Balquhain Castle is to the east of Bennachie, in the district of the Garioch, Aberdeenshire, about three miles to the northwest of Inverurie. It is also about 1½ miles directly across from the memorial to the fallen at Harlaw, on the other side of the river Urie.

Today, except for the east wall of what was once a huge keep or square tower, the castle is a complete ruin. George Leslie 1st Baron of Balquhain, acquired several Baronies from his father in 1340, which he consolidated into one Barony and called it Balquhain, per charter granted by King David II.

The original castle, a quadrangular turreted building, having an enclosed courtyard with towers at the front, was burned down in a feud with the Forbes in 1526. Upon rebuilding the castle, including the construction of the high square tower or keep, Sir William Leslie, 7th Baron of Balquhain, not only made it a place of strength, but of considerable comfort and elegance. It remained the principal residence of the Barons of Balquhain until 1690 when Patrick, Count Leslie, 15th Baron of Balquhain, decided to move to Fetternear House, which had come into the Leslie’s possession in 1566. His son George, with his family continued to live at Balquhain until the death of his father in 1710, when he, the now 16th Baron of Balquhain decided to move to Fetternear House.

While there was some deterioration of the Castle after it was abandoned to tenants, deliberate destruction did not occur until after 1746, when roof and flooring timbers were scavenged. Whether the castle was destroyed on the orders of the Duke of Cumberland, after Culloden in 1746 seems to be a matter of conjecture – it probably was. After the roof fell in, it became a source of stone for building of other houses.

Today, only the east wall of the square tower or keep, remains and a fragment of one of the round towers at the southwest corner of the outer, or curtain wall enclosing the courtyard. Incidentally, the hearth stone of the castle is in fact, the title to which, together with a nine foot square of land, was conveyed in the latter part of 1957, by an exchange of deeds, whereby the late Mr Ian W Strachan, the owner of the Mains of Balquhain, castle and all, conveyed the property to Sir Alistair Leslie, 30th Baron of Balquhain, who in turn, conveyed the property to Mr Strachan, less the hearth stone and the nine foot square of land. By such means, with the concurrence of the Lord Lyon, Sir Thomas Innes of Learney, Alastair Leslie regained the “superiority” of the castle for the Balquhain Leslies, as the hearthstone is considered to be the seat of all Scottish Castles. Now Sir Alistair may come and sit in his chair on his square of land and admire the hearth stone.

Just how often Sir Alistair may do this is problematical as he has been a resident in Rotorua New Zealand since about 1933. In consideration of his co-operation in restoring the castle to the Leslies, Barons of Balquhain, Mr Strachan, was made “Hereditary Keeper of the Castle”.

In August 1958, he received a beautiful symbolic key to the castle, in solid silver, about 5 inches long, inscribed on the handle “ Cap Cas” in latin, meaning, “Captain of the Castle”. In the centre of the handle is a white shield displaying the arms of the Leslies, surmounted by a red crown. The title is hereditary so William Strachan, the eldest son, succeeded to the title in 1975 on the death of his father.

Courtesy Clan Leslie Charitable Trust “The Griffin Reprints” First Series No 2 Post script:- Alastair Patrick Leslie 30th Baron of Balquhain died in Rotorua New Zealand in 1989 with no male heir.




Fetternear House is located about a mile to the northwest of Kemnay to the southeast of Bennachie. It is little more than four miles directly south of Balquhain, as the crow flies. Fetternear was an ancient Barony belonging to the See of Aberdeen. In 1109 a collegiate church was erected there with a foundation for the support of a warder or dean and canons.

The House of Aquahorties, an imposing structure to the north of Fetternear, now in private ownership and in beautiful condition, was formerly a seminary and part of this religious complex. In 1550, William Gordon, Bishop of Aberdeen, leased the barony and shire of Fetternear and other properties to John Leslie, 8th Baron of Balquhain, for farming and other agricultural purpose. For his services in protecting William Gordon, Bishop of Aberdeen, and preventing the destruction and vandalization of the Cathedral at Aberdeen by the Reformers, in June 1566, the Bishop gave William Leslie, 9th Baron of Balquhain, Sheriff of Aberdeenshire, the Barony of Fetternear and all buildings and structures thereon, as well as numerous other lands.

The Bishop’s Charter was confirmed by a Royal Charter in May 1602 and by a Papal Charter, 1670, to Alexander Abercrombie, to whom the lands had been pledged to secure a loan, presumably obtained by the Leslies. Subsequently the Barony of Fetternear was redeemed by Patrick, Count Leslie in 1691. Since then Fetternear remained in the possession of the Barons of Balquhain until recent years.

While Fetternear became the chief residence of the Balquhain Leslies, it never lost its identity as Fetternear House. An accidental fire destroyed Fetternear House in the early 1920s. It seems that a maid unwittingly put hot ashes from a fireplace into a wooden bucket, which she left standing, in or near the kitchen. During the night the coals ignited and the resulting fire raged through the Palace. Innumerable valuable family possessions, including those pertaining to Mary Queen of Scots, were lost; the silver service was reduced to globs of metal. The old Chapel was sold for reconstruction at another location.

