Inverness-shire, in c 1450.
Ludovick Grant (1650?-1716) was a Commissioner to Parliament for Elgin in 1681. He was appointed member of a Committee to report on the state of the Highlands and raised a regiment of 6-700 men, in 1689. The Battle of Cromdale (a Jacobite defeat on 1st May 1690), took place on the Castle Grant estate. He was Sheriff of Inverness-shire, a post that he held until his death. In 1694 he obtained a Crown charter which transformed the barony of Freuchie into the regality of Grant (thus assuming legal powers on his estates, over all matters except high treason). He styled himself laird of Grant and renamed his house Castle Grant, which he remodelled and extended. He commissioned the artist Richard Waitt to paint a series of portraits of his family, extended kin, tenantry and clan members, between 1713-26. One of these, 'The Piper to the Laird of Grant', is a portrait of the piper William Cumming with, what is assumed to be, a stylised representation of Castle Grant in the background. The castellated house with lodges or pavilions is shown set centrally within a series of walled gardens and a forecourt, highlighted with gatepiers and flights of steps.
Ludovick Grant settled his estates on his eldest son Colonel Alexander Grant of Grant (1679-1720), in 1710. Thereafter, in 1720, Sir James Grant inherited the estate. He undertook building on the Castle and the garden walls, starting in 1728 (Seafield MS, GD248/2/65). In 1748, he commissioned Thomas Winter (fl.1726-53), to design the gardens. Winter, a land surveyor from Norfolk, had emigrated in 1726 to work for Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk (q.v. Inventory, Volume 3, pp.288-93) and by the 1740s was undertaking a variety of commissions. He proposed a 'new Little garden' to the north and west of the castle formed by a series of embankments with an upper terrace 'overlooking all the Banks and Walks and parterre and not the new Kitchen Ground.' These overlooked lower terraces and 'A plain parterre of Flowers, flowering Shrubs and Grass' (quoted in Tait, 1980, pp.62-3). The Kitchen Garden was enclosed by an espalier hedge to screen it from the formal gardens. Other estate works comprised a beech avenue and a planting of beech and ash at Dun Brae above the Castle (Tait, pp.62-3).
In 1753, Sir Ludovick Grant (1743'1773) employed John Adam to remodel and enlarge the late 17th century house. Adam added a new façade to the north elevation. Babie's Tower, the original 16th century wing, remained with its original corbelled parapet. Grantown-on-Spey (formerly Castletoun of Freuchie) was laid out by him as a planned town, to the south of the policies. A formal avenue led southwards from the Castle to Milltown and a formal canal and pool were set in the grounds.
Sir James Grant's correspondence with Lord Deskford and Lord Seafield, indicate he planned to improve the policies from at least 1761 (Fraser, 1883), although he did not inherit until 1771. He took great interest in the arts, commissioned drawings from Alexander Cozens (d.1786) and subscribed to his 'Characteristics of Landscape'. He also seems to have commissioned the landscape painter William Tomkins (1730-92), suggesting he undertake additional topographic views on and around the Grant Estates including a 'South west view of Castle Grant'. Grant commissioned Robert Robinson and Charles Tennoch to draw up a survey of the policies in 1762. Robert Robinson (1734-94) drew a 'Plan for the Improvement' of the policies (1764) extending from the Old Military Road in the west, to encompass the Deer Park to the east of the Castle and the east bank of the Allt an Fhithich, by Drumindunan Wood. Robinson's scheme, considered extravagant at a cost of £31.10s and £16 for expenses, remained unexecuted. It was essentially a fairly standard 'informal' design, providing a symmetrical arrangement of planting and drives focussed on the Castle.
Undaunted, Grant's enthusiasm in planning the design of his policies continued. His interests are outlined in his correspondence with Robert Waddilove, Dean of Ripon and with William Forbes, his factor. George Taylor prepared a further design in 1771, for a new garden and related buildings. Then in 1803, Lewis Sinclair, planter and surveyor to the Grant estates, drew up a 'Plan of the New Garden at Milltown, Castle Grant' incorporating fruit trees acquired from Lee and Kennedy's nursery in Hampstead. An 1810 survey plan shows the formal landscape still largely intact with Winter's commercial plantations (Tait, 1980, p.80).
In 1811, Sir Lewis Alexander Grant inherited the estate and, also as heir of the Airlie family, the Earldom of Seafield. Some remodelling, mainly to the interiors of the Castle was done in 1836. Grant, the 7th Earl of Seafield, was in 1858 created Baron Strathspey of Strathspey, by Queen Victoria, who visited in 1860 with Prince Albert. She described Castle Grant as a 'fine (not Highland-looking,) park, with a very plain-looking house, like a factory' (Sales Particulars, 1993).
In 1863-4, the Inverness and Perth Junction Railway was routed via Forres to Inverness. A lodge was built to serve as a private station (formerly known as the North Lodge), 'in acknowledgement of the great facilities given by the Earl of Seafield in the formation of the railway through his estates' (quoted in The List of Buildings). This cut through the north-west corner of the park. By the mid 19th century, the park was enclosed and incorporated extensive commercial woodlands. The east park, bounded to the east by the Alltan Fhithich, was enclosed as a Deer Park. A formal avenue led northwards to the Home Farm, with the main pleasure grounds set to the west and east of the Castle. The latter included Freuchies Hill (1868-71, OS 6"). By the 1880s, the 8th Earl held 160,000 acres, and by 1895 the Seafield Estates were recorded as owning 303,000 acres in Morayshire.
Late 19th century additions to the policies included the West Lodge and a memorial plantation of Scots Pines, set within a rectangular railed enclosure in the east of the Deer Park. The Grant's principal seat was at Cullen House (q.v. Inventory, Volume 3, pp.192-96). During the 20th century, Castle Grant was abandoned and became derelict until the 1990s when it was sold and repair works undertaken. The Castle and its gardens remain in private ownership. The parkland and policies remain in the ownership of Seafield Estates.
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- Features & Designations
Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland
- Key Information
Grantown on Spey