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The original tower was built in the 14th century by the Clan Comyn of Badenoch. Originally a Comyn Clan stronghold, clan traditions tell us that the castle was taken from the Comyns by a combined force of the Clan Grant and the Clan MacGregor. The Grants and MacGregors stormed the castle and in the process slew the Comyn Chief - and kept the Chief's skull as a trophy of this victory. The skull of the Comyn was taken as a macabre trophy and was kept in Castle Grant and became an heirloom of the Clan Grant. (In the late Lord Strathspey's book on the Clan, he mentions that the top of the cranium was hinged, and that he saw documents kept in it.) Clan tradition predicts grave things if the skull ever leaves the hands of the family - prophesying that the Clan would lose all of its lands in Strathspey.
According to "Castles of Scotland", the original building was a Z-shaped tower house, typical of many that exist in Scotland from the same period, and it probably dates from the 15th century.
17th - 18th centuries
The castle, along with the nearby farm/meadow land known as 'Castleton of Freuchie,' became the principal residence of the Grants in 1693. Clan Grant, like many Highland clans, had divided loyalties regarding the monarchy, and the castle was occupied by Jacobites during both the 1715 and 1745 Jacobite Risings.
When "The Good Sir James" Grant (Chief from 1773–1811) set about his plans to build the town that would become "Grantown-on-Spey", there were no masons of sufficient skill to be employed in Strathspey. Sir James set up a training school for local men at Castle Grant and the modern appearance of the north face of Castle Grant is the result
In the 1750s a massive classical extension designed by John Adam was added to the north aspect. The result reminded Queen Victoria on her visit in 1860 of a factory. The original L-shaped tower was extended in 1765 by Ludovic Grant[disambiguation needed], into the castle which remains today. The castle eventually fell into disrepair but was refurbished in the 1990s and is now a private residence.
From the south side, the origins of the castle are still evident with the four-story 15th century Comyn Tower. The impressive Grant collection of weapons, which were once housed in the castle, are now on view at Fort George. A Category A listed building, Castle Grant is now under refurbishment.
The castle contains dozens of rooms, one of which is a massive dining hall. While the south face of the Castle with its two extended wings protruding from it, and its large stone staircase and courtyard, make it appear to be the "front" of the castle (the side it is most often photographed from), it is actually the back. The main door in the courtyard, which looks like the front door, actually leads from the back down a long hall to the front of the castle.
Lord Strathspey described a visit to Castle Grant in 1919 "We were taken around by Colonel Grant Smith, the Strathspey 'estate factor' who had collected us from the Grant Arms hotel where we were staying. The castle entrance hall and walls were covered with weapons of all types - cannons, muskets, guns,pistols, claymores, broad swords, armour and saddle furniture, sporting guns, blunderbusses, rifles, pikes, and targes, etc. Many of these were the weapons provided by Sir James Grant for his 'Company of Fencibles', which he raised with his own money in 1793, in support of King George III, when a Napoleonic invasion was threatened. The armoury and the uniforms which were stored in the attics were considered to be one of the greatest and most unusual private collections existing. Hanging from the ceiling on the stair wells were a number of very old flags sewn on netting to keep them together. Leaning on a right hand stair-post was a length of timber about the size of a short railway sleeper. I was told that this was the laird's 'hanging beam', used when Grant was a regality. On the first floor in the left wing were the drawing room and the library, and at the back, stretching across the castle, was the dining-room. All the walls were, of course, hung with a great many portraits of the Chief's family and of other Grants. In the drawing room I saw the Comyn's skull on a writing desk. Nearby, at the end of the room, was the Byfield organ, 15 ft. high and 7 ft. wide, which had been given to Sir James Grant by Queen Anne, together with some special glass dishes, as a token for his agreeing to give up the name and arms of Colquhoun of Luss."
During the late 20th century the castle became derelict. Dry rot had spread throughout the wooden timbers in the upper floors and attic. The late Lord Strathspey, father of the current Chief, speculated that when soldiers were quartered in the castle in the 1940s, during World War II, that the repeated mopping of the floors, and the constant moisture from this activity in the wood, caused a dry rot to set into the timbers, which slowly demolished the upper floors of the building. It seems that many of the castles in Scotland that housed troops during this period suffered similar problems.
The castle went through a series of owners, and in the late 1990s started to be renovated. The castle is now owned by Scottish entrepreneur Craig Whyte. A major refurbishment project was completed at a cost of £5 million and the castle is now a private home.
Castle Grant is reputedly haunted by Barbara Grant, a daughter of the chief who died in the "Barbies Tower" in the sixteenth century after being imprisoned by her father for refusing to marry a man she did not love.