There's been a castle at Edzell since about 1100, when a wooden structure was erected on top of a motte by the Abbott family. From them the property first passed to the Stirlings of Glenesk, then by marriage to the Lindsay family in 1358. It would stay with the Lindsays until 1715, and almost all of what you see today dates back to their tenure.
In the 1400s the Lindsays became Earls of Crawford, and in the early 1500s they abandoned their original castle and built a tower house and a courtyard in a more sheltered spot, where you see it today. In 1553 the simple tower house was extended with a large west range housing what became the main entrance to the castle.
Most Scottish Castles can boast either a catalogue of sieges, or a visit by Mary Queen of Scots, and in some cases both. Edzell Castle had by Scottish standards a relatively peaceful history, but it can lay claim to a visit by Mary. She spent the nights of 23 and 24 August 1562 here. And on 25 August Edzell Castle hosted a meeting of the Privy Council, attended by all the great and the good of 1562 Scotland. This was held in the hall on the first floor of the tower house.
Mary's son James VI visited Edzell twice, in June 1580 and August 1589. Around this time Sir David Lindsay was adding to the accommodation at the castle with a large north range complete with round towers to add interest to the overall design.
Sir David Lindsay was also responsible for Edzell's most unique feature, its walled garden. This was designed to provide a retreat from the castle and to delight and entertain its guests.
The garden walls, most of which remain today, are highly decorated. Diagonally arranged compartments in the walls provided room for flower boxes, and spaces are left for birds to nest, perhaps the original garden bird boxes. Further decoration is provided by the stone reliefs of virtues and deities that can still be seen today.
And to provide nice finishing touches, buildings were constructed at the corners of the garden furthest from the castle itself. One of these, which survives largely intact, is a two story summer house. The other was a bath house. The site of this is accessible via a gate in the garden wall, but all that remains are foundations and a few courses of stones above ground level. The garden was started in 1604, but had not been completed by the time of Sir David Lindsay's death in 1610.
Sir David's dream for the garden was realised after his death, but the debts he incurred improving the castle were such that the north range was never completed to his original plans. By 1715, inherited debts has increased so much that the Lindsays were forced to sell Edzell Castle, and it passed to the Earl of Panmure. The last David Lindsay moved on to work in the stables of a local inn.
The Earl of Panmure fared little better, backing the losing side during the 1715 Jacobite Rising. His estates, including Edzell Castle, were seized and the castle was later passed on to the York Building Company.
The castle was badly damaged by occupying government troops during the 1745 Rising. By 1764 the York Building Company had gone into liquidation and its creditors stripped its assets, including much of the structure of Edzell Castle and even the avenue of beech trees leading to it. These were cut down for the value of their wood.
The estate later passed to the Dalhousie family, who still own it. In 1932 the walled garden passed into state care, and in 1935 the rest of the castle followed it. Both are now cared for by Historic Environment Scotland.
The impact of the failure of the York Stone Company is plain to see in the ruinous state of the north and west ranges of Edzell Castle. But for the visitor there remains a great deal to see. Whether you are a lover of castles or gardens, the highlight has to be the tower house. This you will either enjoy in its own right, or for the views of the garden available from an upper window, where the tower house has been given a partial replacement wooden floor.
For many, it is the garden that provides the real draw to Edzell. This is simply glorious. What is little realised is that although the hard structures of the garden were placed here from 1604, the actual planting you see today dates back only to the 1930s.
The garden is also home to the Summer House. The upper floor of this is easily missed on your tour of the castle and garden, but shouldn't be. It contains the best preserved room in the castle, complete with a stunning oak panel on the wall.