Cally Castle is a ruined tower house standing within the grounds of the Cally Palace Hotel, formerly Cally House.
The first mention of Cally comes in the 14th century when John Craigie of Craigiehall was in possession. It is likely that the castle was built to replace the motte around 800m to the west. In 1387 Margaret Craigie, daughter and heiress of John Craigie of Craigie and Braidwood, married Sir John Stewart, son of Sir Robert Stewart of Durisdeer, and Cally passed to the Stewarts.
At the beginning of the 15th century Cally was owned by Sir John Stewart of Girthon and upon his death passed to his daughter and heiress, Elizabeth Stewart. She married firstly Alexander Stewart of Torbane in 1412 and secondly Donald Lennox of Balcorrach, legitimated son of Donnchadh, Earl of Lennox, around 1430. Donald died in 1454 and Elizabeth in 1471 and Cally passed to their son, William Lennox.
William may have been responsible for building the first castle here, although given that the motte may have been abandoned at an earlier date it’s possible that the 15th century structure replaced something slightly older. It may have been similar in style to Cardoness Castle and Rusko Castle, and was probably oblong on plan consisting of a basement, two further storeys and an attic.
Only a section of the north wall now survives, with a slight return at the west corner, measuring around 7.0m in length. The wall is around 1.2m thick and stands to a maximum height of around 3.0m. In 1911 a chimney could be seen rising some 7.6m from the wall below which was an arched fireplace some 3.0m across and 0.9m deep. Evidence of vaulting at the basement level could still be seen however the ruins are now overgrown and internal features are no longer visible.
The tower stood on an approximately rectangular earthwork measuring around 86.0m east to west by around 62.0m north to south. The earthwork was surrounded by a moat, averaging around 10.0m in width and still up to 1.2m deep, broken by an entrance causeway on the east side. The moat may originally have been fed by streams from the south or east however these were diverted in the 18th century to fill Cally Lake.
William’s son, also William, was next to succeed, followed by the younger William’s son, Alexander. Cally next seems to have passed to Alexander’s brother, William, who died in 1576 and was succeeded by his son, John. Two of John’s sons, Thomas and William, married Jean and Margaret Lennox, the daughters of Andrew Lennox of Plunton, in 1607. Their elder brother, John, succeeded to Cally however and upon his death it was inherited by his son, Alexander. Both John and Alexander Lennox were members of the Covenanters’ War Committee during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms.
In 1657 Alexander Lennox of Cally died leaving an only daughter Anna, who in 1658 received the lands of Cally according to her father’s will. She was married to Richard Murray of Broughton and in 1661 he received a Crown charter of the estate of Cally upon the resignation of John Lennox of Plunton, “heir male of tailzie and provision of the deceased Alexander Lennox of Cailie”.
Richard Murray died in 1690 and was succeeded by his eldest son, John, and when he died in 1705 the family’s estates, including Cally, passed to Richard’s second son, Alexander. In 1726 Alexander married Euphemia Stewart, daughter of James Stewart, 5th Earl of Galloway, and in the 1740s consulted the architect William Adam about building a new house at Cally although nothing came of the plans.
Following Alexander’s death in 1751 his son, James, succeeded and in 1752 married his cousin, Catherine Stewart, daughter of his uncle, Alexander Stewart, 6th Earl of Galloway. During the mid-1750s the new laird met the architect Robert Mylne in Rome while travelling on a Grand Tour who began preparing plans for a new house. Cally House was constructed between 1763 and 1765 around 500m to the south-east of Cally Castle.
It isn’t clear when the castle fell out of use. When the Reverend George Murray wrote about the parish of Girthon in The New Statistical Account of Scotland in the second quarter of the 19th century he stated that the “ruins of the ancient mansion are still pretty entire” which could suggest that the castle was still habitable prior to the building of Cally House in the 18th century. However the family owned numerous other properties and it may be that they resided at those rather than Cally Castle.
In 1797 James Murray signed a document leaving his estates to his natural children but with a reversion to his wife’s nephew, Sir William Stewart of Cumloden. James died in 1799 and the family’s properties seem to have been inherited by his illegitimate son, Alexander, the product of a long relationship with his daughter’s governess, Grace Johnston. Following Alexander’s death in 1845 the estates reverted to Sir William’s grandson, Horatio Granville Stewart, who in 1846 assumed the surname and arms of Murray of Broughton , Cally and Killybegs. When he died without issue in 1904 the estates passed to his cousin, Colonel William Baillie of Ilston Grange, the son of Sir William’s daughter, who added the Murray surname to his own.
In 1906 Colonel Murray-Baillie’s son, Major Frederick Murray-Baillie, inherited the estates of Cally and Broughton , later selling the latter and renting out the former. Upon his death in 1924 his daughter, Elizabeth, inherited the Cally estate which by then comprised of some 40,000 acres. Elizabeth Murray-Baillie married Neil Usher in 1929 and assumed the surname of Murray Usher.
The estate she had inherited was in financial difficulties and so in 1933 she sold Cally House and the grounds known as Cally Park to the Forestry Commission. They subsequently sold the house and 100 acres to a Mr Stewart who owned the Palace Hotel in Fort William and in 1934 the Cally Hotel opened its doors to guests. After being used as a secondary school for children evacuated children from Glasgow during the Second World War it returned to being a hotel, passing through several owners.
In 1992 planning permission was granted for an 18 hole golf course and the ruins of Cally Castle can now be found between the third and fourth holes.
Alternative names for Cally Castle
Cailie; Cale; Caley; Calie; Calley; Callie; Cally House; Cally Palace; Caly; Kalacht; Kalecht; Kally; Kaly; Kelly Castle