Ancient Monuments

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Lethendry Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Badenoch and Strathspey, Highland

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Latitude: 57.328 / 57°19'40"N

Longitude: -3.5227 / 3°31'21"W

OS Eastings: 308416

OS Northings: 827408

OS Grid: NJ084274

Mapcode National: GBR K9NC.52L

Mapcode Global: WH5JQ.V2QM

Entry Name: Lethendry Castle

Scheduled Date: 14 March 2018

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13689

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: tower

Location: Cromdale, Inverallan and Advie/Cromdale, Inverallan and Advie

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Badenoch and Strathspey

Traditional County: Morayshire


The monument comprises the remains of a tower house of the later 16th century. The L-shaped tower survives to two storeys in its north west corner. It is located on the lower slopes of the Haughs of Cromdale, and enjoys extensive views of Strathspey and the village of Cromdale. The tower has been incorporated into a farmstead likely to date from the 18th and 19th centuries.

The tower is L-shaped in plan with a rectangular main block extending roughly east-west with two vaulted rooms on the ground floor. A wing extends to the north which contained an internal stair to first floor level. Structural evidence suggest that the tower consisted of three main storeys. The main entrance was in the re-entrant angle, where a doorway survives.  Five courses of corbelling are visible in the re-entrant angle and would have supported a projecting stair turret serving the upper floors. There are two openings in the front elevation of the tower, facing south. Internally, masonry barrel vaults over the two ground floor rooms are well preserved. In the interior west-facing elevation the survival of a carved stone jamb indicates there would once have been a fireplace on the first floor. The tower is constructed of random rubble with the exterior corners on the ground floor squared with rough quoins which then change to rounded corners with a chamfered quoin at the point of transition.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the more modern farm steading buildings which abut the tower.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a good example of a later 16th century L-plan tower house. Although partially ruinous, much of the ground floor remains in a stable condition. An 18th and 19th century farmstead have been constructed incorporating the tower, with buildings abutting the tower on the north and west elevations. The tower retains distinctive architectural features such as the main doorway and windows, and the remnants of a stair tower and internal fireplace. It therefore possible to appreciate the form of the building, and the surviving architectural details allow for an appreciation of the architectural influences on its design. The scale and details of the tower show that it was it was a particularly modest tower.

The tower is depicted on Pont's map of Scotland as a tower of four storeys. This is a stylistic representation and should not be taken to represent the character of the building, but it does suggest that the tower was in use toward the end of the 16th century and a notable building. The new statistical account of 1845 describes the site as 'a farm at the foot of the hill of Cromdale' suggesting the change of use to part of a post-medieval farmstead was complete by that date.

The monument appears to be single-phase, although further examination of its structure could provide evidence of the chronology of its use and construction. The relationship between the tower and later multi-period farmstead is an interesting case study of change in the region through the periods of Improvement and Clearance.

The monument was the scene of fighting between Jacobite and Government Forces in the Battle of Cromdale in 1690. The site is likely to contain archaeological remains relating to the Battle of Cromdale and therefore has archaeological potential to inform our understanding of the battle and the role that the tower played in the battle.

Contextual Characteristics

Lethendry Castle is a rare example of a small 16th-century tower in the eastern Highlands. It was likely to have been home to a minor laird or tacksman, a member of the daoine-uaisle or nobility of the Clan system. While the elite of Clan society are well represented in the larger castles which survive across the Highlands and, in this area, along the fertile Strath of the Spey, this tower set foothills of the Haughs of Cromdale is a rare survival.

The dwellings of tacksmen or lairds in the Highlands proper are poorly represented in the archaeological record and have only rarely been the subject of archaeological research. Those at Lawers (SM6280), Edramucky (Canmore ID 24502), and Carwhin (Canmore ID 140357) on Loch Tayside are examples of middle-status dwellings in upland agricultural landscapes, but they are in almost entirely ruinous condition and were identified only through detailed historical research and archaeological survey and excavation (Atkinson 2016 95-125). Lethendry Castle is likely to have been a more substantial dwelling than these and so is an interesting comparator which has the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of social structure and status on the fringe of the Highlands. There is therefore significant potential for further archaeological and documentary research.

