Crathes Castle – Haunting Beauty
Crathes Castle with its reported resident ghost is one of the loveliest in Scotland. This magnificent 16th-century tower house, situated only 15 miles from Aberdeen, has numerous turrets, gargoyles and towers, and is surrounded by superb gardens. The estate was given to the Burnett family in 1323 by King Robert the Bruce when he granted them the Lands of Leys. Almost unchanged since it was first built except for the addition of the east-wing in the 18th century, its glorious architecture is reminiscent of the great French châteaux.
The High Hall has a huge arched ceiling, fine portraiture and handsome stone fireplace above which lies the Horn of Leys, a jeweled ivory horn gifted to the Burnetts in 1323 by Robert the Bruce. The horn symbol was added to the family coat-of-arms and you can see it throughout the castle: on the painted ceilings and carved onto the laird’s bed. With its portraits, oak ceilings, heraldic shields, Elizabethan fireplace and extravagant long gallery, Crathes Castle is exceptionally well preserved. The castle is well known for its Jacobean painted ceilings, only uncovered in 1877. These can be seen in the Chamber of the Muses, the Chamber of Nine Worthies and the Green Lady’s Room. Green Lady, Crathes’ own ghost is said to have first appeared in the mid-18th century.
The colorful walled garden is divided by Irish yew hedges which date from 1702 into eight themed areas ranging from the formal to the modern. The avenues of lime trees may be even older. The castle serves as a backdrop for the famous June Borders, two lavish beds of herbaceous color. A perfectly manicured grass croquet court stands on a higher terraced level within the walled garden. Marked trails lead out into the surrounding countryside and in the woodland, farmland and freshwater habitats you may glimpse roe deer, red squirrels, woodpeckers, buzzards, kingfishers, herons and otters.
For almost four centuries, the Burnetts family, whose lineage includes generals, admirals, judges and even a Governor of New York, lived in Crathes. In 1951 Sir James Burnett presented Crathes Castle to the National Trust for Scotland. The Golden Garden was created by the Trust in 1973.