The first castle recorded to have been built on this site appeared in 1229. By 1371 it formed the centre of activity of Alexander Stewart, 1st Earl of Buchan and younger son of King Robert II of Scotland. Alexander is better remembered as the Wolf of Badenoch. He is notoriously remembered for falling out with the bishop of Moray and in retaliation destroying Elgin Cathedral and much of Elgin in 1390. The first castle at Ruthven was destroyed in 1451, but a second castle was re-built in its place in 1459 as a much grander fortification.
The Civil War
The second castle built at Ruthven was fought over during the Civil Wars of the 17th century and was badly damaged by John Graham, 1st Viscount of Dundee and the Jacobites in the rising of 1689.
During the 18th century after the 1715 Jacobite Uprisings the British Government decided to tighten its grip on the Scottish Highlands by building four fortified barracks in strategic locations. Ruthven Barracks was one of them. All of the remains of the earlier castles were removed to make way for the structure you see today. The barracks were completed in 1721.
The barracks was designed to house 120 troops, split between two barrack blocks. The officers lived separately to the troops. The stables which stood slightly to the west of the barracks were built in 1734 to house 28 horses for dragoons. By this time the strategic importance had been enhanced by the building of military roads from Perth, Fort Augustus and Inverness that came together at Fort Ruthven.
In August 1745 some 200 Jacobites tried to capture Ruthven Barracks. A force of just 12 British redcoats, commanded by a Sergeant Molloy, fought them off with the loss of just one man. By February 1746 Sergeant Molloy had been promoted to Lieutenant. He was still in charge when a larger force of Jacobites arrived, this time equipped with artillery. As a result the government garrison surrendered.
On the day after the Battle of Culloden as many as 3000 Jacobites assembled at Fort Ruthven with the intention of fighting on. However awaiting them was a message from their leader Prince Charles Edward Stuart saying that each man should save himself as best he could.
The Jacobites set fire to the barracks and dispersed to try to evade the government forces who were now set on suppressing the Jacobites once and for all. The remains of the barracks today are pretty much how it was left by the departing Jacobites on 17 April 1746. Most of the exterior walls remain but little of the interior structure, flooring or roofing survives.
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