The geographical location of the tower is of particular interest as it lies on the border between traditionally Gaelic-speaking and English-speaking areas. The Old Statistical Account of Cromdale and surrounding parishes from the 1790s suggests that Cromdale represents the eastern-most limit of the area where Gaelic was predominantly spoken, and that this was rapidly changing by the end of the 18th century. The period of construction and use of the tower coincides with great changes within Gaeldom, covering changes to Clanship brought about by the Statutes of Iona, several Jacobite risings, Improvement, and Clearance. Lethendry Castle therefore has a high potential to aid our understanding of the nature of Gaelic society in the eastern highlands and how it changed over several centuries.

Associative Characteristics

Lethendry Castle is particularly significant due to its direct association with the Battle of Cromdale (BTL20). Cromdale was the final battle of the first Jacobite rising in Scotland. It was fought between a small force of Jacobite Highlanders under the command of Major-General Thomas Buchan and a Government army of dragoons and infantry under Sir Thomas Livingstone.

On the 1st of May 1690 Jacobite forces were camped on the lower slopes of the Haughs of Cromdale. A garrison was placed in Lethendry Castle, although this may have only occurred once the battle started. Around 3am government forces advanced under cover of darkness made contact with the Jacobite forces. The outpost at Lethendry formed at hard point on the Jacobites' southern flank, and was attacked by government forces using grenades – a very early example of their use in attacking such a position. The Jacobite garrison fled south east up toward the Hill of Lethendry, which retains a strong visual relationship with the castle today. There they met other fleeing Jacobite forces and took significant casualties as they dispersed.

Lethendry castle therefore represents an important part of the physical and archaeological remains of the battle. There are very few battlefields in Scotland in which structures which were directly involved in the battle survive in a similar condition to that on the day of the battle. The castle can therefore provide a rare and evocative insight into how the battle may have looked and felt. Its clear visual relationships with Cromdale and Strathspey below and the Hill of Lethendry and the Haughs of Cromdale above allow one to appreciate fully its importance in the events of the battle. There is also a potential for archaeological evidence relating to the battle to survive, including evidence of the early use of grenades.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as it contributes to our understanding of post-medieval lairds or tacksman's houses, as well as the wider society of the region and period. The site is a well-preserved example of its type and retains significant architectural features which allow for a good appreciation of the form and function of the building. Lethendry Castle is a very modest structure in comparison to most contemporary tower houses in the wealthier areas of Scotland. As such it demonstrates how the tower house form, even if very modestly executed, was an essential display of status. There are very few such structures surviving in the Highlands and the monument's location on the eastern fringes of the Gaelic-speaking part of Scotland mean that it has the potential to contribute significantly to our understanding of life in the period and the significant changes which occurred between the later 16th century and the 19th century. The monument was the scene of fighting during the Battle of Cromdale in 1690, and is a very rare example of a building which largely retains the historic fabric which was fought over and is an evocative survivor of a nationally significant conflict. Overall, the site has significant potential to expand our knowledge and understanding of post-medieval middle status dwellings and the story of wider Gaelic society to which it belongs.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 15680 (accessed on 02/02/2018).

Local Authority HER Reference MHG 6780 (accessed on 02/02/2018)

Atkinson, John et al 2016 Ben Lawers: An Archaeological Landscape in Time. Results from the Ben Lawers Historic Landscape Project, 1996–2005

Hopkins, P. 1998. Glencoe and the End of the Highland War. Edinburgh: John Donald Publishers.

Pont, T 1583?-1614?. Manuscript Map of Strathspey (Pont 6), National Library of Scotland ( accessed on 02/02/2018.

Rev. Grant, L. 1779 The Parish of Cromdale. The Statistical Account of Scotland: Edinburgh.

Rev. Grant, J. 1841 Parish of Cromdale, Presbytery of Abernethy, Synod of Moray. The Second Statistical Account of Scotland: Edinburgh.

Wilson, W. 1751. The true and impartial relation of the persecuted Presbyterians in Scotland; their rising in arms, and defeat at Bothwell-Bridge, in the year 1679. Glasgow


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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