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Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire

Location: Banchory, Aberdeenshire, AB31 5QJ (map and directions)

The 16th century Crathes Castle is located just east of Banchory and 10 miles west of Aberdeen. The castle is one of the best preserved in all of Scotland, with a beautiful, pink-harled exterior and fairytale, almost Disney-esque, design.

Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire copyright Christine Jewell
Crathes Castle © Christine Jewell

History of Crathes Castle

The castle was constructed by the Burnett of Leys family, after they experienced increased wealth in the mid 16th century. In 1543, Alexander Burnett of Leys married Janet Hamilton, (illegitimate) daughter of a Roman Catholic canon who, in 1546, bequeathed her along with his many other mistresses and children a healthy portion of his wealth before being murdered at St Andrews Castle in 1546.

With this increased wealth, the Burnetts endeavoured to build an impressive home and castle, which is when the idea of the ostentatious Crathes Castle was born. This was subsequently made possible when King Robert the Bruce gifted the necessary land to the family in 1323. The castle has been continuously inhabited by the family for over 350 years.

Construction of Crathes Castle began in 1553, but due to political problems during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots was not completed until 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys, who also reconstructed the nearby Muchalls Castle during the 17th century. Crathes served as the ancestral seat of the Burnetts of Leys and was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1951. A fire damaged in particular the Queen Anne wing of Crathes in 1966. Interestingly, this wing was built to accommodate Sir Thomas Burnett and his wife Margaret Arbutnott in the 1680s, as they proceeded to produce 21 children in 22 years, thus requiring their very own three-story space (only 2 stories were rebuilt).

Crathes Castle, Aberdeenshire copyright Ikiwaner
Crathes Castle © Ikiwaner

Crathes Castle is a six-storey L-shape; its upper levels are intricately decorated with turrets, corbels and a magnificent clock added during Victorian times. Its furniture is magnificent, and tapestries impressively line the walls. However, it is the painted ceilings that set Crathes apart. A number of ceilings throughout the castle are beautifully painted with regal themes. Visitors enter and make their way through a vaulted basement before climbing a spiral staircase which leads, level by level, to a series of rooms and up to the Long Gallery, and then down into the more modern wing.

Crathes Castle is set on 530 acres of woodlands and fields, including four acres of walled garden, which is almost as famous as the castle itself. Divided into eight themed compartments, the variety of plans, shrubs and trees at Crathes Castle gardens is immense. The upper end of the gardens, which dates back to the 1700s, is particularly beautiful to visit.

Map and directions

Crathes Garden and Estate is open year round from 9am to sunset, while the castle is open daily throughout the summer, weekends during the winter and closed on 24-26 December.


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