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Glenbuchat Heritage

41 Done of Invernochty
The Glenbuchat Image Library
41 Done of Invernochty

The Doune of Invernochty is an earthwork castle in Scotland. The name is a corruption of Dùn Inbhir Nochdaidh which means, in Gaelic, the "Fort of Invernochty (confluence of River Nochty)."
Dating from around 800 AD it is a moated motte and was a stronghold of the Mormaer of Mar and is thus sometimes described as the 'Citadel of Mar'. The nearest villages are Bellabeg and Strathdon, the latter used to be called Invernochty.

Pictish origins
Nidan was the grandson of Pasgen, son of Urien Rheged, and was thus a cousin of St Kentigern who was the son of Owain, another of Urien's sons. This might suggest that he may have been one of Mungo's companions when he journeyed to Wales to escape from the dangers, which threatened his safety in the kingdom of Strathclyde. It is also said that Nidan followed his master as ab of the Andat (parent community) of Kynõr near Huntly.
The two churches bearing Nidan's name, at Strathdon and Midmar, are certainly of ancient origin. Both, interestingly, lie near to, or as part of, a motte of Norman origin. There was a chapel within the walls of the Norman motte and bailey at Invernochty, which is known to have served as the parish church for many years. However, the mound is known as the Doune of Invernochty – (doune, from the Celtic word dun, a fort), tells us that this was a seat of power for the Picts long before the Anglo.Norman infiltration of Alba. It is entirely probable then that this dun would have been an irresistible magnet to the missionaries who came with Kentigern and who looked to found their churches at important Pictish settlements. At Midmar, the church lies a little to the east of a mound known as the Cunningar which served as the centre of administration for that part of the Pictish province of Mar known as Midmar.

The earthworks of the Doune may therefore be safely assigned to some period in the twelfth or early thirteenth century. The handiwork of the great master race of medieval Europe is written upon its banks and ditches in letters which he who runs may read, and there is nothing about the structure which can be assigned to an earlier date. The lordship of Strathdon, of which the Doune of Invernochty was the chief messuage, was one of the territorial divisions of the great earldom of Mar, but almost nothing is known of its history during the very remote period in which the earthworks of the Doune took origin. It is probable, however, that some light may be thrown upon the question by a general consideration of the history of the earldom during the period—so far as this is preserved by the very scrappy contemporary records.

The primitive Earls of Mar, so far as we may judge from their recorded acts, appear to have been little more than independent chieftains, having scant connection with the central authority. Ruadri, mormaeor and first Earl of Mar, " gives consent" to the foundation charter of the Abbey of Scone by Alexander I. in 1120; a few charters issued by his successors are confirmed by the royal seal; Gilchrist, the third earl, actually contests the claim of William the Lion to Aberchirder Kirk, and grants it to the Abbey of Arbroath; and, altogether, the few items of information preserved about these early magnates suggest that they owned but slender allegiance to the Crown. Moreover, in the great dispute which raged between Duncan, fifth Earl of Mar, and Thomas Durward of Coull, who claimed part of his lands, it can be demonstrated that Alexander II. supported the latter, " with the aim," as one historian very significantly puts it, " of breaking up this old Celtic earldom."

But with the advent of William, sixth Earl of Mar, about the year 1245, all this is changed. Unlike any of his predecessors, Earl William was a great public personage, who held many important posts and played a prominent part in the national transactions of his day. Thus he is mentioned as one of the chief nobles of the kingdom in the negotiations which led up to the famous treaty of Newcastle in 1244; he was appointed Regent during the minority of Alexander III., was ousted through English influence in 1255, but was reinstated in 1257. In 1252, and again from 1263-1266, he was Grand Chamberlain, and in the last-mentioned year held joint command of the army which annexed the Hebrides after the battle of Largs. In 1258 he was signatory to a treaty with the Welsh Prince, Llewellyn, whereby the high contracting parties pledged each other not to make peace with Henry III. except by mutual consent. During the extremely delicate diplomatic situation of 1262, when the Scottish Queen, then on a visit to her father, Henry III., in London, was expectant of an heir, Mar was one of the great barons to whom the English King plighted troth for the safety of the child. Earl William lived to a great age, and died in 1273. In every respect he was one of the foremost nobles of his time; and no Earl of Mar before him, and none for many years after— till the days of Alexander Stewart, the hero of Harlaw—wielded anything like his power. The charters extant under his name prove that his control of the affairs in his own district was as efficient as the hold which he exercised on the counsels of the nation.

During the time of Earl Duncan, father of William, an event of cardinal importance in the history of Donside took place, in the erection of the great fortress of Kildrummy, which ultimately became the chief seat of the earldom of Mar. This famous castle was built, as we are told by the historian of the Sutherland family, by Gilbert de Moravia, Bishop of Caithness and Treasurer for the north of Scotland during the period 1223-1245. The castle occupies a very important strategic situation, and formed one of a chain of holds which in mediaeval times garrisoned the great route northward from Forfarshire over the " Mounth "—others on the line being Brechin, Kincardine, Loch Kinnord, Strathbogie, Rothes, Elgin, Duffus, Blervie, Inverness, and Dunskaith, all of which were in existence during the thirteenth century. Following the usual practice of the Middle Ages, the Crown entrusted the wardenship of the castle to the local magnate in whose territory it was built, and thus it came in effect to he the chief seat of the Earl of Mar: but all through its history Kildrummy remained essentially a royal fortress, and the Earl had to make it over when required for the use of the King. The building of the castle completed the process of "Normanising" the old Celtic earldom, and capturing it for the interest of the Crown; and the result is plainly seen in the greatly enhanced importance of Earl William.

