Corgarff Castle looks quite ordinary from a distance, but a closer look reveals its unusual star-shaped perimeter wall, built when it was an army barracks.
Corgarff’s story is really two tales. The first takes us from the mid-1500s, when the tower was built, into the 1600s, when it was abandoned. In this, the castle’s heyday, it was the impressive fortified home of the Forbeses of Corgarff.
In 1645, the Marquis of Montrose occupied the castle, which was recorded as derelict at the time. Corgarff was subsequently repaired, only for it to be set on fire in 1689 and 1690 by Jacobites. James VII’s supporters wanted to be sure that government forces couldn’t use the castle.
The second tale begins in the mid-1700s, when the tower became a barracks, and lasts until 1831, when the army abandoned it. For 95 years, the Redcoats in the old tower patrolled Strathdon, hunting down Jacobite sympathisers. Latterly they helped the excisemen to stamp out the illegal production and smuggling of whisky.
Corgarff itself briefly housed a (legal) distillery in the 1820s. A small whisky still from the period is displayed in one of the two pavilions added to the castle by the army.