Castlehill is a hidden gem in Forfar. Once the site of the Royal Castle of Forfar and now home to the Mercat Cross, that once stood in the centre of town.
The site is hidden on Canmore Street and accessed through a quirky gate up a quaint cobbled lane. A key is required to access the site and can be collected for free each day at Ali’s Newsagents at (121 Castle Street, Forfar) or Chapter and Verse (110 Castle Street, Forfar). Castlehill today offers impressive views of the town and surrounding countryside, with the added excitement of climbing the spiral stair around the old Mercat Cross to offer your own private lookout tower and viewpoint.
The Royal Castle
The Castlehill is believed to have been an island on the south east shore of Forfar Loch, when it extended to where the Greens car park is today. It would have been an easily defended site guarding a narrow point where ferry crossings were made between the north and the settlement of Forfar which grew up on the south. During the reign of Malcolm III ‘Canmore’ the site was likely a wooden palisade. The castle is first mentioned in the reign of William I ‘the Lion’, with the King issuing at least 45 charters from Forfar during his reign (1165 – 1214). Edward I of England captured Forfar Castle and is known to have visited Forfar in 1296. During the Wars of Independence, William Wallace was reputed to have attacked the castle and in 1308 it was captured again for Robert I ‘the Bruce’. On Bruce’s orders the castle was destroyed to ensure that it could not be held again by the English. The castle was never rebuilt.
The Mercat Cross
Around 1140 Forfar became a Royal Burgh, with the Mercat Cross being erected, and from it proclamations were made. The Mercat Cross was originally located at the Cross in Forfar, hence the present name, with the town laid out along East and West High Street and Castle Street to the north. By 1685 the new Mercat Cross was built at a cost of £340 Scots. In 1799 the Town Council considered the Mercat Cross to be an obstruction and decided to remove it and rebuild it on Castlehill, sadly the original pillar was lost at this point. The Council purchased a road to the hill and in 1828 enclosed the area with large stone walls and planted trees. Iron stairs were added to the tower allowing it to be used as a popular lookout tower and viewpoint.
Access from Canmore Street