Places to Visit in Scotland
- Huntingtower, Perthshire
This well preserved castle is popular with tourists, not just because of its proximity to the "Fair City" of Perth but also as a result of the romantic story of the "Maiden's Leap" across the space between the battlements of its two towers. The Earl of Gowrie's daughter is said to have been visiting her lover in his bedroom in one tower and, fearing that she was about to be discovered by her mother, leapt across to the second tower and her own chamber. She eloped the next night!
The Ruthven family who owned the castle, took their name from the barony of Ruthven, near Perth. Thor and his son Swein came to the area towards the end of the 12th century. Like most other landowners, Walter Ruthven was forced to sign the Ragman Roll of English King Edward I> in 1296 but he also assisted William Wallace> at the siege of Perth and in the re-capture of Jedburgh Castle from the English.
The original tower house dates from the 15th century and a second tower was built later, three metres west of it. It is possible that one tower housed the first Lord Ruthven and the other was allocated to his son. It was not until the late 17th century that the two buildings were connected with the addition of more apartments between the two. The building was originally named "Ruthven Castle"
The third Lord Ruthven was a leading supporter of the Protestant Reformation. In 1565 he entertained Mary Queen of Scots> and her husband, Lord Darnley, at Huntingtower during their honeymoon. But he was also one of the ringleaders in the murder at the Palace of Holyroodhouse of David Riccio, the Queen's favourite. In 1582, a group of nobles, including Lord Ruthven, kidnapped the young King James VI> and held him captive for ten months in Ruthven castle. The King and the Ruthven family were later involved in 1600 in the "Gowrie Conspiracy" in which the 3rd Earl of Gowrie seems to have plotted again against King James. Gowrie was killed and later in the year the Gowrie name was "proscribed" or banned by the Scottish Parliament. The castle was taken over by the crown and renamed "Huntingtower".
Visitors to the castle (now owned by Historic Scotland) can climb to the top of both of the original buildings and look down on the "Maiden's Leap" - which looks just feasible, because of the lower level of the battlements on the second tower. The building also contains a painted wooden ceiling (illustrated below) and the remains of wall paintings dating back to before 1513.
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