Saturday, June 02, 2007

Edzell Castle

The original castle was a timber motte and bailey structure, a short distance south west of the present castle, and dates from around 1100. The castle was the seat of the Lindsay family, Lord’s of Edzell, who acquired it in 1358 through marriage, and retained ownership until 1715. In the 15th century the Lindsays abandoned the original castle and built a tower house with courtyard in a more sheltered location, where it stands today. The simple tower house was extended in 1553 by the addition of a large west range, housing what became the main entrance to the castle. It was further extended by Sir David Lindsay in the late 16th century with the addition of a large north range, complete with round towers.

The castle received many distinguished visitors over the years. Mary Queen of Scots visited in 1562 during her efforts to suppress the Huntly Rebellion. She spent two nights at the castle and convened a Privy Council meeting during her stay, attended by the nobility of Scotland. The castle was also host to Mary's son, James VI, who visited twice, in 1580 and 1589.
The castle began to decline around the time of the 1715 Jacobite Rising. The Lindsays were Jacobites and, in an attempt to raise money for a regiment and counter mounting debts, they sold the castle to the Earl of Panmure, a fellow Jacobite. After the failure of the rebellion, the lands and property were seized by the Crown and sold on to the York Buildings Company, who proceeded to "asset strip" the property, finally gutting the building in 1764. After bankruptcy of the company, the lands were leased for a time before being sold in 1766 to pay the debts of the Trustees, and the ownership of the castle passed to the 8th Earl of Dalhousie, an ancestor of the present owner.
In addition to extending the castle, Sir David Lindsay also created Edzell's most unique feature, its walled garden. This was intended to provide a retreat from the castle and to delight and entertain his distinguished guests. It was started around 1604, but remained incomplete at his death in 1610.

The garden was recreated in the 1930s and most of the garden walls remain today. They are highly decorated with carvings depicting the Planetary Deities, Liberal Arts and Cardinal Virtues, complete with inset flower boxes, nesting holes for birds, and niches for busts. The carvings are based on German engravings of the early 16th century by Georg Pencz, a pupil of Albrecht Dürer. The garden has decorative hedges, shaped and trimmed into the Fleur de Lys, Scottish thistle and English rose. It is an Italian Renaissance garden in rural Scotland, and Sir David Lindsay is regarded as a true Renaissance man.

To complement the garden, a bath house and summer house were constructed at the corners of the garden furthest from the castle. The two storey summer house survives today and is largely intact, containing a panelled room with the only surviving example of the castle’s carved oak panelling.

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