Kindrochit Castle And The Mystery Of The Kindrochit Brooch

The remains of Kindrochit Castle (Scottish Gaelic: Caisteal Ceann na Drochaid) are in the centre of the village of Braemar (Bràigh Mhàrr). A Castle was built here in the second half of the 11th century by King Malcolm III of Scotland (Malcolm Canmore). Malcolm (Gaelic: Máel Coluim; c. 1031 – 13 November 1093) was King of Scots from 1058 to 1093. The castle's Gaelic name Ceann-drochit can be translated into English as Bridge Head and a bridge was built here across the River Clunie. The stronghold held a strategically important position as the meeting point of the great passes across the Mounth, crossing Glen Cova east of the Clunie water and Spital of Glenshee on the west.

Much of the remains that can be seen today were built in the 14th century during the reign of King Robert II of Scotland (2 March 1316 – 19 April 1390) who was the first monarch of the House of Stewart. Evidence dated from the 1300's demonstrate the castle to have been used as a Royal Residence at that time. The castle has lain in ruins for many hundreds of years although little is known of the reasons for its decline. Legend has it that it fell into ruin after the onset of the Plague in the 17th century. The inhabitants having been struck down with the sickness it is said that artillery was ordered to destroy the castle by cannon trapping those inside.

The remains of the castle were sadly neglected until pressure from the local community and council saw the property inspected in 2012 with a view to carrying out some remedial works including access improvements and interpretation. Local company Urquhart Stonemasonry Ltd was appointed to carry out the work in two phases during 2013 and 2014. The castle opened to the public at Easter 2015. It is a fascinating and easy place to visit being in the centre of Braemar village. Pathways lead you around the site with information boards giving details on each section and the different stages of development. There is also an image of how the castle would have looked before it fell into ruin.

There are many ruined castles in Scotland each with its own history to tell and associated legends. This ancient castle retains an air of mystery and much about its construction and development is not known. Little is also understood of the lives of those who once lived here. Who was it that owned the Kindrochit Brooch found here during excavations in the 1920’s? Now in the possession of the National Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh, the late 15th century brooch has a scalloped edge and six kidney shaped bezels, each set with a flat plate. It is engraved with foliaceous designs with an inscription in crude French in Gothic ribbon letters: ‘Ani io cne ab an hi’ ('I am in place of a friend'). What is the meaning of these strange words? We are never likely to know; a secret that has now been taken to the grave. One of the many mysteries of the strange remains of Caisteal Ceann na Drochaid.