It appears not improbable, having regard to all the circumstances, that the Doune of Invernochty was erected in the days of the "Normanisation" of the Mar earldom, possibly by Earl Duncan, whose dates are about 1228-1244. It may quite well have been the headquarters of the earldom in the days before the Castle of Kildrummy was reared, in a more important strategical situation, and with a national end in view, by the great ecclesiastical statesman. On the erection of Kildrummy the Doune would probably be abandoned, a circumstance which might be held to account for the utter absence of recorded history connected with a fortress of such evident consequence during the stormy periods of the War of Independence and the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. The only specific mention of the place which the writer

From another source
Doune of invernochty
Doune.—A short way above the confluence of the Nochty and the Don, there is a very remarkable abruptly conical mound, about 60 feet in height from the bottom of the ditch; 970 feet in circumference at the base; and 562 feet at the top. It is of an oval form, and the flat surface on the top measures about half an acre. It has been regularly fortified by a moat 16 feet deep and 26 feet wide at the bottom, which has been supplied with water by the stream Bardock. It has evidently been one of those gravelly eminences already mentioned, and probably the cutting of the wet ditch and the more regular formation of the sides is all that is artificial about it. Its situation and figure pointed it out as a place on which to erect a stronghold. All around the top, the foundations of buildings are visible. A small portion of wall on each side of the gateway to the south is still seen, but it is too dilapidated to judge of what the thickness had been. At the level of the ground it measures six feet. There is no account of this remnant of antiquity. Some vague tradition states that the church originally stood here, which merely rests on the former name of the parish being Invernochtie. It has been a place of considerable strength in a remote age. Chalmers mentions traces of a Roman iter from Deeside, which would point precisely in this direction. The traces of science in fortification would support the conjecture, that it might be a Roman fort to preserve the line of communication across the country; or it may pertain to a later era, and have been one of those forts erected by the Picts or Britons as a protection against the incursions of the Danes, and other northern hordes from the north-west. The former Account mentions "the ruins of buildings in the neighbourhood." These have been long since obliterated by the plough.

The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland
Alternative Name(s)
Canmore ID 16762
NGR NJ 35151 12957
Latitude, Longitude 57.202779N, 3.074988W
Images 15

Summary Notes
The footings of the original kirk are still visible on the crown of the great earthen castle mound opposite; the Doune of Invernochty, 12th century (60ft high, 250ft x 129ft). Gigantic motte or castle mound, surrounded by a rare system of dams and sluices. Water, from River Bardoch, remained in system as late as 1823.

Taken from "Aberdeenshire: Donside and Strathbogie - An Illustrated Architectural Guide", by Ian Shepherd, 2006. Published by the Rutland Press http://www.rias.org.uk
Archaeological Notes
NJ31SE 1 35151 12957

(NJ 351 129) Doun of Invernochty (NR)
OS 6" map, Aberdeenshire, 2nd ed., (1903)

Excavations were carried out on this monument in 1854.
Building Chronicle, 21 Aug 1854.

The Doune of Invernochty comprises a motte and earthworks dating from the late 12th/early 13th century. It ranks as one of the finest examples of Norman earthwork castles in Scotland, and appears to be the sole Scottish example of a motte with Norman stonework on its summit. The oval motte is carved out of a glacial mound, about 60ft high, and is surrounded by a ditch 22-32ft wide and averaging 20ft deep. A countersweep bank is enlarged on the W to form a crescentic platform, 74ft at its widest, which is probably a bailey. Jervise (A Jervise 1875-9) states that the remains of several buildings are visible here. A narrow bank around the counterscarp, is probably a palisade bank. A large bank extending from the motte ot the N and W has retained a small lake to supply the ditch with water. It was drained in 1823. Excavations in 1855 by Alexander Walker revealed the piling of a drawbridge and a building supposed to have been a gatehouse further excavated in 1935 by the owner, F L Wallace, revealed a stone curtain wall around the summit of the motte, with an original entrance in the S. Another gap in the N is modern. Of the stone buildings exposed within, one extending across th summit of the motte is almost certainly a large Norman chapel, identified by the discovery of a Norman stoup immediately to the N of it. This is known to have served as the parish church of Invernochty, disused before 1654. Finds included a gold brooch of about 1300, now preserved at Newe; 14th century potsherds, iron work and animal bones.
Name Book 1867; A Jervise 1875-9; W D Simpson 1919; W D Simpson 1936; W D Simpson 1943.

The Doune of Invernochty as described and illustrated by Simpson.
Re-surveyed at 1/2500.
Visited by OS (N K B) 29 August 1968.

