The original castle was built in the second half of the 1200s, making it one of Scotland’s oldest stone castles.
Balvenie was most likely built for Alexander Comyn, 2nd Earl of Buchan. The vast territory ruled over by the Comyns stretched from the Moray Firth to what is now Fort William.
The Comyns were allied with John Balliol, who was deposed by Edward I of England in 1296. The dynasty lost power after arch-rival Robert I seized the throne in 1306.
Bruce granted the lordship – but not the earldom – to his friend, the Good Sir James Douglas. His family, the Black Douglases, became as mighty as the Comyns, with a power base in southern Scotland.
Their downfall came in 1455. James II mistrusted the Douglases’ power and eventually suppressed the family following a lengthy power struggle.
James II granted Balvenie to his half-brother, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl, and his wife, Margaret. She was the widow of the 8th Earl of Douglas – and divorced from the 9th Earl of Douglas.
Each year, the Stewarts paid the princely sum of a single red rose by way of rent for Balvenie. Over 250 years, the family transformed the medieval stronghold into an attractive Renaissance residence.