However there is today a small Chapel and Rectory on the property serving the local Roman Catholic parish. Fetternear House and grounds [the mains of Fetternear] were recently owned by a Miss Elizabeth Berry and a Mrs C.S. Smith. Mrs Smith, I believe is a descendant of one of the Leslies who resided in France and before World War II returned to live in England. The family apparently were great horse lovers and track enthusiasts. Miss Berry and her friend, Miss Chetwynd were living in what was once the laundry, which had been made into a very attractive residence for the family to live in after the fire. The property was sold after Miss Berry’s death in the late 1980s. The following link will take you to the archeological restoration under progress.

Please click here:

Courtesy Clan Leslie Charitable Trust. The Griffin Reprints, First Series No 2.



David Leslie, First Baron of Pitcaple was the eldest son of Sir William Leslie, 4th Baron of Balquhain by his third wife Ephemia Lindsay, heiress of William Lindsay of Cairney, who was the second son of David Lindsay 1st Earl of Crawford and his wife Janet, daughter of King Robert II.

Sir William Leslie of Balquhain resigned the lands of Pethapil [Pitcaple] in favour of his son on the occasion of the marriage of his son David to Euphemia Lindsay, 5th March 1457. The Castle of Pitcaple is situated on the banks of the river Urie, in the parish of The Chapel of Garioch, on the north side of the hill just two miles from the Castle of Balquhain.

The Castle was in the possession of the Leslie family for exactly three hundred years, before it passed to the Lumsden family through the marriage of Janet Leslie, the sister of Sir James Leslie, 10th Baron of Pitcaple, to John Lumsden, Professor of Divinity in the University and Kings College Aberdeen. Janet Leslie and John Lumsden had two daughters, who inherited the Castle in 1757 and sold it to a relative, Henry Lumsden, a solicitor in Aberdeen, whose descendant, Christopher Burges-Lumsden and family live in the Castle today.

Pitcaple Castle is not a large Castle, but is a fine example of the Scottish “Z’ plan. It had two towers diagonally opposite each other and all four walls could be protected from the towers, through firing slits and shotholes. There was a moat with a large drawbridge and the remains of the counterbalances can still be seen in the keep. It is, unfortunately, the only former Leslie home, which is still used as a family residence.

There have been many notable events at Pitcaple Castle. One event was the imprisonment of the great “ Montrose”, after he had been captured in April 1650 and brought to Pitcaple Castle on the way to his trial and execution on the 21st May 1650. Agnes Ramsay, cousin to Montrose and wife of John Leslie, 7th Baron of Pitcaple offered to help him escape, but he would not compromise her and the room that he was held prisoner in, is now called “Montrose’s room.

When King James IV visited the Castle in 1511, his host was David Leslie, 3rd Baron of Pitcaple and the room that King James IV slept in, is now called “The Kings Room”. In July 1650, King Charles II sailed from Holland and landed at Garmouth on the River Spey and on his journey south, he sent word to John Leslie 7th Baron of Pitcaple that he would dine with him and he was accompanied by a large court, therefore Lt Col John Leslie had to hurriedly purchase more provisions to feed the visitors. When King Charles crossed the River Urie, he remarked on how the land reminded him of England and that farm has been called “England” ever since.

It is certain that the survivors of the Battle at Harlaw, which is only two miles downstream from Pitcaple would have received refreshment and help there, as well as at Balquhain Castle which is closer to Harlaw than Pitcaple. During the battle of Harlaw, six sons of Sir Andrew Leslie 3rd Baron of Balquhain were slain and a cross was raised on the site and called Leslie’s Cross.

(Before Restoration)


Without doubt, Leslie Castle, in the Parish of Leslie in the district of The Garioch was the site of the original Baronial grant to Bartholf, or his son Malcolm. The original Castle was a raised mound surrounded by a stockade, also known as a motte, but was replaced in the 14th century by a stone castle.

The first known castle was of great strength and was surrounded by a fosse , or moat, with a drawbridge on the west side with a watch tower to protect it. It was a castellated style of building with two massive towers or keeps, joined at right angles and the towers were topped with turrets, which were commonly called pepper-boxes. The walls were around six feet thick and the ground floor, was supported by massive arches with vaults underneath. As can be seen in the photograph, the castle consists of a square tower, rising the whole height of the castle with turreted towers connected to the main tower which then gave the living areas for the family and servants.

The Barony remained in the possession of the Leslie family till 1620 when George Leslie 8th Baron of That Ilk mortgaged the Barony to John Forbes of Enzean. William Forbes, son of John Forbes, succeeded his father in the Barony of Leslie and became the first Forbes of Leslie. He rebuilt the castle in 1651 as appears in an inscription on one of the interior walls, dated 17th June 1651 and he placed the Forbes coat of arms over the entrance to the castle, with the inscription “Haec Corp. Sydera mentem”. The Barony of Leslie did not remain in the possession of the Forbes family for long as it was then sold.

