Huntingtower is a most interesting castle. The structure consists of two separate tower houses, of a type common from the north of England through the Borders up into Scotland, which were subsequently joined together to form a larger residence. The arrangement of rooms inside very much reflects this unusual history, which tells its own story of the needs of its former owners.
The site, outside the town, on the West side of Perth, is naturally protected on the west by a narrow valley, and on the north by a steep bank descending to the river. The east and south sides are open and unprotected; no evidence suggests defensive banks or ditches, but there were probably formal gardens and orchards here during its occupation.
The eastern tower is the earlier, with the fifteenth century gatehouse having been enlarged to form the three storeys and a garret in around 1500. The original arched entrance to the passageway into the courtyard is still visible, as is the spring of the vault on the inside. A mezzanine wooden floor was constructed, but then replaced by the existing stone barrel vault. On the first floor was the solar, or main residential hall. The fireplace is from a later remodelling, otherwise this room looks much as it must have during the early part of the sixteenth century. On the north side is a rectangular window, with seats, and to the left of the fireplace, where a cupboard originally was, another window now helps to provide light. The stunning painted wooden ceiling of this room, dating from around 1540, was only revealed by the removal of later pine panelling in 1913. Although sore on the neck, it is well worth spending some time examining the various designs, from knotwork, to botanical to zoomorphic. The remaining traces of painted plaster in the room seem to date from even earlier; again, time to trace out the features is well rewarded. The second floor room has a fine early sixteenth century fireplace, useful cupboards and shelves, again, seats at the window, and a private latrine. The garret was reached by a door in the west gable.
Around the same time as the eastern tower was being remodelled, the western tower was constructed about 3m away. The extraordinarily small distance between the towers is presumed to be a result of the division of the land between two brothers, William, the Master of Ruthven, and John. It seems that each tower was used as a separate residence for their respective families, but the proximity would provide extra security and shared use of out buildings. The Western tower is slightly larger than the East, with a projecting chamber-block rising to four storeys. Again, the first floor would have been the hall, but the floors in this tower have not survived, and the features are mostly those of the seventeenth century rebuilding, when the connecting walls between the two towers was built. However, some wall paintings from the original rooms survive - the remains of a coat of arms, datable to pre-1513, as John Erskine of Dun, whose arms appear on the right hand side, was killed at the battle of Flodden in that year, and his wife, Margaret of Ruthven, had remarried by 1518. The garret on top of the West tower housed a dovecot, to provide fresh meat for the families.
The builders of Ruthven, as it was known, were prominent at court and Queen Mary came to stay here in 1565 with her new husband, Lord Darnley. Darker times came and the young James VI was 'persuaded' to stay at Ruthven for almost a year from August 1582, while the Earl of Gowrie, the former fourth Lord Ruthven, held the chief power in the land. The King had his revenge however, as Gowrie was beheaded at Stirling Castle on 2 May 1584. The castle became part of the Crown properties, and in September that same year, James VI stayed at Ruthven for the hunting, fleeing from the plague in Perth after a week or so. Although the castle and lands were restored to Gowrie's son James in 1586, the family fortunes took another turn for the worse, and the third Earl, James' brother John, and another brother, Alexander, were killed in mysterious circumstances in their town house in Perth in 1600. The King took his full revenge on the Ruthven family, the brothers being convicted of high treason despite the fact that they were already dead, and the name of Ruthven was expunged from the Book of Arms. He didn't stop there however, but ordered the bodied to be hanged, drawn and quartered in public view, and the heads and quarters were displayed in Edinburgh, Perth, Dundee and Sterling. Ruthven castle became Huntingtower Castle, and from the Crown's hands, passed in 1663 to the Earl of Tullibardine. The property passed through generations and families until the estate was sold to various buyers in 1805. The castle itself was used by John Buchan as accommodation for the workers at his nearby cloth-printing factory. In 1912, it came into state care, and it is now looked after by Historic Scotland.
Other Places To Visit In this Area Include: Alyth
Alyth Folk Museum, open only in summer, has collection of agricultural and domestic artefacts.
Secluded and unsignposted village built on private property. Houses overlook village green split by rushing burn.
Remains of Pictish fort on top of hill. Guinevere, King Arthur's queen, is said to have been imprisoned here for loving Pictish prince.
Village, dating from 19th century, on River Tay. Birnam Wood mostly birch and oak. Terrace Walk along right bank of Tay passes oak said to be last survivor of original Birnam Wood featured in prophecy of Macbeth's death.
Blairgowrie and Rattray
Scotland's largest working water wheel on view at Keathbank Mill. Heraldic crests centre here. Two towns linked by 19th-century bridge over River Ericht. North of town, river rushes through 200ft deep gorge overlooked by 17th-century Craighall.
Described as finest 2 acres of private garden in country. Gardeners from all over world come to see collection of plants including rhododendrons, alpines, and herbaceous and peat-garden plants.
Bridge of Cally
Peaceful village in sheltered gorge at meeting place of River Ardle and Black Water. Choice of walks through deciduous forests.
Camperdown House and Country Park
European brown bears, wolves, lynxes, arctic foxes, reindeer, raccoons and golden eagles can be seen at wildlife centre. Other activities include golf, horse riding, tennis and Adventure Park. House has golf museum tracing sport's history.
