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The Laird of Balgonie
Balgonie Castle
by Markinch, Fife
KY7 6HQ, Scotland
Tel + 44 (0) 1592 750 119
Fax + 44 (0) 1592 753 103

 

Balgonie is the
founder of the
Scottish Castles Association

History

The Tower, the oldest still standing intact in Fife, was built for Sir Thomas Sibbald of Balgonie and is regarded as one of the finest 14th century towers in Scotland.

Built in Ashlar of the hardest of sandstone, it rises approximately 75 feet to the parapets. The walls on the ground floor are 10.5 feet thick reducing to 6 feet at the top.

The Great Hall is the only room that was never remodelled by the later Lairds and so still retains its original window seats. The Laird's Hall, on the floor above, was remodeled in the 17th century and lost its window seats when the windows were enlarged.

The North Range was built in 1496 for Sir Robert Lundin of Balgonie, leaving a defensive 10 foot gap between this and the Tower. This range is a Hall House in its own right and incorporates an earlier corner tower. This date is so precise as King James IV visited on the 20th of August 1496. He was so impressed by the mason's work that he gave them a gift of 20 shillings.

On the ground floor is the Chapel, complete with furniture saved from redundant churches. Both this and the preceding room are illuminated only by candlelight, creating a tremendously medieval ambience.

The gap between the Tower and Hall House was filled in by a Scale and Platt Tower in 1666. This 'great' stair was built by John Mylne of Balfarg, 7th generation Hereditary King's Master Mason. Vandals destroyed the stone staircase in the 1960s and it later had to be restored in timber.

The Barmkin Wall is over 20 feet high and of two distinct periods. The South Wall is probably sixteenth century, whilst the West Wall is probably fifteenth century. The latter wall also houses the Gatehouse and Prison.

The first recorded Lairds were the Sibbald family. The Sibbalds probably descended from Sybaldi, who flourished in the middle of the 12th century. Sir Duncan Sibbald was living in Balgonie before 1246 (he is later mentioned in a Papal Bull of 1250). The Great Tower was built for Sir Thomas Sibbald of Balgonie, King's Treasurer, around 1360.

Elizabeth, daughter of Sir John Sibbald of Balgonie, married George, 4th Earl of Angus. A descendant of this marriage was Lord Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Queen Mary spent the night at Balgonie before going on to Wemyss Castle, where she met Darnley for the first time.

Balgonie passed to the Lundin or Lundie family through the marriage of Elizabeth (daughter of Sir Andrew Sibbald of Balgonie, Sheriff of Fife) to Robert Lundin, second son of Sir John Lundin of that Ilk. The Lundin family descended from a natural son of King William 'The Lion'. Sir Robert Lundin of Balgonie, who entertained James IV, was Lord High Treasurer of Scotland.

In 1624 Balgonie was bought by brothers James Boswell of Lochgelly and David Boswell of Craigincalt. Their creditors, including their father Sir John Boswell of Balmuto, sold Balgonie in 1635 to Sir Alexander Leslie (right).

Leslie, born around 1580, was the son of George Leslie, Captain of Blair Castle and Bailie of Atholl. He served in the Dutch Army before being offered a captaincy in the Swedish Army by King Gustavus Adolphus. In 1622 he raised the Vermlands Regiment for the King. This regiment existed until it was axed by Swedish Government cuts in 2000. Leslie spent 30 years in the service of Sweden, rising to the rank of Field Marshal before retiring in 1638. He was not finished with soldiering, however, as in 1639 he was made Lord General of the Army of the Covenant. He faced Charles I at Duns (this is the origin of the rhyme 'There was a Crooked Man'), where a price of 500 was put on his head. In 1641 Charles I raised him to a peerage with the titles of Earl of Leven and Lord Balgonie.

David, 3rd Earl of Leven (who also inherited the Earldom of Melville) raised a regiment in Edinburgh in 1689 (today they are The King's Own Scottish Borderers). In January 1716 the infamous Rob Roy MacGregor paid Balgonie a visit with some 200 clansmen and 20 Hanoverian prisoners.

Other famous visitors to Balgonie Castle have included Daniel Defoe, Dr Benjamin Rush (signatory of the American Declaration of Independence), James Boswell and Dr Johnson.

The 8th Earl of Leven sold Balgonie in 1824 to Sir James Balfour of Whittinghame (grandfather of A J Balfour, 1st Earl Balfour, Prime Minister 1902-05) who gave the estate to his second son Charles.

By the 1840s letters were appearing in the Edinburgh press concerning the appalling state of Balgonie. The roofs were later taken off to avoid paying Roof Tax.

Following heavy vandalism of the 1960s, the Castle was sold to David Maxwell, from Edinburgh, in 1971. He carried out restoration to the Tower before selling to the present Laird, Raymond Morris of Balgonie & Eddergoll, in 1985.

The Laird of Balgonie with his son, his Chamberlain and two of his Pipers

The Laird and his family are the first people to live in Balgonie for 160 years. It is their intention to restore the remainder of the Castle back to its former glory.