Saturday, 15 November 2014

Castle Menzies

From the 14th century Weem near Aberfeldy  was held by Clan Menzies (pronounced 'Mingiz'). They built  a fortified tower  below the Rock of Weem to control  the road between Strath Tay and Rannoch. It was here in 1488 that the clan chief built  the 'Place of Weem' to replace an earlier stronghold,  destroyed by fire. This too was burnt to the ground fifteen years later by Neil Stewart of Garth. Sir Robert Menzies was incarcerated at Garth and was forced to sign away some of his lands by Stewart who claimed them as a dowry settlement. The case was found against Stewart who was later forced to make restitution. A new castle was built to replace the ruin, which forms the oldest part of the present Castle Menzies.

In 1577 the upper storey and roof were altered and the elaborate dormer windows added that give Castle Menzies its distinctive appearance. The completed building is a classic example of a Z-plan castle that represents the transition between from a fortified tower-house built for defence and a mansion designed for domestic comfort and display.

Arms of Sir Neil Menzies and his wife Grace Conyers Norton (1840)
above the 19th porch


The Great Hall

Earlier hopes of peace in the Highlands were dashed when the Civil War broke out. The Menzies clan fought against James Graham, Marquis of Montrose. The chief of Clan Menzies was killed in a skirmish and his son died at the battle of Inverlochy in 1645. Castle Menzies was occupied by General Monck  in the 1650's but the family fortunes rose again when they were created Baronets of Nova Scotia in 1665.

Withdrawing Room

The chief of Clan Menzies did not support the Jacobite Risings, and Castle Menzies was captured and occupied by Jacobites in 1715. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here for two nights in 1746, but four days later the castle was occupied by the Hanoverian forces led by the Duke of Cumberland. In January 1746 the Jacobite army withdrew from the siege of Stirling Castle to Crieff where it divided into two parts, the low landers and cavalry under Lord George Murray to proceed to Inverness along the coast and the clans, led by the Prince, to move north over the mountains. The Prince and his troops left Crieff for Aberfeldy and crossed the Tay by General Wade's bridge constructed less than twenty years earlier. Even though the then Menzies Chief, Sir Robert Menzies of Menzies had refused to participate in the rebellion he offered the Prince his hospitality who stayed at Castle Menzies on 4th and 5th February before going on to Blair Castle.

Prince Charlie's Room

The last of the Menzies of Weem died in 1918. Castle Menzies was used by Polish forces during WW2 after which it became derelict, but was restored and is now cared for by the Clan Menzies Society who acquired the building in 1957.