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Rait Castle, Nairn, Inverness

Just a half hours walk from Burnside and Mill Lodge, overlooking Nairn and the surrounding countryside is a ruined castle. The castle is small and unique with a long history which may hide terrible secrets.

To set the scene, there is a legend which was only told to us (the Buchanan family)recently by SarahB (13) who lives nearby.

The Comyns invited the MacIntoshes to a feast with treachery in their hearts, but the MacIntosh's arrived well armed. The Laird Comyn thought his daughter had betrayed him by telling the MacIntoshes so as she hung on a window ledge he cut her hands off which caused her to fall to her death.


Rait castle is situated approximately 3 miles south of the town of Nairn, near Inverness and reached by a farm track leading off the B9101 between Auldearn and Cawdor, signposted Rait castle Farm.

Rait castle sits on elevated ground and is exposed to the North with higher ground to the South known as the Ordhill.

The history surrounding Rait castle is interesting as it was once a Barony and ancient Thanedom apparently of some importance and it has many unusual features dating from the 14th century.

Raitcastle was inhabited by the Raits of that Ilk who were pro-Edward in the Wars of Independence. Two of the Raits of that Ilk, Sir Gervaise and Sir Andrew de Rait both actively taking part in battles in support of the English. The present remains of Raitcastle appear in part to be slightly younger than this but it is thought that these gallant men may have returned in later years to rebuild and remodel their home, incorporating many English features which makes Rait castle almost unique in Scotland.

To go further back in time the area was known as the Thanedom of Rait in 1238 and at that time appears to have been a very strong clan, their Chief's holding the Lordship of Petty in the West near Inverness. At this time the lands were held by the Clan Mackintosh, and the de Raits who succeeded them, it is thought, were Comyns, the last of the Comyns fleeing the area after the slaying of the Thane of Calder (Cawdor) in whose hands the lands are still held today, and to set up the family of Rait of Hallgreen in Kincardineshire.

From the History books there appears to be some doubt as to where a massacre of Comyns took place. It is said that a massacre of Comyns by Mackintosh's who were in the habit of jockeying for position, land and advantage in the Clan warfare days, took place at Rait castle, but is is not known just when. It is also known that near Lynchat in Speyside near the A9 road stamds the site of Raitts Castle which was a Comyn stronghold and also the scene of a notable massacre of Comyns. It is however unclear when and by whom the massacre was carried out but it is quite possible that these two castles were closely linked, particularly as they were held by Comyns and the exact scene of the massacre has become obscured through time.


From looking at the building Rait castle had a two fold purpose.

1. It was designed as a home as the size indicates that only a handful of people would have inhabited it. The architectural features indicating that some level of comfort and individuality was formost in the design.

2. The second purpose was obviously a place of refuge in times of trouble. the positioning of a number of features bears this out.


The layout of Rait castle is a basic oblong or rectangular building with a round tower at one corner. There was no access at ground level. Access was by way of a bridge from higher ground to the first floor level. It is presumed that the bridge would have been capable of being removed if the situation required.

The living accommodation was at first floor level and access to the round tower is at this and second floor level. The windows for daylight are located to the North not because of the level of light offered but because they are located higher above ground level that if they were located to the South.

The area immediately surrounding the building in now planted with coniferous trees and self seeding hawthorn and gorse abound. There is however evidence of a courtyard and outerwalls which must have been removed for dyke building in the locality.


The main feature of Rait castle is the round tower with it's vaulted roof.  Although there is no evidence of a means of supporting joists at first floor level, there must have been accommodation at this level due to the stone window seats of the mullioned window. Near the entrance via the bridge a fireplace exists which is corbelled to carry a lintol and form the flue. The lintol no longer exists.

The jambs of the entrance are grooved for a portcullis and the sandstone arch over is raised to make a feature of the opening. A door existed inside the portcullis which is evidenced by a pocket at the jamb which would have received a bar of timber or metal to secure the door against entry. The window openings, except the narrow slits of the tower all have evidence that they were barred to keep unwanted visitors at bay.

One odd feature which stands out, is that the walls measure 5'-6" (1.75m) in thickness, except the East gable which is now partly removed. It is unclear why this east wall was not built to the same thickness as the remainder.

The stone work around the window jambs were obviously worked by craftsmen of some skill. It is doubtful if at the time the castle was constructed that these skills would have been available locally.

The courtyard is bounded by a steep rock to the south, the castle to the North and would almost certainly have been included in the defences. The courtyard would also have been ideal for securing cattle, horses and other livestock from various threats.

Sanitary accommodation appears not to have been neglected since there appears tobe evidence of a toilet which was corbelled out on the North side at first floor level.

Present Condition

The present condition is that it is basically a ruin, roofless and open to the elements. The main fortalice itself still stands to the ceiling level of the first floor with the vaulted roof of the round tower still intact. The stone walls that exist are in good condition and have been pointed more recently to prevent further degradation. The sandstone around the windows show signs of weathering but are substantial enough to last for many years to come.

All in all the features of Rait castle are different from those of other castles in Scotland and the history of the de Raits are borne out by these features. However, the way in which they lived and the appearance of the castle in it's hey day is open to the imagination which is part of the attraction and interest of any old castle.

Written by Eleanor Buchanan