Ballachastel, also known as Castle of Freuchie, was a Comyn stronghold acquired by Duncan Grant, son of a Sheriff of Inverness-shire, in c 1450.
Ludovick Grant (1650?-1716) was a Commissioner to Parliament for Elgin in 1681. He was appointed member of a Committee to report on the state of the Highlands and raised a regiment of 6-700 men, in 1689. The Battle of Cromdale (a Jacobite defeat on 1st May 1690), took place on the Castle Grant estate. He was Sheriff of Inverness-shire, a post that he held until his death. In 1694 he obtained a Crown charter which transformed the barony of Freuchie into the regality of Grant (thus assuming legal powers on his estates, over all matters except high treason). He styled himself laird of Grant and renamed his house Castle Grant, which he remodelled and extended. He commissioned the artist Richard Waitt to paint a series of portraits of his family, extended kin, tenantry and clan members, between 1713-26. One of these, 'The Piper to the Laird of Grant', is a portrait of the piper William Cumming with, what is assumed to be, a stylised representation of Castle Grant in the background. The castellated house with lodges or pavilions is shown set centrally within a series of walled gardens and a forecourt, highlighted with gatepiers and flights of steps.
Ludovick Grant settled his estates on his eldest son Colonel Alexander Grant of Grant (1679-1720), in 1710. Thereafter, in 1720, Sir James Grant inherited the estate. He undertook building on the Castle and the garden walls, starting in 1728 (Seafield MS, GD248/2/65). In 1748, he commissioned Thomas Winter (fl.1726-53), to design the gardens. Winter, a land surveyor from Norfolk, had emigrated in 1726 to work for Sir Archibald Grant of Monymusk (q.v. Inventory, Volume 3, pp.288-93) and by the 1740s was undertaking a variety of commissions. He proposed a 'new Little garden' to the north and west of the castle formed by a series of embankments with an upper terrace 'overlooking all the Banks and Walks and parterre and not the new Kitchen Ground.' These overlooked lower terraces and 'A plain parterre of Flowers, flowering Shrubs and Grass' (quoted in Tait, 1980, pp.62-3). The Kitchen Garden was enclosed by an espalier hedge to screen it from the formal gardens. Other estate works comprised a beech avenue and a planting of beech and ash at Dun Brae above the Castle (Tait, pp.62-3).
In 1753, Sir Ludovick Grant (1743–1773) employed John Adam to remodel and enlarge the late 17th century house. Adam added a new façade to the north elevation. Babie's Tower, the original 16th century wing, remained with its original corbelled parapet. Grantown-on-Spey (formerly Castletoun of Freuchie) was laid out by him as a planned town, to the south of the policies. A formal avenue led southwards from the Castle to Milltown and a formal canal and pool were set in the grounds.
Sir James Grant's correspondence with Lord Deskford and Lord Seafield, indicate he planned to improve the policies from at least 1761 (Fraser, 1883), although he did not inherit until 1771. He took great interest in the arts, commissioned drawings from Alexander Cozens (d.1786) and subscribed to his 'Characteristics of Landscape'. He also seems to have commissioned the landscape painter William Tomkins (1730-92), suggesting he undertake additional topographic views on and around the Grant Estates including a 'South west view of Castle Grant'. Grant commissioned Robert Robinson and Charles Tennoch to draw up a survey of the policies in 1762. Robert Robinson (1734-94) drew a 'Plan for the Improvement' of the policies (1764) extending from the Old Military Road in the west, to encompass the Deer Park to the east of the Castle and the east bank of the Allt an Fhithich, by Drumindunan Wood. Robinson's scheme, considered extravagant at a cost of £31.10s and £16 for expenses, remained unexecuted. It was essentially a fairly standard 'informal' design, providing a symmetrical arrangement of planting and drives focussed on the Castle.
Undaunted, Grant's enthusiasm in planning the design of his policies continued. His interests are outlined in his correspondence with Robert Waddilove, Dean of Ripon and with William Forbes, his factor. George Taylor prepared a further design in 1771, for a new garden and related buildings. Then in 1803, Lewis Sinclair, planter and surveyor to the Grant estates, drew up a 'Plan of the New Garden at Milltown, Castle Grant' incorporating fruit trees acquired from Lee and Kennedy's nursery in Hampstead. An 1810 survey plan shows the formal landscape still largely intact with Winter's commercial plantations (Tait, 1980, p.80).
In 1811, Sir Lewis Alexander Grant inherited the estate and, also as heir of the Airlie family, the Earldom of Seafield. Some remodelling, mainly to the interiors of the Castle was done in 1836. Grant, the 7th Earl of Seafield, was in 1858 created Baron Strathspey of Strathspey, by Queen Victoria, who visited in 1860 with Prince Albert. She described Castle Grant as a 'fine (not Highland-looking,) park, with a very plain-looking house, like a factory' (Sales Particulars, 1993).
In 1863-4, the Inverness and Perth Junction Railway was routed via Forres to Inverness. A lodge was built to serve as a private station (formerly known as the North Lodge), 'in acknowledgement of the great facilities given by the Earl of Seafield in the formation of the railway through his estates' (quoted in The List of Buildings). This cut through the north-west corner of the park. By the mid 19th century, the park was enclosed and incorporated extensive commercial woodlands. The east park, bounded to the east by the Alltan Fhithich, was enclosed as a Deer Park. A formal avenue led northwards to the Home Farm, with the main pleasure grounds set to the west and east of the Castle. The latter included Freuchies Hill (1868-71, OS 6"). By the 1880s, the 8th Earl held 160,000 acres, and by 1895 the Seafield Estates were recorded as owning 303,000 acres in Morayshire.
Late 19th century additions to the policies included the West Lodge and a memorial plantation of Scots Pines, set within a rectangular railed enclosure in the east of the Deer Park. The Grant's principal seat was at Cullen House (q.v. Inventory, Volume 3, pp.192-96). During the 20th century, Castle Grant was abandoned and became derelict until the 1990s when it was sold and repair works undertaken. The Castle and its gardens remain in private ownership. The parkland and policies remain in the ownership of Seafield Estates.