From Law of Dundee, hill of volcanic rock in centre of town, views of surrounding areas including docks. Iron Age hill-fort and War Memorial here. McManus Galleries have displays of history and art including Dutch, French, Italian and British paintings, and oldest known astrolabe -- dating from 1555. Barrack Street Museum has natural history exhibits. Steeple of St Mary's Tower, dating from 16th century, now museum of church and local history. Ruins of Mains of Fintry Castle in Caird Park. Mills Observatory has displays on astrology and space travel, and allows public to use telescopes. Traditional methods of sweet making explained at Shaw's Sweet Factory- Frigate Unicorn, oldest British-built ship still afloat is now museum for Royal Navy. 11115 Discovery, Captain Scott's ship, has displays of ship's history, with actors reliving events on board. In suburb of Broughty Ferry, 4 miles east of town, Broughty Castle houses museum of whaling and local life.
Ruined cathedral dates from 12th century, 14th-century choir now houses parish church. Cathedral and High Streets have restored 17th-century houses, one of which has metal ell, measurement for cloth, on wall. Scottish Horse Museum has memorabilia of one of Scotland's two Highland yeomanry regiments.
Iron Age hill-fort enclosed by strong rampart -- said to be site of Macbeth's castle.
Pictish symbol stone in ruins of Eassie church. Cross and figures carved on one side; elephant men and animals on other.
St Marnock's Church dates from 1453 and has medieval painted panels, bronze alms dish and bell dated 1508. Jougs -- iron collars for tying up wrongdoers -- still hang from oak doors. Nearby Fowlis Castle built early 17th century.
Glamis Castle, childhood home of Queen Mother and birthplace of Princess Margaret, reputed to be most haunted stately home in Britain. Six-storey tower built in 15th century, but wings, turrets and castellated parapets added in the 17th century. Collection of tapestries, paintings, furniture and weapons. Parkland and formal garden laid out by Capability Brown; also 2lft high sundial with 84 dials. Angus Folk Museum in Kirkwynd has collection of furnishings, clothes and tools used by local community over last 200 years housed in 19th-century cottages. Glamis Stone nearby has intricate carvings.
From gentle, forested slopes around village of Clova, glen narrows to wild mountain home of red deer, wildcat and ptarmigan.
River Isla runs through picturesque valley for 17 miles. Loch fishing, horse riding and cross-country skiing. Highland Adventure Centre at Knockshannach, east of Kirkton of Glenisla.
Roadside cairn in memory of Captain Scott and Dr Wilson, who planned their Antarctic exploration at Dr Wilson's home in the glen. Walks through birch woods along glen.
The Hermitage Woodland
Walk leads through wooded area containing numerous exotic trees, beneath 19th-century railway bridge, along River Braan, past 18th-century bridge to folly over-looking waterfall.
Highland Motor Heritage Centre
Classic and vintage cars, costumes and accessories displayed in authentic period settings.
Ramparts and ditches of timber fortress built by Roman general Agricola in AD 83.
Three-storey house is the start for Victorian walk which passes wooded river bank where Queen Victoria once took tea, then 4 mile climb up Kindrogan Hill where surrounding mountains are indicated on circular map.
Village overlooking Carse of Gowrie, River Tay and Ochil Hills. Kinnaird Castle dates from 12th century -- restored in 1855 and now private home.
Kirkton of Glenisla
Ruined Forter Castle stands 4 miles north-west of village. The village itself is on River Isla.
Birthplace of author and playwright J.M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. His home now houses Bane Museum. On hill behind the graveyard where Barrie is buried is cricket pavilion with camera obscura. Views north towards highlands and south across Strathmore Valley.
Loch of Kinnordy
Freshwater loch with large numbers of nesting water birds.
Loch of the Lowes
Loch is part of Scottish Wildlife Trust reserve. Hide allows for viewing of water birds and pair of nesting ospreys. Visitor centre has wildlife exhibition and several small aquaria. Woods surrounding centre populated by roe and fallow deer.
Megginch Castle Gardens
The grounds of this 15th-century castle have a physic garden, 16th-century rose garden, astrological garden and 1000-year-old yews.
Meigle Museum contains 25 Pictish and early Christian carved stones, found in churchyard.
Beech hedge, 100ft high and 580yds long, forms eastern border of Marquis of Lansdowne's home -- said to be largest hedge of its kind in world.
Ancient city, made Royal Burgh in 1210, though few old buildings remain. St John's Kirk conse-crated in 1243, but now mainly 15th century. From here, John Knox preached his sermon on idolatry that resulted in church wrecking throughout Scotland. Restored mill from 18th century produces flour and oatmeal in the traditional way. Fair Maid of Perth's House, once home of Catherine Glover, heroine of Sir Walter Scott's novel, now a craft shop. Black Watch Museum and Gallery holds treasures of High-land regiments. Perth Art Gallery and Museum has displays of local history, art, natural history and archaeology. Whisky blending explained at Dewar's distillery. Walk up Kinnoul Hill to folly at top, views of surrounding area.
Village of 18th-century cottages and houses. North-east stands a prehistoric burial mound.
Impressive waterfall where River Isla cascades into deep gorge.
Pink-stone castellated mansion, enlarged in 1803 around 16th-century and earlier buildings. Place where kings of Scotland were crowned. Interior reveals china, ivories, clocks and exquisite French furniture -- including Marie Antoinette's writing table. Grounds include pinetum, wood-land garden, children's play-ground and picnic area. Elaborately decorated chapel on Moot Hill in front of palace.
Well-preserved example of Iron Age earth house, comprising pas-sage, long gallery and small inner chambers. Close by is dovecote shaped like house, built 1595.