For three days in August 2016, I explored the ancestral Forbes lands in Aberdeenshire. Our guide was Jamie, Lord Sempill, of Clan Chief Tours. For two nights, we were the guests of Malcolm and Jinny, Lord and Lady Forbes, at Castle Forbes.
For just over two hundred years, the current Castle Forbes has served as the headquarters of the Chief of Clan Forbes and the spiritual home for Clan Forbes Society members throughout the world. This Vale of Alford estate has been home to the Forbes Family for over 600 years. However, the original “Castle Forbes” was located about two miles east of Rhynnie in Aberdeenshire. Now called Drumminor Castle, this ancient stronghold was the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Forbes for over 500 years.
In 1770, the 16th Lord Forbes (James) helped pay off inherited debts by selling Druminnor. He moved the clan headquarters to the smaller house of Putachie, near Alford. Putachie was rebuilt starting in 1815 and finished in 1821. Renamed Castle Forbes, the mansion house was designed by noted Aberdeen architect Archibald Simpson. However, Simpson encountered structural problems with the north staircase in the original section of the house. He was dismissed and the castle was completed by the City Architect of Aberdeen John Smith.
Malcolm, the 23rd Lord Forbes, has preserved much of the original 6,000-acre estate through careful stewardship and many commercial ventures such as fishing, leasing land for sheep grazing, rental properties, and natural burials. Lady Forbes oversees the perfumery marketing and hospitality for the bed and breakfast guests. Lord Forbes offered us drinks before dinner in the living room (or lounge, as the Scots say) before we retired to the formal dining room for a dinner prepared by Lady Forbes herself.
The next morning, we were served a hearty breakfast family-style in generous kitchen. We explored the grounds of the estate which included a courtyard and an old dairy barn which Lady Forbes had converted into use for her perfumery business.
Our stay at Castle Forbes was a life-long dream that came true due to the hospitality our Clan Chief and his dedication to his role as custodian of the Forbes estate on behalf of the Clan.