Royal Residences: A brief history of The Castle of Mey

Where is it located?

The Castle of Mey is situated in Caithness on the northern coast of Scotland. It is a four-and-a-half-hour journey from another of the Royal Family’s Scottish residences, Balmoral Castle in Aberdeenshire.

When was it built and when was it used as a royal residence?

The castle was built between 1566 and 1572 on the lands of Mey which belonged to the Bishops of Caithness. It is possible that the present castle stands on the site of an earlier construction. The castle’s name was changed from the Castle of Mey to Barrogill Castle and the structure itself was altered multiple times.

The castle was purchased by the recently widowed Queen Elizabeth, The Queen Mother in 1952, following the death of her husband, King George VI, on February 6 of the same year.

Who has lived there?

The Queen Mother purchased Barrogill Castle when it was in a semi-derelict state to use as a holiday home. She removed some of the 19th-century additions, added electricity and fresh water supplies and reinstated the original name to The Castle of Mey.

The work on the castle was extensive, including making it habitable and weathertight, as well as redecorating the interior. The complete restoration was finally finished in 1960 with the redesign of the west wing. The Queen Mother hung portraits of the previous owners around the castle, including the various Earls of Caithness.

The Queen Mother usually visited the castle in August and October from 1955 until her final visit October 2001, before her death in March 2002.

Who is it used by today?

The Castle of Mey is now owned by the Queen Elizabeth Castle of Mey Trust and it is open to the public between May and September every year. It is however closed for ten days between the end of July and the beginning of August which is usually when the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall visit the castle during the summer.

As of January 1, 2019, Prince Charles (known as the Duke of Rothesay in Scotland) became the new president for the Castle of Mey Trust, as well as the sole trustee.


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