A “stay away” warning has been given over a crumbling Angus castle with connections to Robert the Bruce.
Red Castle at Lunan Bay has been at the centre of safety fears for many years over the deteriorating state of the late 12th Century sandstone structure.
But the combination of Storm Darcy and this month’s severe snowfall has caused further landslides, which have now seen the area around the castle cordoned off.
Lunan Bay is one of the most popular all-year tourist spots in Angus and has remained a daily magnet for dog walkers during lockdown.
Although it sits across the Lunan River mouth from the main stretch of the beach, the castle remnants remain an attraction for many.
Subject of regular structural safety concerns
A leading local councillor has said it is imperative beach visitors don’t put themselves at any risk by venturing close to the precarious ruins.
Arbroath East and Lunan councillor Derek Wann last raised the unsafe condition of the castle with council officers in 2019.
A dangerous buildings inquiry was opened by the authority in 2016 but it was closed after investigation, and Conservative councillor Mr Wann is now pursuing the next step after the latest significant deterioration.
“It really is a shame that this castle is not able to be looked after properly, and I don’t blame anyone in particular,” he said.
“These buildings are extremely expensive to maintain. It is a great part of the landscape near Lunan, which itself is beautiful.
“But the recent weather has obviously caused a serious further decline in the stability of the ground on which the castle stands.
“The message we must get out to people is one of safety first.
“It would be dreadful to see this castle collapse, but what is even more important is that folk don’t put themselves at any type of risk by venturing too close to it.
“I will discuss this again with Angus Council officers, however there isn’t a lot that the council can do.
“I would urge Historic Scotland or the body responsible for ensuring these types of buildings are given some protection and I would hope the owner would consider working with them to preserve what is left.
“If there is any way of entering into discussions with all parties that would be great.”
An Angus Council spokesperson said: “Building owners are responsible for preventing their buildings falling into a dangerous condition.
“The powers given to local authorities by the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 do not diminish this responsibility but are merely a ‘safety net’ that must be used to protect the public when it appears that, for whatever reason, a building owner has failed in their duty to fulfil this responsibility.
“Due to recently reported land slippage affecting the site, the structure and surrounding land was inspected by a council officer.
“Under recommendations from the inspection it was deemed appropriate to take necessary immediate measures to protect the public from any possible danger and protective fencing was erected initially as a temporary measure.
“We are in contact with Historic Environment Scotland and pursuing contact with the owner regards any possible further measures,” they added.
A King’s Gift
Originally built for King William the Lion in the late 12th Century, Red Castle was created to deter Viking invaders from using Lunan Bay as a beach-head.
William was also the founder of nearby Arbroath Abbey, created from similar distinctive red sandstone, and it is believed he used it as a hunting lodge.
Its Robert the Bruce connection dates to 1328, when the Scots king gave it of one of his key supporters, the Earl of Ross, in recognition of his loyal service.
Red Castle’s decline began in the late 1500s when James Gray was ejected from the castle by his wife, Lady Elizabeth Beaton after her fell in love with her daughter.
Gray and his brother laid siege to the fortifications for two years, eventually burning the inhabitants out.
In response, James VI ordered John Erskine of Dun to enlist the help of Dundonians in ejecting Gray.
That happened, and in 1582, Gray was forgiven for setting fire to Red Castle and other crimes.
Eight years later, it was reported that 12,000 gold crowns had been landed in the river mouth below to aid the Catholic cause in Scotland.
Legend also has it the castle dungeons remain intact, buried deep below the foundations now supporting the fragile structure.
Its last inhabitant was the Rev. James Rait, the minister in the nearby village of Inverkeilor.
Red Castle remained partially roofed until the late 1700s but has suffered centuries of subsequent decline and serious weather damage to the porous sandstone.
It has led to fears the latest landslips have taken Red Castle perilously close to a final drop into the North Sea below and consignment to the list of Scotland’s lost fortresses.