Well I've heard of Munro bagging, but Castle Bagging? Well it was a new one on me so I just had to give it a whirl.
To make it more ‘fun’, the guys in the office challenged me to see how many castles I could ‘bag’ in one day. I love a good challenge so the race was on!
This stunning ruined medieval fortress which sits upon a rock jutting out into the North Sea has had a turbulent history, in particular its role in defending the Crown Jewels of Scotland from Cromwell’s Army.
It was the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in the land. William Wallace, Mary Queen of Scots, the Marquis of Montrose and the future King Charles II have all graced the Castle with their presence. In more recent times their famous visitors include Mel Gibson whilst on location filming Hamlet and Daniel Radcliffe and James McAvoy while filming the soon to be released Frankenstein.
Last year it was also voted as one of the new wonders of the world, so it seemed like the best place to start my castle bagging day!
No matter which window you look out of there are stunning views all around the coastline. It’s even possible on occasion, from the Whigs’ Vault window, to see puffins on the rocks below.
Look closely, yes that does say Lion’s Den and yes there would have been a real lion in there! The lion was the family mascot and one would have been kept as the family ‘pet’.
With the first one in the bag, its off to Drum Castle in Royal Deeside!
The Royal Forest of Drum and the Tower were gifted, by King Robert the Bruce, to William de Irwyn in 1323. Since then the house has had numerous ‘extensions’ over the centuries.
Today when you walk in, it still retains the feel of a warm and happy family home. The fantastic guides inside help bring to life the castle with their knowledge and stories from the families. It was a bit of a whistle-stop tour of the castle, so I will definitely be back so I can explore further and see inside the Medieval Tower which has recently been restored.
In the grounds of the castle is a picturesque chapel, with a beautiful stained glass window. There is also a new adventure playground which opened this year, and I couldn’t resist having a go on the drum kit…
2nd castle in the bag! Now on to my ancestral home, travelling out of Royal Deeside and into beautiful Donside with the Bennachie hills dominating the sky line.
With my surname there was no way I could go castle bagging and not visit Castle Fraser! So that was my 3rd stop of the day. The castle dates back to the 15th Century, but as with all good castles it has gone through a few alternations over the years, as new lairds have put their stamp on the place.
Once again it felt like coming home, it looked like the family had just popped out for the day, right down to the drinks tray being all set, ready for their homecoming! Including a bottle of their own Castle Fraser Gin (now I know where my love of gin comes from!) I have bought the recipe for this and will try and re-create my own Castle Fraser Gin…watch this space!
When in the library I noticed a beautifully carved wooden leg. The guide explained this was one of 16 wooden legs that Laird Charles Fraser had, as he lost his leg at the Battle of Burgos in Spain in 1812 when he was only 21. Impressive to think how he maneuvered around the tight twisting stairs of the Castle. There is also a beautiful Raeburn portrait of him in library as well.
Castle Fraser – BAGGED!
First built in the early 15th century, although the castle you can see today was built in 1584 by the 7th Lord of Tolquhon - Sir William Forbes.
Tolquhon Castle is a hidden gem of a castle. When I arrived I was the only other person there and it was so serene. Inside the well preserved ruin, home now only to swifts that swoop and soar around the ruins, you could still get a feel for how stunning this castle would have been when first built.
In the ballroom you can still see the hexagonal flagstones on the floor, and the grand fireplace that would have keep the guests warm on the cold winter evenings.
Beautiful Tolquhon is in the bag! Now time for some award winning cakes…
A castle has stood on the site since 1049, and was rebuilt in the 16th Century with a number of additions over the centuries. The castle has also paid host to famous visitors including Mary Queen of Scots, you can even visit her bed chamber.
Today it is ran as a charitable trust and is lovingly looked after by a team of volunteers.
Inside the castle, again it feels like Captain Hay has just gone to work for the day, with lots of great nick naks to spot from Suits of Armours to a Rhino head!
I couldn’t visit Delgatie and not try some of their award winning home bakes from the Laird’s Kitchen cafe. One glance at their chocolate cake and my mind was made up. As time was tight they even boxed it for me to take away. One taste and I understood how they won their awards! It was light, moist and decadent!
With Delgatie in the bag I have time for one more, so off to Duff House in Banff!
Duff House was completed in 1748 and has had a varied history from family home, sanatorium, hotel and then prisoner of war camp during World War 2. Today it is jointly looked after by Historic Scotland and the National Galleries of Scotland.
Due to this collaboration the first floor has been furnished in period furniture, to give you an idea of how spectacular Duff House would have looked when used as a family home. The 2nd and 3rd floors are dedicated exhibition space, where the national galleries have regularly changing exhibitions. But throughout the whole house are magnificent paintings. One in particular that caught my eye was Highland Wedding at Blair Atholl by David Allan.
Six castles in eight hours, from East Coast to North Coast –phew! It has been a great day but I only touched the surface of a few of the fabulous castles we have in Aberdeenshire. I would definitely recommend just picking 1 or 2 for the day and really getting to know them both inside and out!