Aberdeenshire is located in the North East of Scotland and is known as Scotland’s Castle Country. This isn’t an area of Scotland that tourists consider visiting, however with over 300 castles, stately homes and ruins, its a must for anyone who is interested in history.
If you have an appreciation for architecture, you might consider to follow the Scotlands Castle Trail; a 6 day itinerary, visiting 19 castles in Aberdeenshire. If you are on a tighter schedule, these are the castles I would recommend viewing during your whistle stop tour of this county rich in history.
Castle Fraser is located in Inverurie and is cared for by the National Trust of Scotland. Dating back to the 15th Century, Castle Fraser is one of the largest tower houses in Aberdeenshire.
Tour the castle and view the Fraser family portraits, ornaments and furnitures, which enable the castle to retain the family home feel. Visit the Striking Great Hall and climb the Round Tower to take in the panoramic views of the Castle Fraser Estate. Complete your visit, but taking a stroll around the extensive castle grounds, either on one of the well marked trails or through the walled garden, pond and mixed woodland.
Crathes castle is a 16th century castle located near Banchory, which boasts grand turrets and a beautiful garden. Follow a self guided tour which will take you through the impressive rooms, including the Long Gallery, The Green Lady’s room and The High Hall. The 6 storey castle has fascinating history and a legend surrounding the Green Lady who is said to pace up and down cradling a baby. Pay particular attention to the detail in each room, including the brightly coloured painted wood ceilings.
The 3.75 acre walled garden is possibly one of the most interesting I have visited; very well maintained planting and hedges dating back to 1702.
Craigievar Castle is nestled in the hills close to Alford and is said to be an inspiration for the Disney Castle, with its concrete pink exterior and multiple turrets.
The guided tour of the castle is informative, focussing on the family history and the uniqueness of the castle. There is no electricity above the ground floor, which gives the visitor a sense of how dark the rooms are during the winter months. A feature of this castle are the moulded plaster ceilings which can be seen in many of the rooms.
In January 2018 the castle suffered a small electrical fire which started in the castle shop on the ground floor. Although it was quickly extinguished and caused minimal damage, the smoke from the fire meant that the entrance hall, stairs and some of the rooms required a deep clean. The National Trust of Scotland staff and volenteers, painstakingly cleaned all the rooms and contents. It was due to their hard work, the castle was able to reopen for the 2018 season.
After exploring the castle, enjoy a trail around the grounds. The narrow trail takes the visitor past the orchard and kitchen gardens and through the woods. Points of interest along the way include a picturesque view point and a stone circle. If you are very lucky, you may have a rare sighting of the Pine Marten!
New Slains Castle
Overlooking Cruden Bay, this impressive ruin sits on the edge of the cliffs and despite its current deliaberdated state, still maintains a powerful presence. The original tower building dates back to the 1600s, with further construction work carried out over the centurys. Known locally as New Slains to disguish from the nearby Old Slains castle, it is said to be Bram Stoker’s inspiration for his novel Count Dracula.
The caste is not well signposted, however we parked in the main Cruden Bay car and took the scenic 3/4 of a mile walk. This ruin is a very worthwhile visit, but take care when exploring both inside and out, because there are no safety barriers or staff on site.
Whilst standing on the cliffs viewing this property, I felt a little sad that it has been allowed to degrade to its current state. Plans to restore the castle have been on hold since 2008, due to the economic slowdown. I hope some day this fabulous castle will be restored to its former glory.
Drum Castle is one of the oldest tower houses dating back to 1323 and is steeped with history and mystery. Join the guided tour which is both entertaining and informative, visiting the beautifully decorated Drawing Room, the Dining Room, the Gallery, the Business Room and the Library. The Library is my favourite room, with over 3000 books stored in the floor to ceiling bookcases. Behind some of the bookcases, there are secret rooms and staircases which were built within the 18 foot deep walls!
Examine the two paintings of Hugh Irvine, one of which was painted by himself. Note how the paintings of the same person differ through the eyes of two different artists.
Explore on your own the rest of the castle, including the bedrooms and the 70 foot High Tower, which gives impressive views over Drum Estate. Visit the delightful Chapel which is a short walk from castle and take a stroll around the Garden of Historic Roses. Lastly if you have the time, visit the Old Wood of Drum which is 117 acres of historic woodland.
By far the most striking and dramatic of all the castles is Dunnator Castle. Located on a rocky headland close to Stonehaven, the fortress has a presence which is a kin to legends. The earliest reference to this fortress is from the 4th Century, when a chapel was said to be founded at Dunnator by St Ninian.
Dunnottar is a large Fortress with a fascinating history. Be sure to visit the Keep and the restored Drawing Room.
The Fortress is privately owned with a low entrance fee. It can be reached by a series of steps down into the base of fortress, but rest assured your effort will be rewarded when you explore the fortress and take in the stunning coastline views.