If you love wandering through history and learning about life in a castle, then a visit to Aberdeen should be in your itinerary.
Aberdeenshire is Castle Country!
Aberdeenshire is a county in the northeast of Scotland where there are more castles per acre than anywhere else in Scotland. With a mix of privately owned, dramatic castle ruins and managed properties that are open to the public, visitors face the difficult task of choosing where to go! So, to help, we are highlighting three of our favourite castles to help with your itinerary planning.
Let's start with Castle Fraser
Castle Fraser is a beautiful Scottish baronial tower house with a long avenue directing you to the courtyard with crow-step gables, towers and an impressive armorial panel. Constructed of native granite by local masons, it’s a reflection of the family pride of Mackenzie-Fraser Clan.
The original building, constructed in 1454, was a simple rectangular stone-vaulted block. The castle was extended in the 16th century adding the Michael tower and the round tower as well as three extra floors. With many rooms to explore, a room that stands out is the “worked room”. The room is named for the stunning 18th century needlework bed hangings, curtains and painted furniture created by Miss Elyza Fraser and her companion Miss Mary Bristow.
The worked room is the largest bedroom in the castle and the laird’s private chamber. Miss Elyza Fraser, the castle’s only female laird, was one family member who made a lasting contribution to the castle and learning about her story is part of what makes a visit to Fraser special.
Castle Fraser is managed by the National Trust for Scotland. The grounds are extensive with a walled garden and woodland walks, you can easily spend a morning or afternoon experiencing the estate.
Discover fabulous Fyvie Castle
Fyvie Castle is another National Trust for Scotland property and was once a royal stronghold, the land around the castle was a royal hunting forest. The castle changed owners several times from the Earl of Carrick to Robert Lindsay and Sir Henry Preston, whose coats of arms can be seen in the dining room. When Alexander Seton purchased the castle in 1596, he set about greatly enlarging the castle and created the imposing 16th century Scottish baronial building. In the late 19th century, when Alexander Leith took ownership, he spent time improving the interiors and curating the various collections in the castle.
With an impressive driveway and surrounded by gardens, boating pond and woodlands Fyvie is a film maker’s dream. The castle has many stories to tell and like all good castles and few ghosts haunting the hallways and rooms. Not to be missed are the collections of beautiful portraits and paintings throughout the building. There are works from Gainsborough, Romney, Raeburn and Hopper but perhaps one of the most intriguing portraits it that of Colonel the Hon William Gordon by Pompeo Batonie. The Colonel is shown swathed in tartan, sword in hand while in the background are images relating to Roman mythology including the figure of Roma.
With 800 years of history and more that its fair share of disreputable lairds, if you like hearing tales of intrigue and mystery then a visit to Fyvie should be high on your list.
Be sure to add Huntly Castle to your plans
When in the northeast, be sure to include a visit to Huntly castle, managed by Historic Environment Scotland. In the grounds of Huntly are the remains of the motte and bailey castle which stood in the 1100’s. Huntly was the chief residence of the mighty Gordon Clan. The marquis and marchioness of Huntly elaborately decorated the building in 1602 making it one of the most elegant castles in the region.
Although the building is now a ruin, there are plenty of examples of the castle’s former grandeur.
The 4th Earl of Huntly was very ostentatious and a show off, so much so that he was given the nickname the ‘Cock of the North’. The family was Catholic and proudly showed their faith, which following the Reformation Act of 1560, was partly the reason for his demise. The Earl was confronted by the army of Mary Queen of Scots, he was captured and subsequently died by falling off his horse. His embalmed corpse was tried and found guilty of treason in Edinburgh and his castle was ransacked.
With a brewhouse, bakery and dungeon there are some ancient features to discover on the estate and worth making the effort to visit the town of Huntly.
Make it a long weekend...
These are only three examples of the great properties that can be found in Aberdeenshire, and we want to encourage you to look at the National Trust for Scotland and Historic Environment Scotland websites to discover the castles and properties found in the Northeast of Scotland. There are so many to explore there is even a Castle Trail offering a great road trip adventure. There are some lovely rural villages and towns along the way to stay and enjoy our local hospitality.