The Scottish country of Angus can boast an extremely rich historical legacy. The name of the county itself came from the Pictish King Óengus I, who reigned from 732 to 761. To this day visitors can find ancient Pictish stones, which are uniquely decorated. But Angus not only impresses with its early medieval sites, it also houses a Roman fort from the first century AD and Iron Age forts that are almost 2,700 years old.
Many of the historic sites in Angus played a pivotal role in Scottish history, most remarkably Arbroath Abbey, where the Declaration of Arbroath was written. Glamis Castle was the family home of the Queen Mother and the birthplace of Princess Margaret.
Here’s our pick of the top 10 most magnificent historic sites in Angus.
Though the area upon which it stands has been occupied from at least the 11th century, Glamis Castle itself traces its roots back to the 14th century, when it became the residence of the Lyon family who would later become the Earls of Strathmore. In the 17th and 18th centuries, the castle was extensively renovated, taking on the trappings of a French chateau and leaving much of what can be seen by visitors today.
Today, Glamis Castle is still the residence of the Earls of Strathmore however it is also open to the public at certain times of the year. With magnificent furnishings and a mixture of 14th and 17th century architecture, the beauty of the castle is hard to rival and provides a fascinating look into around 700 years of history.
The fort was one of many which were established during the late first century AD – most likely some time during the campaigns of Julius Agricola in AD 78-84. Many of these camps were reoccupied during the reign of emperor Septimius Severus about a century later. The site comprises of a large Roman fort, which was originally one of a series of auxiliary forts screening the Agricolan legionary fortress at Inchtuthill.
Today, some of the earthwork remains of the fort are visible. It makes for a scenic walk for outdoor and history enthusiasts alike, though do be aware that at times the site is inaccessible due to livestock. It’s best to ask within the area for the precise location of the camp, since the remains are sometimes difficult to decipher.
3. House of Dun
Overlooking Montrose Basin, the elegant Georgian estate provides a glimpse into the life of the 18th century privileged class. The site was home to an older medieval tower house, built in the 14th century. It was demolished to make room for the new House of Dun. When visiting the magnificent complex, one should not overlook the beautiful gardens and woodland walks. The main building is open to the public all year round.
4. Invermark Castle
The 16th century tower house can be found east of Loch Lee. It sits on the site of an earlier 14th century fortification, which belonged to Clan Lindsay. For three centuries Invermark Castle was a formidable strategic building, before being abandoned in 1803. The interior of the building is inaccessible to visitors, though one can enjoy the dramatic views outside the stone structure.
5. The Caterthuns
The Caterthuns are a pair of Iron Age hill forts that overlook Strathmore. It is not clear for what purpose these fortifications were built, though they likely served both as military and ceremonial centres. One of the hill forts has visible stone dry walls, causing it to be known as ‘White Caterthun’, while the other one has large earth ramparts, giving it the name ‘Brown Caterthun’. The sites were possibly constructed between 700 to 200 BC.
6. Hospitalfield House
The estate stands on the site of a former 13th century hospital, built to support the local Benedictine Abbey in Arbroath. Following King Henry VIII’s religious reforms, the grounds were bought by the Reverend James Fraser. The main building has been greatly remodelled during the Victorian era, making it a significant example of early Arts & Crafts architecture. The building operated as a school from 1902 onwards and is these days still an important centre of art.
Visitors can enjoy Hospitalfield House on four open weekends per year and on the first Wednesday of each month.
7. Ardestie Earth House
This ancient structure was created around the first century AD. It did not serve as a permanent dwelling, but instead as a 24 metre long underground passage. Similar builds can be found in Brittany, Ireland and Cornwall. It has been widely debated for what the Ardestie Earth House was used, with some suggestions being that it was utilised as a storage space for grain. Most of these structures were destroyed in the late second century AD.
The Ardestie Earth House can be found west to the city of Dundee, near the settlement of Monifieth.
8. Arbroath Abbey
Founded by Scottish King William I in 1178, Arbroath Abbey has played a crucial role in the history of the country. The religious complex was intended to be a memorial to the murdered Thomas Becket, Archbishop of Canterbury. The site is best known for being the place where the Declaration of Arbroath was written in 1320. It was a letter sent by Scottish barons to Pope John XXII denouncing English attempts to subjugate their homeland.
Arbroath Abbey continued its religious duties until the arrival of Protestantism. The buildings were partly dismantled in 1580, leaving most of the once grand religious site to wither away. The site is open to the public and can be easily found in the town of Arbroath.
9. Edzell Castle and Garden
The 16th century fortifications have seen many famous visitors throughout the centuries, with the most noteworthy being Mary, Queen of Scots in 1562 and James VI in 1580 and 1589. These days the structure stands as a ruin, with a marvellous renaissance garden adjacent to it. Visitors can explore the beautiful grounds that are located near the village of Edzell.
10. Aberlemno Pictish Stones
These early medieval stones can be found around the village of of Aberlemno. Created between 500 to 800 AD, they are a rare survivor of the Pictish legacy in Scotland. The stones have multiple different types of engravings, from Pictish symbols to Christian motifs. Possibly the most magnificent one is the churchyard cross-slab, depicting an ancient battle scene.