Friday, 10 May 2019

Aldbar Castle

On Thursday, Gregor and I attended a building materials auction viewing at Aldbar Farm which is in the vicinity of Balintore Castle. Yes, you can be rightly startled at the utter glamour of castle restoration! :-) However, a business had stopped trading so there was a real possibility of some bargains at this dispersal sale.

I was navigating, but on some instinct Gregor decided to drive past the minor left turn indicated by the SATNAV and proceeded somewhat further down the road. We stopped to ask two farmers in the corner of a field for directions. "Go back and turn into the fancy entrance on the right" were the directions. Thankfully, I have a thing for the fancy entrances, and this had not gone unnoticed. :-) This proved to be the left turn prior to the one indicated by the SATNAV.

The "fancy entrance" on closer inspection was a stunning pair of romantically overgrown gate lodges. I made Gregor stop so I could take some photographs. With gate lodges this well styled and having perfect Gothic openings, there has to be an equally stunning "big hoose" in the vicinity.

fancy entrance - well modulo purple wheelie bins

ruined gate lodge at rear of entrance gates
The auction venue turned out to be what I call a "model farm", which is generally built to impress rather than just for function, often borrowing architectural detailings from the main house. I took a photo of the farm complex, but there was simply no sign of the big hoose. 

auction venue - a crenelated and be-towered model farm

On the walk to the auction, I introduced Gregor to wild garlic, which was growing wild in the woods. I had not seen this since childhood, but some distant almost ancestral memory stirred. Gregor only hesitantly sampled the plant, after I had eaten a leaf. He concluded it has a smoother and superior flavour to commercial garlic, with a greater pungency.

wild garlic

In the flesh, some large doors that were for sale did not live up to my high expectations from the photo in the auction catalogue. The doors were just cupboard doors, not interior doors, and smaller than I'd estimated. However, there were building materials and building tools galore and I put in my low bids. One unexpected find was a pile of wooden moldings which are carbon copies of the ones in the castle, albeit on a slightly smaller scale - I put my bid in!

At the auction on Friday (today), I won a job lot of scaffolding battens which are needed to reach the roof of the Great Hall, 3 Victorian fire inserts, sundry bits and bobs, and the wooden moldings! I won about half my bids, which is probably a sign that one is pitching at the right level.

Today, I decided to google for the big house and found out this was "Aldbar Castle" which consisted of a large 16th tower house with baronial extensions dating from 1844 to 1854.  The side view shows the great depth of the mediaeval part, and that the Victorian facade, which matches the gate lodges, is just one room thick. The building was devastated by a fire in 1964 and totally demolished later that year. I can almost understand a Victorian house being demolished in 1964, but to demolish a medieval building in 1964 is horrific. The stone walls would have without doubt survived and the term "uneconomic to repair" does not excuse the crime. I finish with some photos of the exterior and interior of Aldbar Castle to show the glory of what has been lost.

The moral of this story is that the attempt to restore one Baronial building which was almost lost, has revealed the even greater loss of another.

Aldbar Castle - front

Aldbar Castle - entrance
Aldbar Castle - dining room


Aldbar Castle - library

Aldbar Castle - side view


  1. It's a shame the people that made these decisions David weren't still alive, hold them to account. Plenty of councils thoughtout the country at this time did the same thing with magnificent buildings

    1. I can't get my head around it. Having seen wholesale destruction of heritage and humanity during the war, why then score an own goal?

  2. In the 1960's everyone hated , or so it seemed, old buildings and furniture. I used to bring amazing stuff back from the local dump and people were mad for Melamine and Formica, only the Americans who scoured the highlands for antiques seemed not to be into the modern stuff although their 'antiques' are mostly repros from the 50's onwards. This castle is amazing, so many have gone.

    1. The Americans did go somewhat mad for "Merry Olde England" in the 1970's and I think quite a lot of stuff went across the Atlantic. I guess we have to be extra vigilant with the buildings at risk and antiques that are still with us. It only takes a moment of philistinism for something to be lost forever.

  3. Just traced my ancestry to this castle. Wish it was still standing, even partially. Thank you for posting the pictures.