Archaeological dig uncovers hidden castle at Haddo

ARCHAEOLOGISTS working in the gardens at Haddo House have discovered a previously lost castle which they hope will fill in significant gaps in our knowledge of the area’s history.

‘The Place of Kelly’ was sacked by the Covenanters in the 17th century, and was eventually abandoned by the Gordons of Haddo in favour of the present day Haddo house, which has itself been significantly altered since its construction. Archaeologists working at the site have hailed the importance of the find, with Dr Shannon Fraser heralding the discovery as ‘the Holy Grail’ of local archaeology.

Dr Fraser, The National Trust’s Archaeologist for Eastern Scotland, emphasized the importance of the find.

“People have been speculating about the location of the Place of Kelly for more than a century,” she said. “It has been described as almost the Holy Grail of local archaeology.

“Having found the site at last, we are taking the opportunity to conduct further investigations to better understand this historic site.”

The remains, which sit in what is nowadays the terrace to the front of Haddo House, were discovered in the course of laying a fire main. A ground-penetrating radar survey which indicated the remains of a number of buildings arranged around and a large courtyard. Subsequent excavations have revealed the existence of walls up to 2 metres high, which suggests the presence of rooms at ground level with vaulted ceilings.

Excavation co-director Dr Hilary Murray said: “It is amazing to realise that when the terrace in front of Haddo was created in the 18th century, the earlier buildings were simply partially demolished and filled in with rubble before the lawn was planted”.

Kelly is first mentioned in 1261 as the dwelling place of Alexander Comyn, Earl of Buchan. The Gordon family acquired the estate in the 1460s-80s, and added comfortable new accommodation about a century later. The family left Kelly in the 1730s with the construction of Haddo House nearby.

The archaeological excavations will come to a close on Wednesday, August 24, after which the trenches will backfilled.