The castle was built on an ancient Pictish fort site before the 12th century. The castle in its current from as restored by the Earl of Cromartie, Sir Roderick Mackenzie in the early 17th century. During the Jacobite uprising in 1745 the castle and estate were taken however they were returned to the Mackenzie line in 1784. The castle had been left to go to ruin and in 1814 as reported as being deserted by everything except for the crows. In the mid 19th century Castle Leod was renovated by the Hay-MacKenzie line. The marrying of two clans led the Mackenzies to gain the wealth of Anne Hay. Large extensions were added in 1904 and the roof on my fixed in 1992. The present Earl of Cromartie allows visitors a few days a year. In the 1400’s the castle was owned by the two Skye clans MacLeod, but as many estates, was lost in battle to the Mackenzies.
The castle was built of red sandstone as are many Scottish castles. The walls are over 2m thick for added protection. There are still bars on the lower windows and gun slits in the walls. In the 1500’s two Spanish chestnuts were planted to mark the brief ownership of Mary Queen of Scots.
In Diana Gabaldon’s book and tv series, Outlander, Castle Leod, being the seat of the Clan Mackenzie, was the inspiration behind Castle Leoch. Instead of using this as the film set however, the producers used Castle Doune near Edinburgh as it was more convenient for them and nearer their film studio.