Scottish Castles Photo Library
- Balnagown Castle, Ross and Cromarty

               Graphics copyright © Scotavia Images Balnagown Castle

Balnagown Castle (sometimes spelt Balnagowan) is located just off the main A9 road, north-east of Alness in the Ross and Cromarty district of Highland Region. Part of the castle dates back 14th century but it has been considerably altered and expanded over the years, especially in the 18th and 19th centuries. The name comes from the Gaelic "baile" meaning a homestead or a village and "a'ghobhainn" meaning "of the blacksmiths".

Ross Coat of ArmsThe Ross family originally built the castle in 1375 and remained in the family until 1978 - although in 1711, on the death of the 18th chief, it went to another unconnected family named Ross (descendants of the de Roos family from Renfrewshire). William Ross, the first true chief of the Clan Ross and 1st Laird of Balnagown, received royal confirmation of his ownership of the lands in a charter of King Robert 2nd in 1375.

Over the centuries, some of the Ross family were somewhat "colourful". The 8th laird, who died in 1592, terrorised nearby landowners and was eventually imprisoned for his misdeeds in Tantallon Castle, east of Edinburgh. His son George was equally violent and seized another of the Ross family in Edinburgh and imprisoned him in Balnagown. George was accused of assisting the Earl of Bothwell, the third husband of Mary Queen of Scots. Around the same time, his sister was accused of being a witch - and avoided being burnt at the stake by stacking the jury with her supporters!

By the second half of the 20th century, Balnagown castle had deteriorated and was in a sorry state. It was bought and immaculately restored to become the Scottish home of Mohamed Al Fayed, the entrepreneur and owner of the Harrods department store in London. When the Egyptian-born multi-millionaire displayed the arms of the Chief of Clan Ross (see illustration above) on the gates of Balnagowan castle, David Ross of Ross, 27th Chief of Clan Ross, objected. When Mr Fayed persisted, the case went before the Lord Lyon who upheld the rights of the owner of the arms and ordered the removal of the arms.

Note: The photos of Balnagown Castle on this page are copyright Scotavia Images who provide a quality aerial photography service for Scotland. Prints from their large online gallery are available for purchase. If you have ancestors with a Scottish Highland origin, they can provide an aerial view of the area they came from!

Graphics copyright © Scotavia Images

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