by Victoria Sharp
A must when planning a heritage tour of Scotland is to transverse Aberdeenshire Castle Trail since many of the castles at some point may have belonged to your Clan. Scottish Clan history is replete with frequent tribal warefare when the castle’s standard changed colors almost daily, so who claims the castle now is just the beginning of your story.
Although the Castle Trail leads you to just some of the more well-known castles of the Mar (historic province of Scotland that includes Aberdeenshire), Aberdeenshire boasts over 260 castles and historic homes, many still privately owned. Connect early with your clan family if they live in the ancestral castle. Click to https://www.whichcastle.com/aberdeenshire/ to learn more about each castle’s family history. Click here for a nifty interactive map of the trail https://ebooks.visitscotland.com/scotlands-castle-trail/–You can follow the intinerary for 6 days or 3 days or create your very own intinerary
The castles of the trail are more than just magnificent artifacts, or turrents out of a fairy tale, and many restored to former glory, some are living, breathing family homes and social centers while others tell their family history with museum collections. And even better, some you can actually stay the night! The castles of the trail include 19 of the most famous and dramatic castles in Aberdeenshire : Dunnottar Castle, Crathes Castle, Drum Castle, Castle Fraser, Tolquhon Castle, Haddo House, Fyvie Castle, Delgatie Castle, Kinnaird Head Castle, Duff House, Huntly Castle, Spyine Palace, Balvenie Castle, Leith Hall, Kildrummy Castle, Corgarff Castle, Braemar Castle, Balmoral Castle, and Craiginvar Castle. Here we highlight 4 of American Scottish Foundation’s favorites.
Until the castles are open to the public, we have included individual Virtual Tour links—for more lick here, https://www.visitabdn.com/abdnwillwait
Craigievar Castle, A Cinderella Delight
Craiginvar Castle, VisitScotland Facebook
The castle as the theare of storytelling is what inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle, and Aberdeenshire’s Craigievar Castle was one of Disney’s inspirations. The Castle is the present home to the Forbes family and formally owned by the Fraser, Keither, and Gordon families. So you a descend of a sept or the house, this castle breathtaking; magical in the morning and evening light of fairy tale pink, housing historic Reaburn paintings, armor, and ancient Scottish artifacts.
Here is the Virtual Tour link: https://www.visitabdn.com/abdnwillwait/history-and-heritage/craigievar-castle/
When open, there are guided tours every half and hour and last close to an hour. Craigievar Castle is scheduled for Day 6, Castle Stop 3 on VisittScotland’s Castle Trail.
Crathes Castle, 16th Centry Boronial Tower House
If you want to sleep at a castle, then consider staying at the castle lodge at Crathes Castle, which is a 16th century baronial tower house of the period. It is the former home of the Burnett family who resided in the castle for over 350 years, and bears strong ties to Robert the Bruce. The castle has enhancing fairytale turrents, gargoyles, winding staircases, Jacobean painted oak ceilings, heraldic shields, and a formal gardens and ancient yew trees. Just don’t’ stay in the Green Lady’s Room, which many say she still haunts.
Instead, stay at the East Lodge of the castle, situated at the castle’s entrance. East Lodge is a single-story Victorian gate lodge with arched latticed windows and its own enclosed garden with a picnic table that is perfect for outdoor dining when the sun shines. Check availability, This
This castle is Day 1, Sstop 2 on the Castle Trail.
Virtual Tour is here, https://www.visitabdn.com/abdnwillwait/history-and-heritage/crathes-castle/
Huntly Castle, the ancient Strathbogie Castle
Even those not Gordon Clan members, who take pilgramages to their ancestial home, are not disappointed with a visit to Huntly Castle, its ancient name is Strathbogie Castle when was granted to Sir Adam Gordon in by King Robert the Bruce in1314. The nobility of the ruin provides glimpses of its former glory, foundations of former castles are still visible, and the last palace, its Tower still a full height, was completed in 1602, with stonework, unique in all the United Kingdom, attesting to high royal regard. Also not to be missed, since there is a lot to see, is the brewhouse and bakehouse in the courtyard, the remains of a cobbled medieval road, the frontispiece and inscription on the front of the palace, and the carved fireplace on the second floor of the palace. Learn more here, https://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/huntly/huntlycastle/index.html
This castle is Day 4, Stop 2 on the Castle Trail.
