John of Killin, 10th Chief of MacKenzie (1485-1561), fought at Flodden and acquired extensive lands, including Castle Leod. He is said to have planted two Spanish chestnuts in 1556, which still stand in the park, to mark the confirmation of sasine of Castle Leod by Mary Queen of Scots (Clough, 1990, p.1). On his death, the MacKenzie estates passed in short succession to his son Kenneth (d.1568), grandson Colin (d.1568) and great grandson Kenneth, 13th Chief and 1st Lord of Kintail (d.1611).
It was Kenneth who, in 1608, granted his younger brother Roderick MacKenzie (d.1628), the lands of 'Cultelloud' (Gifford 1992, p.392). Marriage with Margaret MacLeod, heiress of Lewis, brought him the Barony of Coigach in 1606. He extended the Castle, marking the date of their marriage over the renaissance door. Completion of the works was celebrated by their initials on the dormers on the north elevation. He added the lands of Tarbat, Easter Ross to the Castle Leod property in 1623.
Few changes were made to the Castle or formal landscape, which surrounded it during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Castle built on a mound, stood on the lower slopes of the Peffery Valley. Beneath it, to its east, was a walled garden, orchard and associated buildings and to the west was a park with a shelter belt of ash extending around the west and south west sides of the Castle. The principal landscape feature was a formal grass ride, lined by a triple avenue and centered on a north-south axis with the Castle. During this period the main drive approached from the east, crossing over the Peffery Burn which formed the eastern parkland boundary.
Sir George, Viscount Tarbat, Lord MacLeod and Castlehaven (1632-1714), was created Earl of Cromartie in 1703. Despite having fallen from royal favour in 1664, his political fortune rose rapidly on Lauderdale's decline. He became Privy Councillor, Lord of Session and Lord Register Clerk of Scotland under James II; adviser to the Crown under William and Mary, and Secretary of State under Queen Anne. He carried out extensive building works at New Tarbat (see Tarbat House) and at Royston House (his Edinburgh home). He died at Castle Leod in 1714. By 1717 Castle Leod was said to be in a ruinous state and its policies in bad condition but by 1725 John the 2nd Earl (1660-1731), was living at Castle Leod and his heir, George, Lord Macleod and his wife Isabella Gordon, of Invergordon lived at New Tarbat.
Between 1731-40, George MacKenzie, 3rd Earl of Cromartie (1704-61), introduced land improvement and some renovations to the mansions at New Tarbat and Castle Leod, including enclosures at Castle Leod Mains, and tenancy reforms. However, this period of revival was curtailed in 1741 by famine on the estate, Crown debts and Cromartie's imprisonment in 1745 for his part in the Jacobite rising. The Tarbat Estates were occupied by the Forfeited Estates Commissioners who used the Castle as a billet and girnel.
In 1784, following a successful military career, John MacKenzie, Lord MacLeod (d.1789), regained the Tarbat Estates, although not his title. Leaving no issue, the estate passed by terms of entail to a series of family members, and steadily became encumbered with financial commitments and annuities due to family members. In 1849 Anne Hay MacKenzie (1829-88)] married George Granville Sutherland-Leveson-Gower, Marquis of Stafford and shortly afterwards inherited the Tarbat Estates. She became the Duchess of Sutherland and, in her own right, Countess of Cromartie, Viscountess of Tarbat, Baroness Castlehaven and Baroness MacLeod of MacLeod. The marriage released capital for investment in the Cromartie estates, although they were encumbered by large debts incurred in the 1820-30s, which could not be serviced from estate revenue. Interest in the development and improvement of property led to numerous estate buildings being constructed in the mid to late 19th century.
Castle Leod was described in 1857, as an impressive building needing improvement, but this was not a priority. George Loch, the factor, wrote that 'The entrance would look better, were the flanking walls on either side to be rebuilt – but your Lordship and Lady Stafford would hesitate to lay out money for an object of this kind, that will merely gratify the eye' (Richardson and Clough 1989, p.250). Expenditure was aimed at productive investment to establish an economic balance to estate expenses. Castle Leod, one of innumerable properties on the Sutherland and Cromartie estates, was occupied on an occasional basis during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Nevertheless, the mid to late 19th century was a significant period of landscape development. It is probably during this period that the Walled Garden, Orchard and associated buildings east of the Castle were cleared, in order to create an informal and picturesque setting for the Castle. Extensive parkland was established and woodlands throughout the policies included many exotic trees. The Main Drive, which had been routed along the earlier formal ride south of the Castle in the early 1800s, was altered to lead in a wide sweep up to the Castle. Early 19th century topographical illustrations of Castle Leod indicate that during this period, the Castle mound was modified so as to create the existing irregular terrace below the Castle.
On the death of the Countess in 1888, the Tarbat Estates passed to her second surviving son, Francis and then, in 1893, to his daughter Lady Sibell Lilian MacKenzie. She married Colonel Edward Walter Blunt-MacKenzie and lived only periodically at Castle Leod. During their absence, the Castle was let. The Countess' son Roderick Grant Francis MacKenzie (b.1905) lived all his life there. The Castle remains in private ownership.
Further developments to the designed landscape have been the introduction of a cricket ground, over 100 years ago, and associated pavilions, built in the 20th century, within the south eastern corner of the parkland. Highland Games have been held there since the 19th century.