Visit Insch and the surrounding villages and stay in bed & breakfast accommodation:
Insch, Aberdeenshire. This pleasant granite-built village at the western end of the province of the Garioch signals its whereabouts to the approaching traveller by means of an unmistakeable landmark. This is the conspicuous tower on top of the conical grassy hill of Dunnideer (876 ft), with a great irregular arch in the middle of a rough-hewn wall of masonry through which the light of day shines. This is all that remains of the medieval Castle of Dunnideer — the earliest authenticated tower-house on the mainland of Scotland. Actually there are three antiquities on the summit of Dunnideer, which is just West of the village. They form a triple ring. On the outer circle is a multiple earthwork rampart, the origins of which are lost in the mists of prehistory. Inside is an elliptical vitrified fort of the Iron Age, while inside that again are the ruins of the medieval castle, which have now been saved for posterity by a timely restoration fund.
The story of the medieval castle is clearly authenticated. The chartulary of the Abbey of Lindores, which held sway over wide lands in the Garioch, records that in 1260 the “Castle of Dunidor” was built by Sir John de Balliol, husband of Dervogillan, Lady of Galloway, who nine years later founded Balliol College, Oxford, in her husband's memory. This lady was the mother of the obsequious King John Balliol, the “toom tabard” whom Edward I of England so grievously humiliated. The castle was a simple rectangular tower, unvaulted, and with two narrow slit windows in the basement. It is the gable with its breached and broken lancet window that is the landmark we know today. The castle appears to have been the headquarters of the Barony of Insch and the village itself received a charter as a burgh of barony in the 16th century. With a population of just over 800, it has never sought to enter the lists as a police burgh and consequently its provost, bailies and town council are “unofficial”, but they hold regular meetings and act as a sort of village amenities association. In the kirkyard of Insch is the ruin of an early post-Reformation parish church with a beautiful belfry bearing the date 1613 and a bell that dates from 1706.
There are many antiquities of interest in the Insch area. But perhaps the most charming is Lickleyhead Castle (3 miles South), on the banks of the Gadie near the hamlet of Auchleven, the home of Madame de Mier, who has carefully restored and refurnished this fine old Scottish tower-house.
You reach Lickleyhead through undulating country of great beauty. Just beyond the quiet village of Premnay the tree-lined drive begins. It sweeps round and across a new bridge over the Gadie to the entry to the tower, and your first impression is of the great height of the building. The effect is accentuated by the disposition of the windows, which diminish in size from the first floor upwards. There is the grace of ornament in the heavily-corbelled stair-tower, in the turrets, in the gabled windows of the upper storeys and in turret windows of unusual ovoid form.
As Mr Stewart Cruden has remarked in his book The Scottish Castle, the long soaring roundel of the stair-tower, corbelled out at only a few feet above the ground, demonstrates the 16th century Scottish mason's fondness for this contrivance, and his tendency to design from the wall-head down instead of from the ground up.
Above the entry to the tower are carved the initials of John Forbes, Lickleyhead's first Forbes laird, and the date 1629.
The Forbes family held Lickleyhead Castle throughout the 17th century and went down in history as ardent supporters of the Covenant. One of their number, William Forbes, met and challenged a famous Royalist, Alexander Irvine of Kingcausie, near the Bridge of Dee, Aberdeen, on the 17th of August 1644. The covenanting authorities had offered an award for the arrest of Irvine, and Forbes attempted to capture him. When he resisted arrest, Forbes drew out a pistol and shot him dead. When some years later, while practising shooting in the garden at Lickleyhead, Forbes's gun burst and both his hand and arm were shattered, folk said it was “just what he deserved”. After the Restoration he was arrested and executed for Irvine's murder.
At the end of the century the Castle passed out of the hands of the Forbes family and was owned in turn by Hays, Duffs, Gordons, and Oglivies, and ultimately by the Lumsdens of Auchindoir and Clova, from whom it was purchased by Madame de Mier. There are portraits by Allan Ramsay and Romney in a Georgian wing of the house which forms the third side of a paved courtyard.
Nearby towns: Huntly, Inverurie, Kintore, Turriff
Nearby villages: Alford, Auchleven, Blackford, Bridge of Alford, Bridgend, Chapel of Garioch, Clatt, Cobairdy, Corse, Corse, Craigearn, Cults, Cults, Daviot, Drumblade, Fingask, Fyvie, Keig, Kemnay, Kennethmont, Kildrummy, Kirkton of Culsalmond, Kirktown of Auchterless, Largue, Leslie, Lumsden, Meikle Wartle, Monymusk, Old Rayne, Oldmeldrum, Oyne, Pitcaple, Pitfichie, Pittodrie, Port Elphinstone, Rhynie, Rothienorman, Slioch, Tarland, Thainstone, Tifty, Tillyfourie, Tough, Tullynessle, Wells of Ythan, Whitehouse
Have you decided to visit Insch or the surrounding villages? Please look above for somewhere to stay in:
- a Insch bed and breakfast (a Insch B&B or Insch b and b)
- a Insch guesthouse
- a Insch hotel (or motel)
- a Insch self-catering establishment, or
- other Insch accommodation