Castle Huntly has its origins in the 15th century. It is set on a flat plain close to the River Tay and it stands on a volcanic mound. Its corbelled and battlemented parapet and angle turrets contribute to its distinctive landscape presence. Constructed in the local pinkish brown stone, there is a strongly vertical L-plan tower house dating to the 15th century which is largely 3-storeys with an attic and deep basement. It was remodelled in the 17th century (mainly internal alterations and the enclosing of basement vaults to the north-west) and again in 1777-83 when a pair of 2-storey crowstep-gabled castellated wings were added to the east. In 1792-5 John Paterson was employed to build a single storey block between the wings. This was remodelled and recessed in 1937-8.
The stonework is predominantly random rubble to the earlier tower and roughly squared and coursed to the 18th century work. There is mostly 12-pane glazing in timber sash and case windows.
The interior was seen in 2014. The entrance lobby leads to a top lit oval saloon of 1793-5 with a decorative cornice and a classical style chimneypiece. There are 6-panel timber doors. There are early vaulted storerooms in the basement, one of which provides access to a pit-prison. Some of the principal rooms have architraved doorcases, corniced ceilings in classical styles and timber shutters. The former dining room has a vine leaf cornice and a moulded stone fireplace of the 1930s. There is a stone staircase with iron barleysugar balusters and a timber handrail.
The Garden Terraces lie to the south and are likely to date from the late 17th century. There are two main tall brick walls forming terracing which run west to east and various other surviving sections of walls. Along the upper terrace there are three (now painted white) Renaissance classical statues, one male and two female which are also thought to date from the late 17th century.
Statement of Special Interest
Castle Huntly, with its origins in the 15th century, is an outstanding early example of tower house architecture. Stone buildings from this period which survive largely intact are highly significant and rare. Castle Huntly is tangible evidence of over 500 years of Scottish social and architectural history. The earlier tower house remains readable against the 18th century alterations which also add to its interest and represent the changing fashions of the times.
The Garden Terraces and Statues also have particular interest. The idea of creating terraced gardens with classical features was highly fashionable in the late 17th century. As landscaping fashions changed many early examples were lost and this increases the interest of the surviving garden terraces at Castle Huntly. An understanding and appreciation of classical art and architecture was a sign of sophistication for a 17th century nobleman and the creation at Castle Huntly of a terraced garden with classical statues is tangible evidence of this aspect of aristocratic life in Scotland at this period.
In 1452 Andrew, first Lord Gray was granted a royal licence to build a castle and it is likely that construction of Castle Huntly began not long after this. Patrick, first Earl of Kinghorne bought the estate in 1613 and his son, John remodelled the house, renaming it Castle Lyon, in the 1630s as his summer seat. It was inherited by Patrick, third Earl of Kinghorne (and later first Earl of Strathmore) around 1660 and he lived there until 1670 and remodelled the interior of the house and laid out the gardens and parkland before moving on to carry out work at Glamis Castle. In 1777 the estate was sold to George Paterson who enlarged and remodelled the house in two phases in 1777-83 (Buildings of Scotland notes that the architect for this work was apparently James Playfair) and 1792-5 (see summary description above). The estate remained in the Paterson family until after the death of Colonel Adrian Paterson in 1940.
Castle Huntly appears on early maps, such as John Adair's map of 1683 where it appears under its former name of Castle Lyon. Its footprint appears largely as it is now on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map, which was surveyed in 1861 and published in 1867. The three Renaissance statues which are now located on the garden terrace to the south are shown on this map laid in a different arrangement to the east of the Castle.
The Statistical Account of Scotland for Longforgan parish written in 1791-99 describes the work that Patrick, third Earl of Kinghorne carried out ' … and the whole grounds were dressed up in the all the grandeur of summer houses, statues, avenues, gates, ornamented with various orders of architecture … agreeable to the taste of the times.'
The Statistical Account of 1791-99 also explains the changes which Paterson made after acquiring the castle in 1777, ' The castle also, although completely modernised within, has assumed even a more castellated appearance outwardly than formerly. The wings, embattled walls, round tower, and corner turrets, have been given it by the present proprietor; who has restored the ancient name of Huntly, by which is was so long known while in possession of the family of Gray.'
During the Second World War it was used as a girls' probation school before being bought by the Scottish Home and Heath Department in 1946 for use as a Borstal. It was later used as a Young Offenders' Institution and it is now an Open Prison for adults.
Statutory address and listed building record revised in 2015 as part of the Scottish Prison Service Listing Review 2014-15. Previously listed as 'Castle Huntly, including Terraced Garden and Statuary and Boundary Walls'.
Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland: http://www.rcahms.gov.uk/canmore.html CANMORE ID 31728
John Adair (1683) The Mappe of Straithern, Stormont, and Cars of Gowrie with the rivers Tay and Ern at http://maps.nls.uk/view/00001006
Ordnance Survey (surveyed 1861, published 1867) Perthshire LXXXVIII. 6 inches to 1 mile 1st Edition. London: Ordnance Survey.
John Gifford (2007) Perth and Kinross: The Buildings of Scotland. New Haven and London: Yale University Press. p.259-62.
Statistical Account (1791-99) Longforgan – County of Perth, Vol. 19. pp.468, 474-479.
New Statistical Account (1834-45) Longforgan – County of Perth, Vol. 10. pp.409-10.
Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland. Session 1959-60, Vol. 93. pp.202-16.