Published: December 14th 2009September 8th 2008
I woke up just after 8am and mom was already in the shower. We had breakfast here at the hotel - scrambled eggs and bacon again - stuck in a breakfast rut! We are staying close by Banchory today which makes a welcome change from all that driving every day.
First stop today is Crathes Castle (pronounced Krathis) which is only about two and a half miles east of Banchory in the town of Crathes. The castle is the seat of the family of Burnett of Leys. The land was granted to the family in 1323 by King Robert the Bruce. The Horn of Leys which was presented to the family by King Robert the Bruce still hangs above the fireplace and is the ‘deed’ to the land - well it was in ancient times anyway.
This castle was absolutely fabulous! The original tower house has several painted ceilings that are just amazing. The colors are still really vibrant. The Long Gallery has the most gorgeous oak-paneled ceiling which is the only one of its kind to survive in Scotland except for those in the 3 royal palaces. There is also the Green Lady’s Room that is
said to be haunted and takes its name from the legendary ghost of Crathes. Construction of the house wasn’t stared until the 1553 and was finally completed in 1596. The title passed to a relation who had emigrated to the U.S. in the 1800’s who owned over 25,000 acres in California. He sold up and moved back to Scotland and made many improvements to the castle and undertook some much needed repairs. The land he sold later became the city of Los Angeles. Very cool I think!
When we first got to Crathes the castle wasn’t open yet so we waked around the enormous and magnificent gardens that despite the cool temperatures still look really beautiful. The castle itself is like something out of a fairy tale! Turrets and towers and rain spouts shaped like cannons!
After touring the house and gardens we went to the castle tea and gift shop and probably spent about 30 minutes looking around and buying souvenirs. They had a really good selection to choose from. Then I had a shortbread that was wonderful while mom had some tea and a piece of carrot cake.
More info: Undiscovered Scotland's Crathes Castle page
Next we drove a short way down the road to Drum Castle in Drumoak. Drum Castle is the oldest intact building in the care of the National Trust. The Irvine family continuously occupied the castle from 1323 to 1975. Drum Castle was originally just a tower made of pink hued granite. Later a Jacobean mansion was added on and then several additions from the Victorian period.
The house was just beautiful inside; lots of the rooms were included in the tour. The main room that you enter first had a really friendly guide who talked our ears off for close to half an hour, but she had lots of interesting information and stories about the property. All the rooms that the family used are in the Jacobean and Victorian parts of the house. Only the library is in the medieval tower. They actually tunneled through 9 to 10 foot thick walls of stone to connect the library to the rest of the house and then sealed off the outside door that used to be in the library. There are still a couple of Jacobean windows that are visible on the Victorian addition.
Details of Crathes Castle
Love how the rain drains look like cannons!
the interior of the castle we went outside and saw the little chapel that was about 100 feet from the house. It had beautiful stained glass windows and several family members were buried there.
Next we walked around the south side of the house which is the Jacobean mansion part and I took a couple of photos, but honestly this isn’t the best side of the house. We continued on around the side of the house to the medieval tower. The tower is accessed by climbing a long flight of exterior stairs. We went in and decided not to go to the basement of the tower but to go up instead. This has been left empty to show how the tower would have looked back in medieval times with a sand floor. The big open room clearly had several levels of wooden floors that no longer exist. Fireplaces are left hanging on empty wall 10 and 20 feet above where we are standing. There was another step of stairs - ladder like steps that led to a platform about 2 stories high inside the room. From there another half flight up more ladder stairs to a short doorway to
the ramparts of the tower. You can walk 360 degrees around the top of the tower which is very cool and really high up! I think there was a garderobe up there too, which would make sense if guards were up there. I took a photo of it! Nice views from up here.
We made our way back down from the tower and decided to skip the gardens and go get some lunch as it was already 2pm and we were starved.
Drum Castle started life as the imposing tower house that today continues to dominate the east side of the castle. 70ft high and with walls that are 12ft thick at ground level, this was designed to be impregnable in an age before artillery. The walls taper as the tower climbs skywards, and it is thought that it was built in two phases, the lower part shortly after 1200, and the upper part in the years around 1300.
More info: Undiscovered Scotland's Drum Castle page
Lunch and back to Banchory
We stopped at Milton of Crathes which is on the way back toward Banchory and is right across from Crathes Castle entrance. We had lunch at The Milton. I had tomato soup and an open face ham sandwich which were yummy! After lunch we took a peek in the little craft shops in the same little cluster of buildings as the restaurant.
We had been thinking of driving into Aberdeen, but decided not to since we would probably run into rush hour traffic on the way back to Banchory. I would have like to have walked around the town of Banchory, but mom wanted no part of it. When we got back to the hotel we decided to sit in the lounge area for a while to read and so I could write this entry. I also took a few photos of the hotel while the sun was out. The sun was in and out today and it was about 16 degrees Celsius. So it was warm enough for a t-shirt while the sun was out, but chilly when it was cloudy. But best of all - there was no rain!!!
It’s nice to sit on the couches in the lounge and be comfortable. Mostly we’ve been sitting on our beds to read and such in the evenings. Our room here has a small sitting area with a couple of small chairs, but one of them smells really terrible! Almost like someone peed on it or something. Needless to say neither one of us is going to sit on that chair!
Today more guests have been arriving and it looks like a business conference is being set up in one of the function rooms. The hotel is Victorian and was originally built in 1873 as a Victorian mansion. Tor Na Coille was converted into a hotel at the turn of the century.
We ate in the dining room tonight as opposed to the bar area where we ate last night. I had the beef fillet and it was really good. Mom ordered the vegetable soup and it was pureed and looked like baby food. She said it tasted like vegetable for sure, but she didn’t like the puree at all.
The water pressure and temperature here are really good! Some of the other places have been less than optimal for showering. Overall the hotel is a really nice place in a great location for visiting the Royal Deeside area and the Castle Trail. The staff including the owner was really friendly and accommodating.