A Royal retreat for King James V

I recently wrote of place names that have disappeared in the district, but this week I want to tell of a castle and loch that have vanished.

The Castle of Balrie, now Baikie, was built on the rising ground towards the west end of a former large loch (of about 120 acres) to the east of the castle.

This is described in the book ‘AIRLIE ~ A PARISH HISTORY’ – written by Rev. William Wilson in 1917. Rev. Wilson says the then proprietor dug up part of the causeway about 1907, which led to the drawbridge, so there is very little doubt about this place having been once very strong and almost impregnable.

The walls were about eight feet thick, but the house had been small, and rather intended as a place of refuge in times of danger than the constant residence of the family.

The date of erection is not known, but could have been no later than the beginning of the 13th century and probably much earlier. King James V occasionally resided at Baikie, and although he must have been hard pressed to accommodate his retinue he found a safe retreat from the many troubles that beset him in his stormy period. A lesser-known early Royal retreat in Angus.

The site can be seen from the former roadman’s cottage on the Baikie road. Inside the curtain walls was the courtyard and in the centre a draw-well. On the north was a range of buildings including stables; on the south buildings occupied by servants. On the southwest was the chapel dedicated to St. John. The gateway in the west wall had a portcullis and was accessed by a drawbridge over the moat. So although it was a quite impressive castle, nothing now remains, as I understand the stones were used to build the mill at Braidiestone,.

The Fentons owned the property of Baikie from a very early period. John de Fenton of Baikie was appointed Sherriff-Principal of Angus in 1266. Besides the lands of Baikie and Cardean their property included the Barony of Reedie, Linross, Powmyre, Carlingwell, Newton, Grange and Muirhouses. Littleton and Leys were also in their possession for a short time and they also held the lands of Cookston. In 1420 Walter Fenton succeeded his father and after that the estate passed to his four daughters. Thus the name of the Fenton family has now disappeared and only exists in the name of the hill to the West of Grange of Airlie, known as “Fentonhill”.

The Moss of Balrie was drained about 1875, and has at various intervals, continued to undergo draining and is now used for agriculture. The original object of draining was the immense quantity of shell marl found in it as well as peats. Several thousand tons of marl were dug out and by the 1890s tthe price had risen from fourpence halfpenny to tenpence per boll. You will of course recall that eight cubic feet are equivalent to a boll. So not only has the castle vanished but this former huge loch known as the “Red Loch”, home to many herons before the great storm of 189 has disappeared as well.

Yours aye,