Monboddo Castle

Fordoun, Laurencekirk, AB30 1JT

Offers Over £950,000 Freehold (424.1sq m/4565sq ft)


Historic yet fully renovated castle dating from the 17th century


Monboddo Castle is situated about 2 miles north of Fordoun and to the east of Auchenblae, at the northern end of the Howe of the Mearns. The Howe of the Mearns is a renowned area of farmland which is sheltered from the coast by the Hill of Garvock. Inland lie the glens, forming the foothills of the Grampian Mountains lying to the north and west. The castle is easily reached from the A90 dual carriageway which provides fast access north to Aberdeen and south to Dundee, Perth and central Scotland.

There are primary schools in Fordoun and in Auchenblae, which also has a local village shop, with further local shopping at Laurencekirk and secondary schooling at the Mearns Academy. Further shopping and secondary schooling are available in Stonehaven. Private schooling is available at Lathallan (Johnshaven). There are a number of good private schools in Aberdeen, including Robert Gordon's College, St Margaret's and Albyn as well as the newly built International School. There are two universities. Aberdeen, as the acknowledged capital of the North Sea oil industry, provides all the facilities expected of a major city.

There are golf courses at Auchenblae, Edzell and Montrose. There is a leisure centre in Montrose. Fishing can be taken on the nearby North and South Esks. St Cyrus Nature Reserve and beach are located on the coast just over Garvock Hill. There are a number of good walks in the area.

Railway stations are found at Stonehaven and Laurencekirk with services to Aberdeen and the south, including a sleeper. Aberdeen Airport has regular domestic and European flights.

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Further Information

Monboddo Castle, also known as Monboddo House, is probably best known as the birthplace and home of James Burnett, Lord Monboddo, the illustrious 18th century judge, soldier and agricultural improver. Both brilliant and eccentric, he anticipated the Darwinian theory, believing that men were but monkeys whose tails had worn off by constant sitting.

Among the judge's friends was Dr Johnson who, accompanied by Boswell, dined with him at Monboddo in August 1773 when passing through the Mearns on their journey to the Western Isles. Robert Burns was a frequent visitor to Lord Monboddo's Edinburgh home, and also visited Monboddo Castle. He was an admirer of the judge's daughter, Elizabeth, “Fair Eliza”, who died tragically young in 1790 of consumption, prompting his Elegy on the late Miss Burnett of Monboddo.

The estate of Monboddo belonged to the Barclays as far back as the 13th century. By 1593 it is known to have come into the possession of James Strachan, from whom it passed to the Wisharts of Pitarrow and then the Carnegies. In 1634, Colonel Robert Irvine, Colonel of a Scots regiment which had served with Gustavus Adolphus, King of Sweden, retired from military life and came to live at Monboddo, buying it from his Carnegie brother in law. Archibald Watt, in Highways and Byways round Kincardine (1985) relates that “… in 1635 (he) built the manor place of Monboddo, a simple oblong residence, two storeys and an attic high, on the site of an older building (possibly a tower).” The Burnetts came to Monboddo around 1671 when Colonel Irvine's daughter, Elizabeth, married James Burnett of Lagavin, great-grandfather of the judge.

Between 1866 and 1867 Monboddo was significantly extended and “improved” at a cost of £2,000 to a design by James Matthews of Aberdeen. Three generations of the Burnetts of Monboddo served in India and for many decades the house was scarcely lived in, until 1939 when James Malcolm Burnett returned from Africa to farm at Monboddo. Some time after the Second World War he returned to Africa and Monboddo gradually fell into complete disrepair. Nigel Tranter, writing in the early 1970s, described the mansion as “abandoned and derelict …This is a pity, for one wing of it is the small simple early 17th century of the Irvines and Burnetts, a three storey oblong block with angle-turrets and dormers, its kitchen provided with an enormous arched fireplace …This ancient house could and should be saved, with the great Victorian additions removed”.

In 1977 the castle was restored. The 19th century addition was removed, as Tranter had suggested, leaving the shell of the original building of 1635. Watt writes: “the chimneys and roof-line have been altered to approximate what they originally were while we can still see the fairly large and regular windows and the two small corner turrets crowning the northern angles. In the middle of the west gable remains, too, the inset heraldic panel bearing the date of building, the arms of the builder impaled with those of his wife, Elizabeth, third daughter of Sir Robert Douglas of Glenbervie, and the initials R.I. and E.D”. Richard Oram, in Angus & The Mearns, a historical guide (1996) recounts that “Monboddo has recently been saved… through restoration as the centre piece of a private housing development. The 18th and 19th century portions… have been demolished, leaving the original early 17th century house. This is a simple rectangular building of two storeys and a garret… The unvaulted basement contained cellars, with a kitchen at the west end, over which were hall and private chamber respectively“. Monboddo Castle now forms the centre piece of a discreet group of houses, including seven modern houses, built in a sympathetic style to the castle, and three conversions within the adjacent Coach House.

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Area Guide:

Monboddo Castle is a very fine and fully restored castle dating from 1635. It is an imposing yet easily manageable house, which retains many of its original features including turrets, crow stepped gables, gun loops and shot holes. The restoration in the late 1970s was done to an extremely high standard, retaining the character of the original house. Since 2009 an ambitious programme of further improvements and renovations has been undertaken. A new oak staircase, together with oak flooring in the drawing room and first floor landing, has been fitted, as has French limestone flooring through most of the ground floor. There is under floor heating at ground floor level and in the master bedroom's en suite shower room and in the main bathroom. A new bespoke dining kitchen has been fitted, ideal for modern family living. All the bathrooms have been refurbished. Where necessary the castle was re-plumbed and a new boiler and water tanks were installed. The ground floor was rewired and CAT5 cable system installed. There are new wood burning stoves in the drawing room and sitting room. As such the castle is in excellent condition, and is ideal for both entertaining and for family living. The sitting room could be used as a dining room if required. Bedroom 2 has also previously been used as a study.

The castle is approached by a hedge lined gravel driveway which leads to a gravelled parking and turning area. The castle is built of stone and harled with a slate roof and there are two date stones, bearing the date of 1635.

From the A90 (Dundee to Aberdeen dual carriageway), take the turning for Fordoun and Auchenblae some 3 miles north of Laurencekirk and opposite the B967 turning for Arbuthnott. In Fordoun turn left signposted Auchenblae. Continue for 1.2 miles and then turn right at the junction onto the B966. The turning for Monboddo will be seen on the left after 0.4 miles.

On reaching the houses at Monboddo the turning into the castle is the fifth on the right, opposite the horse stables.

*Currency rates are updated daily at approximately 01:00 GMT
  • 2 reception rooms
  • 5 bedrooms
  • Garaging and stables/stores
  • Delightful gardens
  • About 3.1 acres
  • Home Report value - £1,000,000
Contact Property Agent
Ruaraidh Ogilvie
Savills Brechin
Clerk Street
+44 (0) 1356 628 628
Sandra McGregor
Savills Brechin
Clerk Street
+44 (0) 1356 628 628