Craigievar Castle – A Fairytale Come True
You could be forgiven for thinking you are in Disneyland and not in Scotland. The fairytale Craigievar Castle seems to emerge magically from the foothills of the Grampians in the rolling hillsides of Aberdeenshire. Five miles south of Alford, the pinkish seven-storey Craigievar Castle is an L-plan tower with a twist. The L plan was built upwards instead of sideways! Its massive lower story structure contrasts the finely sculpted multiple little turrets, gables, gargoyles, chimney stacks, cupolas and corbelling which embellish the roof line.
William Forbes, nicknamed Danzig Willy, purchased the partially completed structure from the impoverished Mortimer family in 1610. It was completed in 1626 and very little has changed since then. It was more a stately home than a defensive structure, although it had formidable doors and an iron yett (gate) and was surrounded by a walled courtyard with a round tower at each corner. Only one of the round towers remains today and in the arched door leading to that round tower are etched the initials of Sir Thomas Forbes, William Forbes’ son. Craigievar is noted for its exceptionally crafted plasterwork ceilings, among the finest in Scotland. The castle remained in continuous occupation by his descendants for 350 years.
Craigievar has been called the ‘epitome of the Jacobean Renaissance in Scotland’. It exemplifies some of the best Scottish Baronial architecture. The luxurious interiors are remarkably unchanged: the great hall with the Stuart Arms over the fireplace, musician’s gallery, secret staircase connecting the high tower to the Great Hall, drawing room, Queen’s bedroom and servants’ quarters.
The Forbes-Sempill family presented Craigievar Castle to The National Trust for Scotland in 1963. The collection of Forbes family portraits as well as considerable furnishings dating to the 17th and 18th centuries is still inside, preserving the special home-like family atmosphere. Surrounding the castle are extensive parkland grounds and over 200 acres of adjoining farmlands and woodlands. The marked walk through open woodland glows blue in early summer when the bluebells are in bloom. The rest of the trail leads through undulating woods, marsh and farmland with beautiful views of the castle and surrounding hills.