Druminnor Castle was the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Forbes for over 500 years until it was sold by the 16th Lord Forbes in 1770. Castle Forbes, as it was then called, was the stage for much of Forbes history. At its peak, the castle comprised two courtyards of buildings surrounded by a massive defensive wall, with a formal entrance forecourt to the west and extensive walled gardens to north and south. The 'Old Tower', enormously tall and famously 'dark', may have been built before 1300. In about 1430, Alexander 1st Lord Forbes added a large Hall block, the only part of the castle which has survived.
Over the next 580 years Castle Forbes was constantly changing: it was attacked by the Gordons in 1449, sacked by the Douglases in 1452, refortified in 1456, captured and partly demolished by the Gordons in 1571 through 1573, substantially rebuilt in 1577, seized by the government in 1584, raided by Lord Forbes's sons in 1592, captured by Royalists and defended against Forbes attacks for two years starting in 1645, repaired and remodeled in 1660 through 1661, frequently attacked by Jacobites in 1689 and 1690.
As a result, by 1700, William, 12th Lord Forbes (c. 1657 – 1716) was bankrupt, even after selling off much of the estate. On the accession of Queen Anne in 1702, he sent a petition to the Secretary of State claiming that his support for the government against the Jacobite rebellion had caused him great financial difficulty. He claimed that “his Estate was thus Ruined to contract Debts for the support of his Family, and the subsistance of the Troup of horse he Commanded, besides what great charges he was at for the Service of the Government.” He succeeded in gaining a modest pension from the government.
His eldest son William (c. 1687 – 1730) succeeded to the title upon his father’s death in July 1716 and not much more. In 1720 he married Dorothea Dale, the daughter of a successful merchant, William Dale of Covent Garden, from whom he received a fortune of £20,000. Unfortunately, the 13th Lord Forbes lost all of it in the 1720 crash of stock in the South Sea Trading Company (known as the “South Sea Bubble”) and other rash ventures. In 1730, at the age of 47, he died and his thirteen-year-old son Francis, 14th Lord Forbes (1721 – 1734) succeeded him until his own death four years later.
James, 15th Lord Forbes (1689 – 1761), was the second son of the 13th Lord Forbes and succeeded his young nephew. Druminnor was besieged and damaged by the Jacobite army in 1746 and the castle was further damaged when it was partially burned by accident in the 1750s. In 1761, his son James succeeded his father as 16th Lord Forbes and by 1767 was determined to sell parts of the estate to support his growing family. In 1770, James sold Druminnor to his cousin Captain John Forbes of Newe who in turn resold it to John Grant of Rothmaise. Lord Forbes moved across the Braes of Forbes to the house of Putachie, which became the new seat of Clan Forbes. In 1815, Putachie was rebuilt and renamed Castle Forbes.
The Grants were lairds of Druminnor for six generations, until debt took them in their turn in 1955. Margaret Forbes-Sempill, a daughter of Lord Forbes-Sempill of Craigievar, bought Druminnor, restoring it to Forbes ownership after a gap of 185 years. Between 1960 and 1965, she demolished the 1841 additions and restored what was left of the old Forbes castle. In 1975, Druminnor was bought by Andrew Forbes of the Pitsligo & Monymusk branch. The current owner is Andrew’s son, Alexander Forbes.
For more information see the Druminnor Castle brochure.
Druminnor Castle is featured in the 2017 documentary "Scotch: A Golden Dream" produced by Island Productions LTD. In this 1:30 minute segment, Professor Steve Murdoch of the University of St. Andrews and Dr. Kieran German of the University of Strathclyde discuss an old potsill found at the castle.