Leslie Castle was inhabited up to the start of the 19th century but was then allowed to fall into disrepair, the moat was filled and all the fine gardens and ornamental trees cut down. The roof then started to fall in and the whole building was left to the weather and vandals.

In 1979, David Carnegie Leslie, an architect from Aberdeen and his wife Leslie, purchased the ruins of the Castle and after much work the repairs were completed and then in 1995, David and Leslie held a gathering at the Castle, which was attended by the Earl of Rothes and Leslie’s from all around the world, including America, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

Leslie Castle, has now been sold by David and Leslie, but they have retained a block of land on the site and are building a home there, in keeping with the design of Leslie Castle.



The family of Leslie of Warthill are descended from William Leslie 1st Laird of Warthill, who was the first son of the third marriage of John Leslie, 2nd Baron of Wardis [a branch of the Balquhain family] and Margaret Forbes of the family of Echt. William Leslie 1st Laird of Warthill, born in 1490 in Aberdeenshire, was a prudent and clever man and was Baillie of the Courts of his father, John, 2nd Baron of Wardis and his brother Alexander 3rd Baron of Wardis.

William married firstly in 1511, a daughter of William Rowan, burgess of Aberdeen and had by her a son, John, who was slain at the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, along with William’s uncle Robert Leslie. William married secondly in 1518, Janet Cruickshank, only surviving child of John, son of Adam Cruickshank, who in 1482 had acquired the Lands of Little Warthill and two ploughgates of the lands of Harlaw. With his marriage to Janet Cruickshank, William became the 1st Laird of Warthill, in the name of Leslie. William and Janet had twenty-one children of whom, Stephen, born in 1520 was his successor. William, 1st Laird of Warthill, built the house of “Warthill” and died in 1561.

Of most interest to Australian and New Zealand readers is that Patrick Leslie, born 25th September 1815, who re-discovered and settled the Darling Downs in Queensland in 1840, was the second son of William Leslie, 10th Laird of Warthill. Patrick’s brothers, Walter and George also accompanied Patrick to Australia and helped him settle the Darling Downs. Patrick also laid out the site of Warwick in Queensland and bought the first block of land sold.

When he returned from a trip to Scotland in 1845, Patrick bought 34 acres at the junction of Brisbane River and Breakfast Creek and Built Newstead House. It was his intention to supply Brisbane with fruit and vegetables. The wish for his own station was too strong and he sold Newstead House and bought Goomburra Station in 1846. In 1851, he also bought Gladfield Station. Goomburra was sold to two of the Tooth [brewers] brothers in 1857. The family returned to England in 1858.

New Zealand Farm

Patrick left Australia in 1854 to return to Britain, but after several years, he decided for family reasons he would sail to New Zealand and start a farm there. He arrived in Auckland on the 12th October 1868 and quickly became a successful farmer at “Wartle”, just south of Hamilton, in New Zealand’s North Island.

Wartle Homestead NZ Wartle Homestead NZ Wartle Homestead NZ Wartle Homestead NZ
Click on picture to enlarge


Patrick’s health was not very good and as he and his wife Kate had the responsibility of four young grandchildren, they sold up and moved back to Sydney, where Patrick died, after a short illness on the 12th September 1881. He was buried at St Thomas’ Anglican Church Cemetery in West Street Crows Nest Sydney, where his wife Kate, who died 11th April 1894, is also buried.

As at 2002, “Warthill” comprises 2500 acres, plus the Hill of Foudland, which was given by King Robert Bruce to the Leslie family of Balquhain. There are 700 arable acres, on which a tenant farmer grows barley, oats and wheat. Warthill disposed of all their sheep six years ago, after disposing of all cattle ten years ago.

The main entrance to Warthill is from the Meikle Wartle road, through the South Lodge entrance and approx a drive of three quarters of a mile up the drive to the house. During the 1745 Jacobite rebellion, “Warthill” Leslie’s fought on the Jacobite side. Hanoverian and English soldiers came to burn Warthill, while their commanding officers watched from a distance. The soldiers were bribed not to burn “Warthill” and straw was strewn around the house and set alight. The officers watching thought that Warthill had been burned, and thus was Warthill saved from destruction.

Warthill now comprises 23 rooms, after the Victorian wing that was built in 1860, was demolished in 1968, as being too dilapidated to repair. There is a peat bog 1 ½ miles from the main house of Warthill, in which, it is believed five members of the Warthill family have been lost over the centuries. In 1878, a steam locomotive was derailed and sank into the peat bog and is still there to this day.

The 14th Laird of Warthill, Sebastian Anthony Leslie and his wife Candy now live at Warthill with their five children.

For all enquiries, please contact Barrie Leslie, Convenor of CLANZ

Please contact our if links do not work