Five wild Scottish ruins you (probably) haven’t visited yet - things to do in Scotland
Dave Hamilton, author of Wild Ruins, shares his pick of wild and historic ruins – from an ancient broch, to a castle you can sit on…
The physical evidence of Scotland’s turbulent history is perhaps most visible in its grand castles and magnificent monastic ruins. And you can explore the history of the country's buildings in each issue of History Scotland.
Sites such as the breathtaking loch side ruin of Urquhart castle or the cliff top remains of Dunnottar castle never fail to impress and bring in tourists in their thousands from across the globe. However, far from the crowds and bustle of these well-known tourist sites, a lost and hidden part to Scotland’s history can be found.
In his new book ‘Wild Ruins’, Dave Hamilton details both the grand and the more modest abandoned buildings, follies and remains Scotland has to offer.
1. Hermit’s Castle
Perched on the rocky shore, a stone’s throw from the pristine white sandy beaches of Achmelvich on Scotland’s west coast, the Hermit’s Castle (above) is a wonderfully eccentric building in a truly stunning location. It was built in the 1950s by architect David Scott and has been described as the smallest castle in Europe. With only room to sleep one and scarcely enough room to stand inside, it is a title that is unlikely to be contested. Scott stayed only one night in his creation, not long after its completion, before leaving the area forever.
2. Knock Castle
Unless you knew it was there, you would be hard pressed to find Knock Castle. It lies just west of the town of Ballater, hidden through some trees on the top of a small hill. Once home to the Gordons of Abergeldie, the castle has a long and gory history of clan warfare.
3. Achalader Mausoleum
Many ruin hunters still explore the woods around Achalader in a vain search for the grand ruins of Achalader house. Sadly, after falling into ruin, the house was in recent years levelled and only a pile of rubble remains of this once magnificent building.
Near to the old site of the house stands the wrought iron Mausoleum which once served the Campbell’s of Achlader who lived in the house.
4. Glenelg Brochs
Like many others before and since, Gavin Maxwell (author of ‘Ring of Bright Water’) moved to Glenelg in the West Highlands after becoming seduced by the natural beauty of this remote area. Centuries before the author came here, families of Picts lived in the area and built defensive structures known as brochs to house themselves and their livestock. The remains of Dun Telve broch and Dun Trodden broch are remarkably intact and well worth the trip to this piece of unspoilt Scottish wilderness.
5. Kenmuir Hill Temple
On a blustery day the walk up to the stone folly on Kenmuir Hill is an invigorating one. From this hilltop you can look over the surrounding pasture land and down towards Castle Semple Loch and country park. This octagonal structure was built in the mid 18th century to mimic Greek and Roman structures after its creator, William McDowall, took the Grand Tour of Europe.
Wild Ruins: The Explorer’s Guide to Britain’s Lost Castles, Follies, Relics and Remains by Dave Hamilton
(Images Glenelg Brochs copyright Andrew Hill; Hermit's Castle and Kenmuir Hill Temple copyright Dave Hamilton; Achlader Mausoleum copyright Mark Wheatley)