The Majestic and Iconic Dunnottar Castle

IMG_9303Our whirlwind 3-day trip to visit ancestral sites in Dingwall and witnessing the beautiful landscapes along the scenic by-ways of the Highlands was terrific. However, we were quite tired, so we spent the first part of the day on Thursday, July 25th, resting and hanging out with Lindsay at his house in Aberdeen. We also busied ourselves with domestic duties in preparation for embarking on the next leg of our journey to The Netherlands and Germany bright and early the following morning.

We did, however, also managed to squeeze in one more excursion to a nearby historical and breath-taking site in nearby Stonehaven – the majestic and iconic Dunnottar Castle!


Although the sun was shining brightly inland, the sea mist insisted on shrouding the promontory that the castle sits upon promising a bit of magic and mystique to our tour.  The trek down the steep path from the top of the bluff and back up again on the other side to approach the castle’s gates also added a certain amount of intrigue and anticipatory excitement.

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According to the castle’s website: “This dramatic and evocative ruined cliff-top fortress was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in Scotland. Steeped in history, this romantic and haunting ruin is a photographer’s paradise, a history lover’s dream and an iconic tourist destination for visitors the world over.”

The castle’s history dates back to the 13th Century with the Picts. From the 14th Century onwards Dunnottar Castle was home to the Keiths, one of the most powerful families in Scotland.

Robert the Bruce

Sir Robert Keith commanded the ‘Keith Cavalry’ at the famous Battle of Bannockburn. Stirling Castle, occupied by the English, was under siege by the Scots. The English king, Edward II, assembled a formidable force to relieve it. This army was defeated in a pitched battle by the smaller army commanded by the King of Scots, Robert the Bruce.


IMG_2420It’s fascinating to learn about a castle’s history while visiting it, especially when it plays such an important in Scottish history. However, it becomes exponentially more interesting when it involves one of your very own ancestors!

Robert Keith is my 19th great-grandfather and therefore, Errin’s 20th, and Grace’s 21st!  How cool is that to visit a castle together that we share DNA with its inhabitants of long ago? Our ancestors played an integral part in the shaping of its history!


“Sir” Robert – Marischal of Scotland DeKeith (1262 – 1332)
19th great-grandfather
Robert DeKeith (1280 – 1346)
Son of “Sir” Robert – Marischal of Scotland DeKeith
William DeKeith (1315 – 1407)
Son of Robert DeKeith
Robert Keith (1363 – 1430)
Son of William DeKeith
William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith (1389 – 1463)
Son of Robert Keith
Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473)
Daughter of William “Earl Marischal of Scotland” Keith
Patrick Forbes (1446 – 1476)
Son of Gille Egidia Lady Keith
David Forbes (1478 – 1509)
Son of Patrick Forbes
Patrick Forbes (1516 – 1554)
Son of David Forbes
Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes (1530 – 1596)
Son of Patrick Forbes
John Forbes (1568 – 1635)
Son of Sir William, 7th Lord of Tolquhon Forbes
John Fobes (1608 – 1661)
Son of John Forbes
Lieut William Fobes (1649 – 1712)
Son of John Fobes
Mary Fobes (1689 – 1712)
Daughter of Lieut William Fobes
Fobes Southworth (1710 – 1755)
Son of Mary Fobes
Pvt John Southworth (1743 – 1832)
Son of Fobes Southworth
Hannah Southworth (1796 – 1842)
Daughter of Pvt John Southworth
Hannah Mae Case (1828 – 1898)
Daughter of Hannah Southworth
Daniel A Clapp (1853 – 1913)
Son of Hannah Mae Case
Hannah Elizabeth Clapp (1897 – 1977)
Daughter of Daniel A Clapp
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
Son of Hannah Elizabeth Clapp
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew


Sir Robert Keith staunchly defended Scotland against the English in the time of John Baliol and supported Robert Bruce. He was a principal player in winning the battle of Inverurie and commanded 500 horses in victory at the 1314 Battle of Bannockburn. Sir Robert was awarded for his valuable service – a large tract of lands forfeited by his cousin, The Earl of Buchan. His cousin had supported the English. Sir Robert was confirmed in the office of “Great Marischal of Scotland” by Robert Bruce around 1324. The role of the Marischal was to serve as custodian of the Royal Regalia of Scotland and to protect the king’s person when attending parliament. This duty was fulfilled by the 7th earl during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, who hid them at Dunnottar Castle. Eventually, Sir Robert Keith was killed at the battle of Duplin in 1332.

While exploring the castle, I didn’t think it would be wise to bother the girls with the details of exactly who our ancestors were that are relevant to this castle. I did let them know we were related somehow just the same and left it at that.  At the time, I couldn’t exactly remember the details. I knew it was a bit complicated and challenging to explain, so I let it be at the time. Besides, the interpretive panels scattered throughout the castle could supply plenty of historical facts. The girls would get the general idea of who the people were and why they were significant in Scotland’s historic past.

We had fun wandering about the various ruinous buildings of the castle. I had been there before, so I let the girls take the lead to discover its secrets as they saw fit. Leading the way we began exploring the different levels of various buildings and what their contents had to offer.

