Finavon Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Finhaven (anc. Fothnevyn Gael.fodha-fainn, ' place under a hill '), a ruined castle in Oathlaw parish, Forfarshire, on a rising-ground at the influx of Lemno Burn to the South Esk, 5¼ miles NNE of Forfar and 8 WSW of Brechin. A stately five-storied tower, 86 feet high, larger but plainer than Edzell, it dates in its present condition from the latter half of the 16th century. ' The N wall is yet entire, but the S one is rent through two-thirds of the length of the building, and on some frosty morning at no distant date will inevitably crumble to pieces.' According to Thomas the Rhymer's prediction:

' when Finhaven Castle rins to sand,
The warld's end is near at hand.'

The ruin is a very storehouse of strange memories. Hither David, third Earl of Crawford, and his foeman but brother-in-law, Ogilvy of Inverquharity, were brought, sore wounded, from the battle of Arbroath (1446). The Earl died after a week of lingering torture; and scarce was he dead, when the Countess hurried to Inverquharity's chamber, and smothered him with a pillow, thus avenging her husband by murdering her own brother. ' Earl Beardie ' or ' the Tiger ' Earl of Crawford fled to Finhaven from the rout of Brechin (1452), and, on alighting from his horse, exclaimed that gladly would he pass seven years in hell to gain the honour of Huntly's victory. Eleven months later he was pardoned by James II., who here received a sumptuous entertainment; but the King, having sworn in his wrath ' to make the highest stone of Finhaven the lowest, ' must needs, to keep his word, go up to the roof of the castle and thence throw down a stone that was lying loose on the battlements. On the Covin Tree of Finhaven, grown from a chestnut dropped by a Roman soldier, Earl Beardie hanged Jock Barefoot, the Careston gillie who had dared to cut a walking-stick therefrom, and whose ghost oft scares the belated wayfarer. The Covin Tree was levelled to the ground in 1760; but, in the secret chamber of Glamis, Earl Beardie still drees his weird, to play at cards until the clap of doom. In 1530 David, eighth Earl, was for thirteen weeks imprisoned in the dungeons of Finhaven by his son, the Wicked Master, who eleven years after was stabbed by a Dundee cobbler for taking fro, him a stoup of drink. David, tenth Earl, in 1546 married Margaret, daughter of Cardinal Beaton. The nuptials were solemnised at Finhaven with great magnificence, in presence of the Cardinal, who that same month was murdered at St Andrews. Held by the Lindsays since 1375, the estate was sold in 1629 by the fourteenth Earl of Crawford to his cousin, Lord Spynie. Later it was owned by the Carnegies, till in 1775 it was sold for £19, 500 to the Earl of Aboyne. It was sold again in 1805 for £45, 000 to a Mr Ford, and was re-sold in 1815 for £65,000 to a subsequent Earl of Aboyne, belonging now to that Earl's representative, the Marquis of Huntly. Wooded Finhaven Hill extends along all the south-eastern border of Oathlaw parish, and some way into Aberlemno. Culminating at a height of 751 feet above sea-level, it commands a beautiful view of Strathmore, and is crowned, on its north-eastern shoulder, with a vitrified fort, in the form nearly of a parallelogram 380 feet long and 112 at the broadest. Anciently there was a parish of Finhaven, divided now between Oathlaw and Aberlemno; and well on into the present century the former parish was oftener called Finhaven than Oathlaw. The church, standing 1 mile E of the castle, was built in 1380, and fell into disuse about the beginning of the 17th century. In its side aisle, however, the thirteenth Earl of Crawford was buried as late as 1622, and this aisle was left standing till 1815. In 1849 the ancient encaustic pavement of the church was laid bare, and two monuments were found at a considerable depth, one being of a robed ecclesiastic.—Ord. Sur., sh. 57, 1868. See chap. iv. of Andrew Jervise's Land of the Lindsays (Edinb. 1853).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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