Brief History of Banff

Seal of BanffThe Town of Banff was confirmed by King Robert II as a Royal Burgh in 1372 and is considered to be the finest small Burgh in Scotland.  Established in the 12th Century, it holds a historically important position on the main East-West route from Aberdeen to Inverness, and is one of Scotland’s ‘first generation’ of medieval towns which has until now seen little major development. 

At the heart of the Burgh is the Castle, probably first established in the 12th Century, but rebuilt in later years. Certainly there is a charter of 1163 that shows Malcolm IV was living in Banff at the time, most likely in the Castle itself. It is a major feature of the town, dominating its history and topography, which together with its port formed part of the Northern Hanse, a group of Scots harbour towns that traded with the Baltic in the 12th Century. King Robert recognised the importance of the town by establishing a Carmelite priory nearby in 1321 (this was later destroyed in an arson attack in 1559).

All that now remains of the medieval Castle are the northern and eastern curtain walls, ditch and rampart, and the postern. 

Within Banff a wide variety of buildings from the 16th to the 20th centuries can be seen, reflecting the historic character of the town.  These range from Early Post-Medieval hostelries to Georgian Townhouses, but the most prosperous period dates to the 16th - 18th centuries during which the town attracted the local gentry landowners who built their large houses. The Bairds of Auchmedden, Ogilvies of Dunlugas, Abercrombies of Glasshaugh and Forbes of Boyndie would leave their estates in winter and spend it in Banff. The construction of Duff House in 1735 - 49 added the Earls of Fife to this list of important residents.

The Townscape Heritage Initiative aims to promote greater awareness of this historic built environment and encourage property owners to maintain their historic buildings to a heritage standard.

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