This land north of Dundee once belonged to the Stewarts and then in the 14th century it passed to the Douglas, earls of Angus. In the 16th century it changed ownership again and became the property of the Graham family. The castle is said to have been built by Sir David Graham, nephew of the infamous Cardinal Beaton and a date stone indicates the work began in 1562. At that time it was known as Mains of Fintry Castle after that branch of the family's original home in Stirlingshire. Sir David remained loyal to the Roman Church, along with many others in the north of Scotland during the Reformation. He was unfortunate to have been implicated in a serious plot to land a Spanish army in Scotland. As the leaders of the conspiracy were some of Scotland's most powerful nobles, including the earls of Errol, Huntly and Angus, King James VI felt unable to take action against them, so it was the Laird of Fintry who was made the scapegoat. Following a trial he was executed at the Cross in Edinburgh in 1592.
The Grahams of Fintry retained the estate until the beginning of the 19th century. The last member of the family to reside there was a friend of Robert Burns, to whom the poet addressed two of his works. When Robert Graham sold up he included the condition that his descendants should bear the territorial distinction, "Graham of Fintry", a condition which has been adhered to. The Grahams went out to the Cape Colony and a scion of the family, Lieutenant-Colonel John Graham who served in the army during the Frontier Wars, founded in 1812 a military camp in the Eastern Cape, named Grahamstown in his honour.
The estate had been bought by the Erskine family who changed the name of the castle to Linlathen. In 1913 the estate, including the ruins of Mains Castle were purchased by wealthy businessman Sir James Caird, who generously donated it to the city of Dundee for use as a public park.