Castle Fraser, Garden & Estate
Although the main castle was completed around 1636, there were several 18th and 19th-century alterations. To a large extent the story of Castle Fraser is the story of its lairds. It retains the atmosphere of the family home with portraits, furniture and mementos.
Highlights include the Great Hall dating back to the 1400s, a library filled with family books, and the grand Worked Room featuring 18th-century embroideries. The estate has two easily followed trails taking you through a mixture of parkland, farmland and woodland, opening out to give views of Bennachie.
The origins of Castle Fraser date back to the mid-1400s when James II granted the lands around Muchall and Stoneywood to Thomas Fraser.
In the 1570s, the laird, Michael Fraser, started work on a major upgrade and expansion of what by then was probably feeling a very dated and fairly small residence. The original plan seems to have been to extend the floor space by building a large tower offset from the north-west corner of the existing castle, which became known as the ‘Michael Tower’.
Possibly inspired by work being done on other Mar castles at the time, the plans then grew to include a second additional tower – the large circular tower at the south-east corner of the original castle. The result, with towers added to opposite corners of the existing structure, was a classic ‘Z-plan’ tower house.Andrew, Michael’s son, built two new wings extending north from the castle and enclosing a courtyard.
To all intents and purposes, Castle Fraser was now recognisably the building you see today, although it was still known as Muchall-in-Mar Castle until the early 18th century.The fortunes of the Frasers, and their castle, took a series of knocks during the rest of the 1600s. The 2nd Lord Fraser, another Andrew, who inherited the estate in 1636, became an avid Covenanter: making him in some eyes a rebel against the king. This led to James Graham, Marquis of Montrose and the leader of the Royalist forces in Scotland, capturing and sacking the castle in 1644.