Rothes Castle, Morayshire - The first mention made of the Barony of Rothayes [Rothes] is in 1238 when Eva de Mortach, granddaughter of Petrus de Pollock was Domina, or Lady of Rothes. The de Pollocks were no doubt introduced into the area about 1160 by King William The Lion, in an attempt to bring the lawlessness in the area to an end. Eva de Mortach married a knight by the name of Watson [some say Wiseman] and had a daughter. This daughter was supposed to have married a Norman Lesly of Lesly, but this is not confirmed, and it has not been ascertained how the Barony of Rothes came into possession of the Rothes of Leslie family.
King Edward I was a guest of Sir Norman de Lescelyn when the King came to visit Sunday 29th July 1296 and Sir Norman pledged his fealty to King Edward I. Sir George Leslie, grandson of Sir Andrew Leslie VI Dominus Ejusdem, was styled Dominus de Rothes when he witnessed a contract of marriage 26th April 1392.
All that remains of the magnificent Castle of Rothes is a fragment of the massive outer wall overlooking the High Street of Rothes town. The Castle was four storeys high, with a portcullis guarding the entrance to the inner courtyard and a drawbridge crossed the dry moat, which ran between the outer wall and the hill on which the Castle stood.
The town of Rothes did not exist in the time that the Leslie's owned the Castle, which was sold to the Grants of Elchies in 1711 who in turn sold it to the Earl of Findlater in 1758. It could be said that the town of Rothes is built from the Castle, as the stones from the Castle were taken by villagers to build their houses and a very interesting event took place in 1662, after the Castle was set alight and destroyed.
The following apology is recorded as having been given by a villager, named John Innes on 17th March 1662:“Whereas the Right Noble Earl of Rothes is highly irritated for burning the House of Rothayes, therefore, I John Innes, testify my submission and repentance for the same”.
THE BURNING OF ROTHES CASTLE. By Thomas Innes of Learney Carrick Pursuivant. 1931 The picturesque old fortress, whose ruins overshadow the Burgh of Rothes, is a prominent object in the lower valley of the Spey. In olden times it was the seat of the Leslie's, Earls of Rothes, whose permanent residences were, however at Ballinbriech and Fytekill, in Fife, which they re-named "Leslie", after the old barony in the Garioch. The Castle of Rothes was therefore committed to a series of Captains, in whose custody it remained until the estate was sold about 1700, to Captain John Grant of Elchies and some years later it passed to the Earls of Seafield. The old tower, whose broken walls still crown the height, is apparently built on the site of an earlier castle, where Edward I, rested on his northern campaign. The present ruined condition of the edifice is stated to be due to villagers having burnt it, "about two hundred years ago", says the editor of Shaws History of Moray, 1882, because it became a refuge for tramps and thieves". He adds that the stones were taken to build several houses in the village. This seems likely enough, but the present village and Burgh of Rothes were not founded until the early eighteenth century, so its inhabitants could not be responsible for burning the stately pile, which overhung the young Burgh, for its destruction actually occurred in the preceding century. Whatever may have been the motive, the pretext that it "became a refuge for tramps and thieves", seems peculiar, but a document in the Register of Deeds confirms the tradition that the burning was deliberate and prior to 1662, whilst the incendiary was a certain John Innes in Conrack, who had to make amends to the Earl in the following terms. Signed at Leslie, 17 March 1662, Obligation, John Innes in Conrack to (John) Earle of Rothes for £5750. "Whereas the Right Noble Earle of Rothes is highly irritated for burning the house of Rothes, Therefore I, John Innes in Conrack, to testifie my submission and repentance for the samen, condescending to put ane "blank" in the said noble Earle his hand, for fulfilling thereof doe by thir presents grant me to be justlie restand awand to the Right Noble and Potent Earle, Johne Earle of Rothes, the sowme of ffyve thousand seven hundreth and fiftie pundis money at Whitsunday next to come. Witnesses; Johne Malcolm of Balbedie, Harie Mackie, servant to the Earle of Rothes. The Earl in question was he who was eventually, in 1680, created Duke of Rothes, and whose career subsequent to the Restoration was notorious. John Innes in Conrack was the eldest son of William Innes of Tombreakie in Glenlivet Chamberlain to the Countess of Sutherland, but nothing definite is so far known, concerning the ancestor of this Gudeman of Tombreakie, to whom the Maquis of Huntly gave a wadset of that estate, 22 May 1626, for 3600 Merks. There is a tradition that the Tombreakie family were descended from the Innes of Invermarkie, as maternally, they undoubtedly were, through Conrack's marriage with Sir Robert Innes of Balveny's grand-daughter, but William Innes of Tombreakie was not, as was suggested by some of his descendants last century. Unfortunately we do not know the terms of the "blank" which Conrack gave the Earl "in sign of repentance" and no doubt to save his neck from the consequences of his wilful fire raising, but the sum of £5750, for which Conrack gives bond in 1662, seems only the balance of a greater sum which had been contained in the "blank" and one deduces that Conrack was finding difficulty in implementing the obligation. Rothes was inhabited long before the Castle was built and as far back as 600AD; missionaries had visited the area and built a Chapel on Chapel Hill.