The remains of Huntly Castle stand to the north of the town of Huntly; what stands there today dates from the 15th to 17th, but the first castle, a motte and bailey that was known as Strathbogie, was built in the late 12th century. In the early 15th century this was replaced by a tower house that sat to the north of the later castle’s courtyard; in the mid 15th century this castle was destroyed and all that remains are the foundations. A few years later, Alexander Gordon, the 1st Earl of Huntly, built a new, grander tower to the south of the old tower; again little remains of this, apart from the cellars that stand under the later palace.
In 1496, James IV witnessed a marriage in Strathbogie between his cousin, Lady Catherine Gordon, who was known as the White Rose of Scotland, and Perkin Warbeck; the groom was claiming to be a prince that had actually been murdered by Richard III. Warbeck was later captured by Henry VII and forced to confess his real identity; he was hanged at Tyburn in London and his head displayed on London Bridge.
In 1506 the name of the castle was changed from Strathbogie to Huntly by Alexander Gordon, the 3rd Earl of Huntly; the name of the town to the south was also changed around this time. In the mid 16th century the castle was rebuilt by George Gordon, the 4th Earl of Huntly; however, following his death at the Battle of Corrichie in 1562 the Earl of Huntly title was forfeited. The title was restored in 1565 and the son of the 4th Earl, also George Gordon, became the 5th Earl of Huntly; he in turn was succeeded by his son, yet another George Gordon, the 6th Earl of Huntly.
In 1594, the 6th Earl was involved in a plot against James VI; the king responded by attacking Huntly Castle and destroying the 1st Earl’s tower house. The 6th Earl left Scotland in 1595, but by 1597 he was back in favour with the king and his lands restored; in 1599 he became 1st Marquess of Huntly. From around 1600, he started work repairing and adding to Huntly Castle.
During the Civil Wars of the mid 17th century, George Gordon, the 2nd Marquess of Huntly, backed Charles I; during this time Huntly Castle was occupied by the Covenanters in 1640 and James Graham, the Marquess of Montrose, on behalf of the king in 1647. In the latter year, Gordon was captured and on his way to his trial in Edinburgh he was held in his own castle; in 1649 he was executed. In 1746 Huntly Castle was occupied by Hanoverian troops during the Jacobite Risings; after this time it became a source of building material for houses in Huntly. The remains of Huntly Castle, which was still owned by the Gordon family, were saved in the late 19th century; today the remains are looked after by Historic Scotland.