Inverness Castle

Inverness was the Pictish capital of King Brude, King of the northern Picts. Exactly where his day to day residence was located is not clear. The forts at Craig Phadraig and Torvean are strong possibilities and the site of MacBeth's castle can also be considered.

MacBeth's Castle

There was a castle on the Crown on a piece of ground behind what is now Victoria Terrace. This castle was linked to MacBeth, the Mormaer of Moray and King of Scots, it is supposedly where he murdered King Duncan. Malcolm Ceanmor destroyed this castle in revenge for the murder of his father. The story of the murder and feud is generally well known thanks to Shakespeare. But historical accuracy of some of the accepted facts has become somewhat blurred, maybe also thanks to Shakespeare.

Inverness Castle

1056 - After destroying MacBeth's castle, Malcolm Ceanmor builds his own castle on the castle hill, the site of the present castle.

1163 - Shaw MacDuff - called Mackintosh, 2nd son of the Thane of Fife was made hereditary governor in return for supressing a rebellion in Moray. "Son of the Thane" in Gaelic is Mac an Toiseach, or Mackintosh. (According to Groome (1903), this may not be historically accurate as the Earl of Fife was never referred to as Thane or Toiseach).

1245 - The castle became a prison to Sir John Bisset of Lovat, founder of Beauly Abbey, for connections with the murder of the Earl of Athole and for paying homage to the Lord of the Isles

1245 - The castle became a prison to Sir John Bisset of Lovat, founder of Beauly Abbey, for connections with the murder of the Earl of Athole and for paying homage to theLord of the Isles.

1263 - Alexander III ordered a new palisade to be built around the castle. Scotland was on unfriendly terms with Norway at this time over sovereignty of the Western Isles, Caithness and Orkney. From the Chamberlain's accounts the cost of this was about £800 (in modern money - 2007) the expenses of a wardrobe with a double wooden roof, built within the stronghold, is put down in the same accounts as £3000 (in modern money - 2007)1. Some things never change.

1296 - Edward I visited Scotland, does not seem to have travelled as far as Inverness but an English garrison was received at the castle.

1303 - Edward I's troops occupied the castle after it was recovered from the Cummings of Badenoch but then it was taken by Robert the Bruce. The castle remained in the immediate power of the Crown until 1508 with various keepers.

1410 - Donald of Islay, Lord of the Isles burned down the town and an oak bridge, on his way to the battle of Harlaw (1411). This was in revenge for an incident in North Kessock in 1400.

1412 - Alexander Stewart, the Earl of Mar (Donald of Islay's opponent at Harlaw) rebuilds the castle.

1427 - James I stayed in the castle on a trip north to stamp his authority on the chiefs. A parliament was held in the castle, some executions took place and Alexander, Lord of the Isles was imprisoned for a year. After his release he returned with an army, ransacked the town but the castle held out.

1455 - Alexander's son and successor John, or possibly his lieutenant Donald Balloch of Islay, came and took the castle by surprise once again pillaging the town and burning it down. Urquhart castle and Ruthven Castle were also taken.

1458 - Extensive repairs are made to the castle. An entry in the Exchequer Rolls of  James II details materials and labour.

1462 - John, Lord of the Isles "obtained possession of the stronghold"1.

1464 - Royal visit and temporary occupation by James III and in 1499 by James IV.

1508 - The Earl of Huntly was made hereditary keeper of the castle and sherriff of the county. According to The History of the Macdonalds (Hugh MacDonald, 17th century) "..power was given to him (Huntly) to add to the fortifications; and he was at the same time bound, at his own expense, to build upon the Castle Hill of Inverness, a hall of stone and lime upon vaults. This hall was to be one hundred feet in length, thirty feet in breadth, and the same in height; it was to have a slated roof, and to it were to be attached a kitchen and chapel of proper size."

1555 - July - Mary of Guise, the Queen Regent was received at the castle. She held a Convention of Estates and of Extraordinary Courts to subdue the Highland chiefs. The Earl of Caithness was imprisoned in the castle for harbouring freebooters.

1562 - Queen Mary, with the Earl of Moray in attendance, entered Inverness. The Earl of Huntly was in rebellion at the time and his deputy refused the Queen entry to the castle. She stayed in a private house and held her court there. Her troops were re-inforced by the Mackintoshes, Frasers and Munroes, they took the castle, hanged Huntly's deputy and put his head on display on top of the castle. The next reigning monarch to visit Inverness was Queen Victoria.

1629 - The Earl of Huntly gives up the offices of hereditary keeper and sherriff of the county for compensation of £2500. Sir Robert Gordon takes over both offices.

1639 - The clans1 (the civil war between the Covenanters and Royalists was underway) occupied the castle and wrecked it.

1644 - The castle was repaired and fully garrisoned by the Covenanters after news that a party of Irish had landed on the West coast to join the Marquis of Montrose, the King's Lieutenant-General in Scotland. This is the time of the English civil war, Cromwell would invade Scotland in 1650.

1645 - The castle held out against the siege by Montrose under Colonel Hurry. Montrose withdrew at the arrival of General Middleton leading the Covenanters.

1649 - Mackenzie of Pluscardine, Sir Thomas Urquhart of Cromarty and other royalists took the castle and destroyed parts of it which were left in ruins until 1718.

1668 - Kebbock battle

1688 - Protestant rebellion against James VII of Scots, James II of England. Magistrates of Inverness were loyal to James, the castle was patched up and used as a Jacobite stronghold. But it was taken by the protestants and used as a royal fort.

1715 - 12th September - Magistrates secure entry to the castle for Chevalier adherents, under the Earl of Mar. They were soon ousted by Royalists.

1718 - The government of George I repaired the castle and converted the ancient part into barrakcs for Hanoverian troops. A new part was added which was to be the governeor's house, the whole thing was named Fort George.

1726 - General Wade repaired and extended the castle in the style of a medieval keep with four storeys, a high pitched roof, turrets and crow-stepped gables. Captain Edward Burt was stationed at the castle at this time, his letters are collected in Burt's Letters from the North of Scotland.

1745 - The castle was occupied by Sir John Cope and then the Earl of Loudon on behalf of the Hanoverian government.

1746 - The Earl of Loudon retired from the castle which was then put under siege on 17th February by Prince Charles Edward Stuart. The siege lasted for two days and on the 19th the castle was blown up. Parts of the castle walls remained intact. Apparently, the engineer who lit the fuse went with the castle after returning to light the fuse a second time. His body landed on the other side of the river, his small dog took this flight with his master without receiving a scratch.

1751 - The Duke of Gordon made a claim of £300 as compensation for the abolition of his hereditary office of constable of Inverness.

1834-35 - The present building on the site, Inverness Sherriff Court, was constructed, costing £10,000 (about £7.3m in modern money - 2007). The begining, or end, of the Great Glen way is on south side of the castle hill, marked by a stone with a plaque on it. Between this and the castle is a statue of Flora MacDonald of "Over the sea to Skye" fame.


1. MACKENZIE, ALEXANDER, M.J.I., 1900. Guide to Inverness, Nairn and the Highlands. Inverness and Nairn: Melven Brothers.

GROOME, FRANCES H.ed., 1903. Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland. New edition. London: The Caxton Publishing Company.