In Search of the Old Buchanan Castle
Buchanan Castle at Drymen, Stirlingshire is an interesting ruin, but a comparatively modern one. It was built in 1852-1858 by the Duke of Montrose to replace the manor house which burned in 1850. It was a classy residence in its day. But its day only lasted a century. In 1954 the roof was removed so that it could no longer be taxed as a residence, and the building has greatly deteriorated since that time. “A romantic ruin” is a frequent description of it. Let's go back in time.
There is a picture of the Place of Buchanan showing a white 3-story rectangular building, that was part of the “Auld House”. John Buchanan, the last laird Buchanan of Buchanan, built a long one- story building as an exhibition hall. After his death, his estate passed to the Montrose family, and the First Duke of Montrose built 2 stories on top of the exhibition hall, added on to both ends, and finished the building attractively.
The verbal description seems to match this 1787 drawing of the Place of Buchanan made by J. P. Neale, shown above, which can be seen about page 272 of deriv.nls.uk/dcn23/9533/95335542.23.pdf
The chiefs of Clan Buchanan seem to have lived in this same location since at least the year 1225 when they were granted a formal charter. Did the older parts of the Auld House date back that far? Possibly. Was it the “old Buchanan castle”?
While searching for information I came across a reference to a stone “tower house” that was once part of the complex of buildings. It was called the “Peel of Buchanan”. A tower house was a small defensive castle and aristocratic residence, a fortified tower typically 4 stories high. I think I finally found the “Old Buchanan Castle”!
By this time in history, the skirmishes between clans were over, and the new fashion for aristocratic residences was the palace rather than the fortress. And the Peel was probably a decrepit eyesore compared with the newer buildings. See the article in wikipedia https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peel_tower
In its glory days the Peel of Buchanan was surrounded by a water moat, as the Endrick river passed by. The course of the river subsequently changed, and the foundations of the Peel, and its moat, are now hidden beneath the green grass of the golf course. The only remnant of the old watercourse is Peel Pond. The History of Stirlingshire, Volume 1 By William Nimmo, Robert Gillespie, page 59. https://books.google.ca/
"THE families of note in Stirlingshire about the end of the 13th century, and subsequently distinguished, were the Levenax, the Callendars, the Livingstons, the Erths, the Mores, the Stirlings, the Buchanans, the Drummonds, the Napiers." History of Stirlingshire. Corrected and brought down to the present ... https://books.google.ca/books William Nimmo (minister of Bothkennar.), William MacGregor Stirling - 1817
I suppose that the term "old Buchanan castle" may have been used to refer to the manor house or to the peel. I had always thought it referred to the manor house. But that was before I knew about the Peel of Buchanan. Tower houses were commonly called "castles" and I find that the Peel more closely matches the usual definition of a "castle". I feel saddened by its loss.
The chronology as I currently understand it goes like this:
1225 the Buchanan chiefs were living on the site, perhaps for 200 years. They probably lived in fortified houses but tower houses were uncommon at that time.
1400 The Peel of Buchanan was probably built about this time and the chiefs would be living there.
Over time, additional buildings were added.
1660s the exhibition hall or “volary” was built by the last John Buchanan of Buchanan
1683 the Montrose family acquired the Buchanan estates and moved in
1690s the Place of Buchanan was created by expanding the exhibition hall
1720s the Peel of Buchanan was demolished
1850 a fire destroyed Buchanan Auld House/Place of Buchanan
1852-1858 the new Buchanan Castle was built
1954 the roof was removed from Buchanan Castle and it was allowed to decay