MHG60286 - Site of medieval castle - Ruthven Barracks


The site of a former medieval castle, subsequently replaced by Ruthven Barracks in the early C18.

Type and Period (1)

  • CASTLE (Norse to 17th Century - 1200 AD to 1689 AD)

Protected Status

Full Description

The site of a former medieval castle, subsequently replaced by Ruthven Barracks in the early C18.

The site is an alluvial mound. There was a fortress on it during the 14th century and probably earlier. In the 16th century, another castle was built here; this was destroyed in 1689 but seems to have been rebuilt before 1715. The Barracks were erected by the government in 1718 for a garrison, but were burnt by fugitives from Culloden in 1746 and never repaired. No trace of the earlier works survived.
D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887.

The site was Scheduled in 1957.

The standing remains of the barracks came into the care of the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1968. Extensive consolidation of the masonry has been carried out on the barracks, which were in a state of considerable disrepair. Excavations in 1983 brought to light physical evidence for the later medieval castle, including the well, and shed new light on the layout of the military barracks which replaced it after the 1715 Jacobite Rising. The investigations were carried out for Historic Scotland's predecessor department to elucidate certain aspects of its plan prior to the implementation of a scheme for its presentation to the public. The remains were all found within the main barracks block. The main remains consisted of two wall remnants bonded with a pink mortar and dressed on their south and west faces,. They had been used as foundations for the main forestair ion the courtyard and the officers' latrine, but quite clearly belonged to a pre-barracks structure as they had been damaged by foundation trenches of the casemates and postern. Irregularly cobbled and flagged surfaces abutting them would have been external contemporary features. Further evidence of medieval occupation was suggested by an extensive spread of mortar and rubble indicative of robbed walls in Area III. No evidence of pre-barracks structures, however, was found in Area I. A few recovered late medieval artefacts dated to around the first half of the C6th century.<1>

The scheduling was amended by Historic Scotland in 1996.

The prominent mound at Ruthven, on which the medieval castles and Hanoverian garrison were constructed, is strategically sited in the valley of the Spey, at a crossing point of routes north, south, east and west. This strategic significance is reflected in the military use that was made of this site and the part that the site and its inhabitants played in the military and political history of the troubled Highlands over at least half a millennia. In the 13th century the site was chosen as the caput, or chief seat, of the Comyns in their Badenoch lordship. At this time the castle may have been of earth and timber construction. In the later 14th century the castle was in the possession of Alexander Stewart (‘Wolf of Badenoch’) before reverting to the Crown. In 1451 it was reduced to a partial ruin. Towards the end of the 16th century the 6th Earl of Huntly erected a replacement stone castle. In 1649 the castle was garrisoned by the English under Cromwell. In 1689 the castle was ruined again. In the early 18th century the barracks were built by the Hanoverian government to garrison infantry whose task was to police the locality in the wake of the Jacobite Rising of 1715. The well from the medieval period was retained. <2>

A watching brief was undertaken by Kirkdale Archaeology on 19 December 2012 during the excavation of small holes to allow the installation of permanent survey markers around the exterior of the barracks. The interventions did not exceed 200mm in depth and nothing of archaeological significance was noted. <3>

This site was reassessed as part of the Historic Environment Scotland Dual Designations project in 2018. It was proposed to delist the barracks and stable buildings but retain the Scheduled status. <4>

The proposed designation changes by Historic Environment Scotland came into effect as of 09/03/2018. <5>

GIS spatial data created in 2019 to provide a nominal area for the site, based on modern OS MasterMap. <6>

Sources/Archives (10)



Grid reference Centred NN 7645 9975 (81m by 55m) (2 map features)
Map sheet NN79NE

Finds (0)

Related Monuments/Buildings (0)

Related Investigations/Events (2)

External Links (3)

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