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Castle Menzies

Castle Menzies Scotland

Photographs Of Castle Menzies

From the fourteenth century the lands around Weem were part of the extensive possessions of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies and it was here in 1488 that following the destruction by the fire of the Menzies stronghold, Comrie Castle (The ruins of a later replacement of which are 4 miles west of Weem It became the seat of the cadet branch), Sir Robert Menzies built a new mansion, the "Place of Weem". .


Castle Menzies Scotland

This new building however was soon to suffer a similar fate to the previous residence for in 1502 it was pillaged and burned by Neil Stewart of Garth. Subsequently a new castle, the older part of the present structure was erected, whether it was built on the remains, or site, of the earlier castle as has been suggested is till uncertain as also is the exact date of construction.

In 1577 the upper storey and roof were altered and the series of dormers with their elaborate pediments which are a distinctive feature of the building then added. The date is carved on one of the dormers and it is recorded in the "Chronicle of Fortingall" - 1577; "Item - Thar symmyr the Castle of Weym was byggth and ended". The castle, thus completed is considered and excellent example of an early mature Z-plan building representing the transition between the older type of fortified tower-house and the later mansion designed for domestic rather than military purposes. There is little doubt, however that the castle was the first constructed chiefly with aneye to defence, as might be expected after the fate of its predecessor and also from its strategic situation on the level lands below the rick of Weem commanding the east-west highway of Strath Tay and the road to Rannoch. Today it is still an imposing and dominating structure on the landscape; before 1577 it must have appeared more threatening, for the alterations, made no doubt with the expectancy of more peaceful times ahead, involved the removal of upper works which probably of a more obvious military nature. .

Any earlier hopes of more peaceful times were not to be realised, however, and, at the same time, the strategic importance of the castle was made more evident in later troubled history of the Central Highlands. In 1644 the castle was probably involved when the Chief, Sir Alexander Menzies of Menzies, having declined to support the Royalist cause, had temerity to harass the forces of Montrose as they passed though Weem on their way to the Lowlands and in 1646 the castle was occupied by General Monk's forces. In the 1715 Rebellion, jacobite troops took and occupied the castle and in 1746, the family were ejected and the castle manned by the Duke of Cumberland's forces. the latter occupation began four days after the Young Pretender, Prince Charles Edward Stuart, had rested for two nights at Castle Menzies on his march north with a detachment of his army from Stirling to Inverness. .

In the early eighteenth century, the angle of the north tower and the main block was enclosed by a new set of apartments with a stairwell communicating with the new rooms and those of the main block and the north tower of the old building by openings in the north wall and north tower west wall. At the same time, a new entrance (that now in use) was made in the center of the south wall of the main block and the vaulted chamber within modified to form a hall leading through to the new stair in the north wing. Extensive redecoration of the old castle occurred at this time. In 1840, a west wing followed closely the style of the original was constructed (architect William Burn) which communicated with (modified) eighteenth century additions. .

Castle Menzies remained the seat of the Menzies of Weem until the death of the last of the main line of that family in 1918. It subsequently passed through various hands and was last used during the 1939-45 War as a Polish Army medical stores depot. It was acquired in a greatly dilapidated condition by the Menzies Clan Society in 1957. Surveys carried out in 1971-72 indicated an extensive infection of active dry-rot and the necessity for urgent action if the building were to be saved for the future. Accordingly plans for a thorough restoration of the sixteenth century castle were prepared and an appeal for funds initiated. Aided by a grant from the Historic Buildings Council for Scotland, work on the first phase started in September 1972 and completed the following year. as a result the building is now structurally sound, free from dry-rot, it's causes eliminated and its damage repaired. This phase necessitated the demolition of the eighteenth additions so that the true proportions of the old Z-plan castle are once again revealed on the north side. the William Burn wing remains as nearly separate structure and must remain thus isolated against a time when means can be found to treat it. Work on the interior restoration, Phase 2, began in August 1974 and is proceeding steadily.

A Brief History of The Menzie Name
(as contributed by Ron Mennie)

The name Menzies is of Norman origin, coming from Mesnieres in Normandy to England where it was transformed into Manners, the surname of the Dukes of Rutland, although other early spellings in Scotland include Meyers, Mingies and Mengues.

As Normanisation progressed into Scotland under the descendants of Malcolm Canmore and Queen Margaret, a family apparently settled in Lothian and from there moved into the Highlands. The name occurs in charters of the 12th and 13th centuries and in 1 249 Sir Robert de Meyeris became Lord Chamberlain of Scotland to Alexander II. His son Alexander held Weem, Aberfeldy and Fortingall in Atholl. He supported Bruce at Bannockburn and was rewarded further territories, in Glendochart and Durisdeer in Nithsdale, thus by the King's death the Menzies possessions extended west from Aberfeldy almost as far as Loch Lomond.

David Menzies was appointed Governor of Orkney and Shetland under the King of Norway in 1423. Sir Robert Menzies, another descendant of the first Robert, the chamberlain, had his properties erected into a barony of Menzies by King James IV. In 1688 when the Stuarts were driven from the throne the chief of the clan favoured the new government, but in 1715 the Menzies were "out" for James Edward and although during the '45 Clan Menzies took no part some of them were raised by Menzies of Shian.

The Menzies were also involved in various feuds; even with the Campbells, with whom they had various bonds and marriage alliances. Sir Alexander Menzies of Castle Menzies was created Baronet of Nova Scotia in 1665 from whom descended Sir Neil who died in 1910 without issue. His sister became chieftainess till her death.

Other distinguished branches include the Menzies of Pitfoddels and the Menzies of Culdares. One of the Menzies of Pitfoddels carried the Royal Standard at the Battle of Invercarron in 1650 and the last chief founded the Roman Catholic College of Blairs near Aberdeen. The Menzies of Culdares are said to have introduced the larch to Scotland from the Tyrol in 1738.

This Menzies house is now regarded by the Lyon Court as the nearest to the chiefship and in 1958 Ronald Menzies of that Ilk was reinvested as Chief. The present-day chief now lives in Australia. Castle Menzies near Aberfeldy was re-acquired and is now being renovated as the head-quarters of Clan Menzies.

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