A fragment of a Medieval Castle incorporated into a 19thc farmhouse.
Balfour Mains Farmhouse and Castle has particular interest as a very rare example of a 19th century farmhouse built onto the side of a 16th-century tower. This highly unusual approach has resulted in a structure with a development sequence spanning at least 450 years, combining two diverse architectural forms
The stonework detailing of the farmhouse is also of good quality to match the stonework of the earlier tower and a good deal of 19th-century detailing to the interior also remains.
All that remains of Balfour Castle, once the seat of the Ogilvies, a branch of the Airlie family and said to have been built by Cardinal Beaton (the last Scottish Cardinal before the Reformation) for one of his mistresses, is a large circular tower. It has a peculiar lean-to roof, presumably an ancient alteration, and appears to have been the southwest angle of a courtyard-type castle, traces of which exist to north and east.
The tower, which is massively built, is vaulted on the ground floor, and was originally entered from the courtyard. It contains 6 storeys, and is 50 – 60 feet high, built with a considerable taper. It is attached to a farmhouse, which was built c1845 when two wings of the ruinous castle were pulled down.
Balfour Mains farmhouse is described in the New Statistical Account, written in 1842, as a "lately" building.
The farmhouse is depicted on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1862) as an L-plan structure attached to the round tower. The current footprint of the building is largely as that shown on the 2nd Edition Ordnance Survey map (surveyed 1900), which shows an earlier porch to the southwest elevation and the single storey additions to the rear.
Nigel Tranter, in his important books documenting the Fortified House in Scotland gives background to its connection with Cardinal Beaton:
“The story is that Beaton built this castle for Marion, daughter of the first Lord Ogilvy, his most favoured mistress, and her numerous offspring. Certainly Marion was known as his ‘chief lewd’ and it has been said that he was actually married to her before he became a priest, thereafter reducing her status on his taking holy orders. Certainly she remained a charge on the Abbey’s (St Andrews) for life. But the Ogilvy’s possessed Balfour long before Beaton’s time. The probability is that the castle was built by the lady’s brother Walter, and was extended and enhance by the Cardinal for Marion and her brood.”