Castle Menzies (properly pronounced Mingis) was built in 1577 by Clan Menzies to serve as the seat of the Chiefs of Clan Menzies. It was a case of third time lucky for Clan Menzies as their previous two fortresses, Comrie Castle and Place of Weem, were both burned down. The remains of Comrie Castle can be found some distance away, but nothing remains of Place of Weem.
Castle Menzies was built from locally-sourced stone quarried from the south side of Loch Tay and finely carved blue freestone, which is both attractive and hard-wearing.
The current castle is a substantial fortified residence built on a Z-plan design, with Victorian additions. The castle was built during the transitional phase of castle building and it lies in between being a fully fortified castle with high defensive walls and ditches and a lightly defended manor house. It retains the imposing look of a tower house, but it includes many of the domestic luxuries of a manor house.
The castle sits in a strategically important location near the village of Weem (hence its other name, Weem Castle). It controlled access to the Upper Tay Valley and to the roads that led from western Perthshire to the west. Its location saw the castle involved in the Wars of Religion during the early 18th Century and branches of Clan Menzies fought on both sides of the conflict (though officially in both uprisings the Chief remained neutral and took no active part).
The castle was occupied by the Jacobites in 1715 and again in 1746 when Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart) stayed for a couple of days on his way north to the Battle of Culloden. The castle was promptly occupied by the Duke of Cumberland's forces a day or two later.
The castle gained a new wing in the 18th Century and in 1840 another wing was added by architect William Burn. The 18th Century wing has since been removed as part of the restoration work because it was causing damp problems in other parts of the building.
Clan Menzies held the castle for the best part of 400 years and were at one time the oldest family in Strathtay. The Clan was left without a chief when Sir Neil Menzies died in 1910 and in 1914 the castle and its estates and contents were sold to pay off outstanding debts.
The Menzies Clan Society bought the castle back in 1957. Over the first few years of their ownership they made some roof repairs repaired and removed some of the outbuildings, but in 1971-2 they started an extensive renovation programme. The Society has restored much of the castle, including the Victorian ballroom (now known as the Dewar Room) and added a library for Society members.
The castle is open to the public from Easter to mid-October and currently houses a Clan museum, numerous portraits, restored rooms and a tea room and gift shop. The ballroom is also available for hire for wedding receptions, wedding ceremonies, ceilidhs, exhibitions etc.
Status: Museum/Event Venue
Owner: Clan Menzies Society
Tel: +44(0)1887 820 982
Opening Times: 1st April to mid-October daily 10:30am to 5pm (2pm-5pm Sundays)
Close up view of a bartizan at Castle Menzies