Video tour here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_VvCC4I9dk
Fyvie Castle, And Stay in a Tower Room
A stronghold for the Royal family until 1390, the castle was captured and lost by multiple families and clans, including the Preston, Meldrum, Seton, Gordon and Leith, each laying claim by adding a new tower to the castle. This is why this castle is both fairytale and forteress, creating the finest example of Scottish baronial architecture. Within its ancient walls is a great spiral stair, the finest in Scotland, and the interior is magnificent to behold. Rooms are filled with antiquities, armour and lavish oil paintings. Since this castle is a wedding destination, your nupuial venue can be either indoor, or plan an outdoor wedding out in the grandeur grounds with a picturesque lake and an unusual glass-roofed racquets court.
While it is known that William the Lion was a royal guest at Fyvie around 1214 and later King Robert the Bruce and King Charles I, you too can feel like you’re stepped into the life of a Scottish Laird by staying at the Preston Tower Apartment, located within the Preston and Seton towers of Fyvie Castle, and it is accessed via a spiral staircase, Furnished to a high standard with predominantly antique furniture, Check availability.
Fyvie Castle is Day 3, Stop 1 on the Castle Trail, and the Virtual Tour is here,
Balmoral Castle, Queen Victoria’s Favorite
Although today, Balmoral Castle is a well known Royal residence, it is open to the public from April to July every year for guided tours, click here to book, https://www.balmoralcastle.com/visiting.htm
The author’s 13th grand uncle, Alexander Gordon, Third Earl of Huntly, bought the castle in the 15th century, and it remained with the family until it was sold in 1662; the Gordon Clan lost its leadership during the English Civil Wars, which the Games of Thones is loosely based upon.
Additionally, the castle was the favorite of Queen Victoria, who the author was named after, where she stayed to find solace after Prince Albert died.
The Prince gifted the castle to her in 1852, and what stands today is a rebuilt castle completed in 1856 for the growing royal family, the couple raised nine children. The grounds and gardens are breathtaking, still surrounded by Scottish pine and immaculate lawns and gorgious gardens. Only the magnificent Ballroom is open to the public, and when not hosting the Ghillies Ball that has taken place every year since Victoria’s reign, you can admire the collections of artworks, china and silver, as well as exhibitions, then head outdoors to explore the estate.
Read more here, https://www.townandcountrymag.com/society/tradition/a12001419/balmoral-castle-scotland/
You can even be a guest at the castle by staying at the castle cottage; and there are many to choose from, and some are specifically designed for wheelchair accessibility. Please note that the holiday cottages are not available for some weeks during The Royal Visit. Book here,
And he sure to watch the castle’s Squirrel Cam since Charles, the Prince of Wales, is very fond of them, and it is to shine a spotlight on the preservation of the endangered red squirrels of Scotland, https://www.balmoralcastle.com/squirrel.htm, so consider donating to save these quirky and beautiful animals at
Balmoral Castle is Day 6, Stop 2 on the Castle Trail, and Virtual Tour is here, https://www.visitabdn.com/abdnwillwait/history-and-heritage/balmoral-castle/
The Castle B&B Inverness
However, if you prefer to base yourself in Inverness and not stay at a castle, consider staying at The Castle B&B, rave reviews on Airbnb, and it is in the heart of historic Inverness with quick access to the Castle Trail.
Your family’s history beats a movie any day! Bon Vogage, Live Happily Ever After, make your Castle Trail “The Happiest Place on Earth,” Even Virually!
About the Author:
Victoria Sharp is the great grand daughter of John George Gordon Sharp, arrived in the USA in 1886, and whose parents, John Gordon Sharp and Jessie Gordon married as first cousins and who both descend from Sir Adam Gordon. Ms. Sharp is a member of the House of Gordon USA, see https://houseofgordonusa.org/