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Eventually, we arrived in the bedroom of the 7th Earl Marischal, Sir William Keith. Next door was the bedroom of his wife, Elisabeth Seton – The Countess.  I remembered at that point that we were related to them in particular and let the girls know of their significance in our lineage.

It was difficult for me at the time to remember all of the sorted details of how we are related to the Keith family. I now have the luxury of accessing my family tree in Ancestry while I write this blog post.  I can take the time to piece together the complicated web of puzzle pieces our ancestors left for us to unravel.

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I mentioned above that Sir Robert Keith is my 19th great-grandfather. If you look at how I am related to him through each generation, you’ll notice that his third great-granddaughter, Gille Egidia Lady Keith (1424 – 1473), is in that lineage. Gille had at least one brother named William who was in line to inherit the title of Marischal as well and whose bedroom the girls were standing in the picture above next to the fireplace.

When I looked at William’s profile on Ancestry, I expected him to be listed as a great uncle. He was, after all, the brother of Gille Egidia Lady Keith, who was one of our great-grandmothers. Much to my surprise, instead, he was listed as my 14th great-grandfather! “How can that be?” I wondered. So I clicked on the relationship to discover why and how.

Sir William Keith Marischal (1457 – 1526)
14th great-grandfather
Robert Keith (1483 – 1514)
Son of Sir William Keith Marischal
William Marischal Keith (1506 – 1581)
Son of Robert Keith
Lady Anne Agnes Keith Countess Moray (1530 – 1591)
Daughter of William Marischal Keith
Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “gruamach” Campbell (1575 – 1638)
Son of Lady Anne Agnes Keith Countess Moray
Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll (1606 – 1661)
Son of Archibald 7th Earl of Argyll “gruamach” Campbell
Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell (1629 – 1685)
Son of Lord Archibald Campbell Marquis of Argyll Earl of Argyll
David Daniel Campbell (1675 – 1753)
Son of Archibald “9th Earl of Argyll” Campbell
Charles Campbell (1699 – 1767)
Son of David Daniel Campbell
William Campbell (1728 – 1803)
Son of Charles Campbell
Jeanette Campbell (1770 – 1851)
Daughter of William Campbell
John Holliday (1803 – 1872)
Son of Jeanette Campbell
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
Daughter of John Holliday
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
Daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
Son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
Son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew

On the first lineage chart relating to Sir Robert Keith, it indicates that the lineage goes down to my father, through his maternal line. Robert’s 3rd great-granddaughter, “Gille Egidia Lady Keith” is significant.

The second lineage chart connecting me to her brother, William, ironically, it goes up through my father, as before, but instead goes through his paternal side of the family through my immigrant great-grandfather’s wife’s family. My immigrant great-grandfather, William Rose Frew (from Dingwall) married Nancy Anne Brundage in Dillon, Montana after he immigrated to America. Nancy Anne’s mother, Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday, often pops up in the line-up of ancestors whenever I discover how I am related to oh-so-many notable Scottish Ancestors. I have affectionately dubbed her “Princess Lizzy.” 

I knew our ancestral ties to the Keith family was complicated. I didn’t realize just how complicated it was until I started writing this blog and began tracing the roots down through the generations. It just amazed me that a brother and sister in one generation long ago would both be great-grandparents to me through my dad on both his maternal and paternal lines of his family heritage!

Tracing ancestral lineage is a fascinating and engaging process. I have enjoyed the process of building my family tree and discovering my roots. I am also especially grateful for the ability to travel, visit historical sites, such as Dunnottar Castle, learn about its history and connect its account and its inhabitants to myself through my own ancestral ties. It makes it so much more exciting and relevant on so many different levels!

Let’s get back to touring this fascinating castle through pictures, shall we?

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IMG_2443After exploring the Keep, we discovered that we had worked our way all around the castle grounds and found ourselves back at the beginning at the gate where we had started. We left the castle and made our way back to the car, enjoying the views along the way.





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It had been a lot of fun exploring Dunnottar Castle that our ancestors once inhabited. The saga of those ancestors isn’t quite finished, however. We will pick up the threads of that story in regards to various descendants in the lineage once again in future blog posts. Stay tuned! The plot thickens! The complicated web they weave down through history has quite a few stories yet to tell and lots of dots to connect.

When we left Dunnotter, we headed back to Lindsay’s house to finish packing for our flight in the morning. As a final treat for the day, later that evening Lindsay’s son, Steve, invited us over to his house for a barbeque! Yum.  We had the pleasure of also meeting his girlfriend, Penny and her two kids, Tristan, and Nicola who immigrated to Scotland from South Africa a few years ago. We had a delightful time visiting, exchanging stories and getting to know one another. The food was outstanding too! Tristan should be proud of his culinary achievements on the grill!

We fell asleep that night with full stomachs and beautiful images of an iconic romantic castle perched on a cliff-top dancing in our heads. It was mixed with a bit of excitement as well because the next day would provide even more adventures and more sites in more countries across the North Sea on the European Continent.  The first stop will be the fun and exciting city of Amsterdam!

Until the next time… ~ Claudia.




Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

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