Menstrie Castle is a three-storey manor house in the town of Menstrie, Clackmannanshire, near Stirling, central Scotland. From the early 17th century, it was home to Sir William Alexander, 1st Earl of Stirling, who was instrumental in founding the colony of Nova Scotia. It was later owned by the Holburn or Holborne family, who were created Baronets of Menstrie in 1706. The castle was restored in the 20th century, won a Civic Trust award, and now incorporates holiday accommodation, private flats, and a museum and cafe run by the National Trust for Scotland.
The castle was built around 1560 by the Alexander family, a branch of the Clan MacAlister, who had anglicised their surname. Sir William Alexander was born here around 1577, and later became known as a poet. He gained a place in the Royal Household of James VI, eventually becoming a member of the Privy Council of Scotland in 1615, Principal Secretary of State in 1626, and Earl of Stirling in 1633.
In 1621, he was appointed governor of Nova Scotia, an area of North America including the modern Canadian provinces of Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, and the Gaspé Peninsula. In order to populate his territory, the Baronetage of Nova Scotia was devised in 1624, whereby Baronetcies were sold to support colonists. The scheme was a financial failure, and in 1632 Nova Scotia was returned to the French, who had claimed the area originally. Alexander died bankrupt in London in 1644.
Menstrie Castle was burned by the Royalist James Graham, 1st Marquess of Montrose in 1645, during the English Civil War. It was sold to James Holborne of Menstrie in 1648. A major general in the Scottish army, Holborne had a chequered career during the Wars of the Three Kingdoms. An additional property, named Windsor House, and now demolished, was once situated opposite Menstrie Castle, to serve as a second laird's house. In 1719, most of the Menstrie estate was sold on, but the Holborne family kept the smaller house, probably as a dower house. A stone heraldic panel, from over the door of the demolished house, was preserved, and later built into the gable-end of the residential home now standing on the site. The motto DECUS MEUM VIRTUS is still legible, but differs from the motto on the Holborne family crest (Decus Summum Virtus, roughly translated as "Virtue, the Chief Ornament"). The last surviving heir of the Holborne family of Menstrie was a Miss Mary Anne Holborne of Bath, daughter of the 5th Baronet, who left an endowment of £8000 in 1882, for the church of Menstrie.
The castle was purchased by George Abercromby of Tullibody in 1719, and his family held the estate until 1924, although the buildings had begun to deteriorate from around 1750. By the end of the Second World War, the castle was in such disrepair that the Scottish actor and conservationist, Moultrie Kelsall, led a campaign to secure funding and protection to aid its restoration. In 1960 the Castle was listed Category A, as a building of national importance. By 1964 the restoration was completed, and the castle was converted into flats.
Originally a small, L-plan tower house, the castle was extended in the 17th century into a U-plan house. A section of curtain wall closes the U, forming a courtyard. Two rooms within the castle are occupied by an exhibition commemorating the link between Menstrie, William Alexander, and Nova Scotia. One of the rooms is decorated with the arms of all the Baronets of Nova Scotia. These rooms are managed by the National Trust for Scotland.
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