Scheduled Monument

Pitsligo CastleSM6146

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Supplementary Information Updated
Secular: castle; garden; palace; tower; well
Local Authority
NJ 93706 66943
393706, 866943


The monument consists of a large roofless courtyard castle of 15th to 18th century date, with an extensive walled garden to N and an enclosed area of woodland to S. The latter contains a natural spring, known locally as the Nine Maidens' Well, after the daughters of St Donevald.

A forecourt to the W is entered through a round-headed arch, dated 1656, decorated with roll-moulding. From this a low vaulted pend leads through the two storey W range into the courtyard. The castle is dominated by a large keep, generally considered to have been built by Sir William Forbes when he acquired the estate in 1424; it was formerly of 3 storeys but was reduced to 2 in 1703. This stands to the SW, but its E wall has broken away. The E range appears to have contained a first-floor suite of rooms, leading to a bedchamber in the three storey drum tower that projects from the NE corner. A monumental stair in the NE angle of the courtyard bears two representations of the royal arms of James VI and I, dated 1577 and 1603 respectively. The N range apparently contained a gallery above a series of chambers; its W end is still roofed, having served as a farmhouse in the 19th century.

The area to be scheduled is approximately rectangular, measuring some 150m E-W by 130m N-S and including all boundary walls, as shown in red on the accompanying map.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance because although now ruinous and robbed of most of its freestone, it was clearly in its time a significant palatial residence, on a par with another Forbes Castle, Tolquhon, whose development from keep-and-barmkin to courtyard castle or palace is remarkably similar. Despite its destruction in the 1740s, enough survives of Pitsligo to appreciate its formal layout and development. Its importance is also enhanced first by its surviving below-ground archaeology, which has the potential to shed further light on the development of the castle and its gardens, and on the daily life of its inhabitants; secondly, by the proximity of other neighbouring monuments associated with the Forbes family (Lords Pitsligo), including Pitullie Castle, Pitsligo Kirk (1632), and the Pitsligo loft (1634), now re-erected in the Hill Church of Rosehearty; and thirdly by the association of Alexander, fourth Lord Pitsligo, with the Jacobite cause, as a result of which, following its destruction in 1746, the castle has subsequently become enshrined in the national conciousness.



RCAHMS records the monument as NJ96NW 7.


MacGibbon D and Ross T 1892, The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, IV, 294-7.

McKean C 1991, 'The House of Pitsligo', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 121, 369-90.

Simpson W D 1956a, 'Pitsligo Castle, Rosehearty, Aberdeenshire', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, 88, 369-90.

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

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Printed: 21/02/2024 12:17