On the 7th we had another lazy morning, reading in bed. When we arose we headed out to Kildrummy Castle, just down the road.
In ruins, the castle has some history too – a 13th century defence, the English laid siege to the castle thinking Robert the Bruce was there in 1306. He wasn’t, but his family was. They escaped, but the garrison didn’t. The blacksmith was paid off, set fire to hay within the compound and that forced the garrison’s surrender. The garrison were hung, drawn and quartered (lovely), and the blacksmith had his gold melted down and poured down his throat. No-one likes a snitch.
Despite this history the site now is quite a romantic ruin really, with gorgeous views over the Scottish countryside.
Nearby were two more castles – they’re absolutely everywhere up here! And, though we were a bit castled-out, off we went.
This castle is a real hidden gem. A five-storey tower house, it has later turreted additions up top – and a great pink stone coating which lends it a real ‘Disney castle’ feeling.
Entrance to this castle was by guided tour only, and again we were lucky enough to get the young girl instead of the old woman. She was great, and entertained us with some ghost stories of her own; guides holding doors shut on each other and such.
The castle was built in 1610, and still doesn’t have electricity installed.
Inside, the first floor is wholly taken up with the great hall. The ceiling had amazing (and original) plasterwork, and all around was heaps of cool stuff. We’ve learnt a lot on our castle visits; we were able to tell our guide what these iron dildos were for (ironing ruffles).
When the property was given to the National Trust it had been lived in continually, and everything inside is original from the family. Queen Victoria stayed at Cragievar three times – she loved it, thought it a ‘proper castle’.
One bedroom, the ‘haunted room’, was noticeably cooler than the others. The bedhead covered a third window the National Trust didn’t know about until the 1970s, as it was covered up to try to prevent ‘the ghost of the laird coming in and out’. Creepy.
In the top floors, austerely restored due to ‘recent’ water damage, they had small collections of things. In one corner sat a few stone gargoyles, fittings for the water run off. One was in the shape of a stone man bending over, holding his arse open – you can guess where the water came from. Proper castle indeed! We were able to go up to the viewing platforms at the very top – lofty perch!
The ‘main Laird’ seemed like a real character, smoking up in front of Queen Victoria and such. The ‘Craigievar Gaming Table’ was a creation of this place (obviously) – I can’t find a picture online, but they’re antique card tables, with semi-circular indents in the front. It’s for fatties to get closer to the cards – so there you go. They were scattered throughout the castle, and really quite adorable.
A great tour, a fun bunch who enjoyed a laugh too. Then it was on to Castle Fraser.
Castle Fraser was another old castle with additions tacked on over the years.
This place really was on the tourist trail, and the guide in the great hall was pretty amusing. ‘All you need to remember about this one is, big white great hall, and the wooden leg’. So all I remember is that. It was pretty nice inside and all, with some neat stuff, but as for furnishings, nothing really stood out for us. The story of the Laird was interesting though – in one case was his stuff from a war. He’d been shot in the leg (losing it, hence the wooden leg) and there was the musket ball to blame. But in his triangular hat was a hole from another musket ball: it had almost got him in the head. He’d written a letter about the experience, and expressed with such casual humour that if he hadn’t a handkerchief tucked in his hat he’d be dead. That story, and his subsequent adventures (he pranged out 14 children post-leg) – sounded like quite a guy!
In an upper room, we walked in and the guide was staring wistfully out the window. Kate asked what she was looking at, and she was watching a toddler joyfully playing with the freshly cut grass, out in the sunshine. That wee moment stood out for us more than anything in the castle, if that tells you anything about real value. When we left we wandered through the garden to steal herbs, and sitting a moment we met the guide again; she liked to walk through the garden on her way home. What a sweet lady.
Another volunteer there thought we must be in the restoration business, the detailed observations Kate was making on wallpaper degradation! Maybe we’ve seen enough castles, but you know – sometimes we get close, but really we can’t see enough of ’em.
As we left, Kate spotted wild raspberries on the side of the road; hundreds of them! We pulled over and picked an impromptu dessert.
Our night was spent in a wee car park just down the road from the previous day’s one – the view wasn’t as good but it was just as peaceful.