For over 500 years, Balvenie Castle served as the formidable stronghold of the great lords who ruled over this part of north-east Scotland. The immensely powerful ‘Black’ Comyn earls of Buchan built it in the 13th century. When they were forfeited in the early 14th century, because of their alliance with the ill-fated John Balliol, the stronghold passed to the mighty ‘Black’ Douglases. And when the Douglases too were wiped out around 1455 by James II, the victorious Stewart king entrusted it to a kinsman, John Stewart, Earl of Atholl. It remained with his descendants for the next 250 years.