The Barclay surname is of Norman origin. Family tradition suggests that Roger, Provost of Berkeley, Gloucestershire, had a son, John de Berchelai, who in 1076 travelled to Scotland with the train of Queen Margaret. Margaret married Máel Coluim mac Donnchada (Malcolm III "Canmore"). Malcolm Canmore granted John lands at Towie in the parish of Turriff, Aberdeenshire. The Barclay's, through marriages and alliances soon established themselves as an influential family throughout Aberdeenshire and Banffshire.
In 1516 King James V. granted Walter Berclay of Towie a charter uniting all Barclay lands into one Barony of Barclay. Towie Barclay castle was constructed in the mid-16th and was held by the Barclay family until it was sold in 1755.
Thomas the Rhymer's poem, "Towie Barclay of the glen happy to the maids, but never to the men", was said to be a curse on the males of the Barclay family. The "curse" was given a great deal of credence locally and was said to have been the reason for the sale of the castle.