Three castles have stood on the site of Huntly Castle.
In the 12th century a timber fortification was built on top of a mound surrounded by a large ditch. It was sited at the confluence of the River Deveron and its tributary the Bogie and surrounded on all sides by hills. The castle was in a good position to control the route north to Inverness. The owners at the time had joined the Normans and adopted the title 'de Strathbolgyn'.
In 1307 King Robert the Bruce fell ill at Inverurie and was taken to the stronghold to convalesce. However, the family's later disaffection for the royal cause meant that after Robert the Bruce's triumph at Bannockburn in 1314 the lands of Strathbogie were confiscated and given to Sir Adam Gordan of Huntly in Berwickshire.
The Gordan family flourished at the castle and became the earls of Huntley. When the timber castle burnt down in the 15th century they set about building a splendid new castle. However only the vaults and dungeons of this castle remain because in the early 16th century the 4th Earl of Huntly decide to rebuild entirely.
The new building was intended to be a elegant residence suitable for receiving distinguished guests, but defence was not forgotten. The castle walls were thick and defended by gun ports and iron gates. In 1556 Mary of Guise, the Queen Regent was entertained on a lavish scale at the castle. However, six years later her daughter Mary Stuart fought and defeated Lord Huntly, executed one of his sons and plundered the castle on a massive scale.
In 1594 the 5th Earl revolted against James VI who attacked the castle causing considerable damage. The earl made his peace with the king and was created a marquess two years later.
The main body of the castle was intact and the 1st marquess set about rebuilding the upper storeys. He installed oriel windows jutting out on elaborate corbels. The main entrance was decorated with rich carvings showing the family's coat of arms below that of the king and queen.
During the Civil War the 2nd marquess, a supporter of the king, was executed by the Covenanters. They occupied the castle and after the Civil War the Huntly family decided to move to a house nearby.
Once abandoned the castle soon fell into disrepair and today the roofing, floors and rich decorations have completely disappeared.