This large and impressive motte probably has a natural mound at its core, although a great deal of earth-moving and sculpting was undoubtedly involved in its construction. It stands to a height of up to 12m above the bottom of the encircling ditch and its roughly oval summit measures 80m from NNW to SSE by 40m transversely. Around the edge of the summit are the low, grass-grown remains of a curtain wall, which, on the S, has been exposed by excavation to reveal a mortared stone wall 2m thick. Immediately to the NW of the exposed wall excavation has also revealed a deeply set rectangular chamber measuring 6m from NW to SE by 4.6m transversely internally. An area of disturbance immediately to the NE of the chamber, including a metal post set in concrete, represents the remains of a Second World War observation post. A large rectangular building straddles the summit and cuts off the northernmost third of the interior from the rest. The building is defined by little more than stone footings and the edges of old excavation trenches dug to follow its walls, but it measures 30m from NE to SW by 11.3m transversely overall. Access to the summit was probably originally gained on the S, where a modern path ascends the motte, whilst a break in the curtain wall at the NW apex is probably modern.
The ditch is some 15m broad and 3m deep, but the low bank that can be traced along its outer lip, is clearly later in date, overlying a broad terrace of made ground that surrounds most of the site. The only gaps in this terrace are on the S, where it may have been destroyed by the road, and on the N. The purpose of this feature is unclear; it is broader (up to 25m) and more regular on the W, but narrower (up to 12m) on the E, where it has a curious wavy outer edge that appears to represent a series of contiguous soil dumps. On the W it is overlain by structures that probably post-date the occupation of the site. These include at least one rectangular building measuring 11.8m from E to W by 4.7m transversely over a low bank, a kiln and an enclosure, and there are also several indeterminate features.
The ditch was formerly water-filled, the water entering through the break in the terrace on the N from an artificially created lake, now drained and planted with conifers. The lake was created by the construction of a dam, 11m thick and about 2m high, which ran NE from the E side of the break in the terrace for a distance of 150m, capturing at least one burn and certainly flooding the area to the N and NE of the motte.
Visited RCAHMS (PC, SPH, KM), 2-6 March 1998

From Wanderings in the Highlands 1881
A little beyond this is the ruins of the old Castle of Invernochty. It is called the " Doune of Invernochty." It is situated on the top of an artificial mound, rising abruptly from the plain to about the height of 60 feet. We climbed to the top, and examined the ruin, which we found to be very small indeed. Only a small part of the fort for there can be little doubt but that it is an old Pictish stronghold on the east side remains to tell that humanity once dwelt there in ages so remote that even fertile tradition fails to give us any information about it. The mound measures 208 paces round the top, and is surrounded by a moat. In byegone days it was said to be a favourite haunt of fairies (a race of beings that have now altogether disappeared), whose mischievous pranks often disturbed the peace of families in the neighbourhood. One is related of a poor man who had been at the Mill of Bellabeg for meal. When on his way home, in company with a neighbour, while passing the Doune, they heard the sound of music. The one with the meal, with foolhardy courage, ascended, and immediately found himself in the midst of a party of dancers, who induced him to join them. The poor man did so, and, as the story goes, had to dance there a whole twelvemonth, when the man who bore him company formerly chanced to pass on the same night, and again heard the sound of music, which by the way, was Hallowe'en, the night of all others which our simple and rude forefathers believed to be given up to those merry little gentry, who frisked through the air in company with less musically inclined customers, namely, witches, following in the train of the fairy queen, who had the privilege of riding a fine milk white pony, playing up all sorts of devilish games on any one who was unlucky enough to be outside. It was the temerity of that gentleman before-mentioned in venturing out on that dread night that cost him a year's dancing, and he might have been dancing still, had not his neighbour, with great dexterity and not a little nerve, seized him by the coat tail while whirling past with his meal pock on his back, in company with a gay young fairy. Immediately when human hands touched him the spell was dissolved, and fairies and all disappeared from their sight, and the dancer was conveyed home to his son-owing wife and family, who had mourned him as dead ; but he would never believe that he had danced more than one reel, and even insisted, it is said, on having another. Many are the wondrous tales told about these old castles, and the above is one picked from a few that has connection with the " Doune of Invernochty."

And there is evem a tune about it!
Scottish, Reel. E Minor. Standard tuning. AAB. Composed by Alexander Walker. The Doune of Invernoughty (or Invernochty) lies on the north bank of the River Don near the village of Strathdon. It is a fortified earthwork stronghold associated with the Earls of Mar, and features an impressive motte that dates to the late 12th and early 13th centuries. It is considered today on the finest earthwork castles surviving in Scotland
Play part of the tune

Picture added on 24 February 2010 at 12:31
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History Texts

126 Cattle Rustling in the Glen88 1696 Poll Book Belnacraig87 Original 1696 Poll Book91 Wandering in the Highlands 188185 Sketch of 'Old Glenbucket' about 174575 Peatfold70 New Statistical Account of Strathdon 184571 Descendants of the Great Glenbucket69 My First Detachment -The Glenbucket Inn4 St Margarets Chronicle Free afternoon Glenbuchat