Rait Castle a Haunting 13th Century Fortification near Nairn
lies a couple of miles south of Nairn and commands views of fertile lands and over the Moray Firth to the Black Isle. The property seems to date back to the 13th century and is known to have received additional fortifications during the 16th and 17th centuries.
The castle is now in ruins and yet still holds appeal when you visit knowing of it’s tales of romance, treachery, murder and a hand-less ghost that haunts the ruins so make sure you visit on a sunny day.
The dome roof on the tower is remarkable and a wonder to stand under letting your imagination run riot of what this property has been witness to over the centuries.
Ownerhsip of Scottish castles changed with altering fortunes and the lands on which Rait castle stands are no different. The land was first held by Mackintosh clan chiefs during the 13th Century and was later seized by the Cummings, a family led by Norman knights that consequently built the Castle.
During ownership by either the Comyn or a Cumming the previous owners the Mackintoshes were in a mind to oust the current inhabitants and get the property back to Mackintosh ownership, a fact that they did not keep secret.
The Mackintoshes fought for Robert the Bruce at Bannockburn and when he became King of Scotland in 1306 they sought to reclaim Rait Castle. For whatever reason the Bruce allowed the Cummings to keep the castle and stay on, despite their openly having shown loyalty to King Edward I, also known as the Hammer of the Scots.
This only added fuel to the flames of the feud between the castle’s rival claimants.
T o put an end to this dispute the Cummings decided that the Mackintoshes were to be invited to a feast at the castle, once fed and filled with drink there would be an opportunity to murder them and put and end to the dispute. Romance played fate here as the Cumming daughter was in love with a Mackintosh. Having overheard the conversation of the plot to murder she was trapped between both loyalties to her family and her lover.
Her solution was simple, she walked to a large boulder, now known as “the stone of the maiden” and knowing her lover was on the opposite side of the boulder she related her secret of murder to the stone. Her lover heard every word and warned his family of the intended treachery.
On the day of the feast the Cummings on a prearranged signal drew their blades but the Mackintoshes being forewarned and knowing the signal to commence murder were quicker and slaughter commenced. Only Cumming of Rait escaped the slaughter and dashed to the upper part of the castle.
The daughter heard him approaching and ran to the window in the hope of escape. As she held onto the window ledge readying herself for the drop to the ground Cumming with blade at the ready hacked off both her hands.
She now haunts the ruins a victim of her love to a Mackintosh and of her father’s revenge.
It’s reported that the Cumming Laird and his followers were killed at Balblair in retribution. Balblair was where Cumberland’s small mobile army camped before the Battle of Culloden. The Jacobites did attempt to attack this force with around 1,200 men. The attempt was a night attack, however, bad weather, lack of knowledge of the terrain put paid to the plan and they had to retreat back to Culloden moor.
It’s believed that The Duke of Cumberland stayed at the castle before the battle of Culloden in 1746. The Duke was often referred to as Butcher Cumberland and become popular for his victory against the Jacobites at Culloden.
In 1303 when King Edward I of England arrived in Scotland with his army to conquer the unruly Highlanders it is believed that he paid a visit and stayed at Rait Castle. The Cummings also known as de Rait were loyal supporters of Edward I so the story of his stay does hold some ground.
Seven years on and Edward the Hammer of the Scots was back once again leading a campaign to quell the unruly Scots. This visit had him pass through through Nairn en-route to Lochindorb which he used as a base to sort out the pesky highlanders in Lochindorb Castle and hunt game in the surrounded woods and hills. On passing through Nairn it is more than likely that heonce again stopped at Rait Castle.
How to get there
On the A96 south of Nairn town take the A939 and follow till you reach the turn off to the right onto the B90101. Take a left at the sign for Rait Farm, if you reach the turnoff for Geddes Trout Fishery you have went too far and passed the turnoff.
It’s a narrow single track road and parking is limited, only one car, perhaps two at a push. You have to walk the rest of the way to the castle about 400 metres.