Crathes Castle of Scotland

With its curved walls and fairytale pink towers, you might think Crathes Castle has a story to tell and you’d be right! Some say a green mist fills one of the chambers – a ghostly lady checking on her domain perhaps, but it is the history of this site which holds me in its spell.
Outside, too, does not disappoint. If you love secret gardens, your feet will be drawn towards an old wooden door leading to the most perfect of spaces. Step through into a walled garden where a gentler world of aromatic borders bursting with colour and hobbity mounds of ancient topiary awaits. Immediately, your breath slows and you inhale warm earth and blue-sky days. But I get ahead of myself…
Crathes Castle lies in in the far north east of Scotland, a land of winding rivers and forested hills. Its earliest origins was a crannog on a nearby loch, now drained, where those who dwelt within found safety from predators. Even earlier back, hunter gatherers – some 10,000 years ago – constructed a lunar calendar nearby in a series of pits, which captured the seasonal drift of the lunar year. Hailed by archeologists in 2013, this precious find was thought to predate the first known formal calendars of Mesopotamia by at least 5000 years. Who would have thought those early folk would have need of such information or have the necessary sophistication and skills to carry out such a task?
More recently, the Burnett family, came north when David I recruited trusted men from the south to tame the land and people. Within the great hall of the castle, visitors are drawn to stand in awe; the jeweled, ivory ‘Horn of Leys’ sits within its glass box in pride of place over the mantlepiece – gifted by Robert the Bruce, king of Scots, to Alexander Burnett for services rendered in the fight for Scottish independence. In 1323, he was granted all the land within symbolic hearing of the horn when it was blown and held the title of Keeper of the adjacent Royal Forest of Drum. Probably at that time, his family and retainers would have lived in a fortress, walled with spiked timbers, on the crannog island.
The current castle was constructed in the 16th century – slowly, for there were many political disruptions; its history, entwined with the mixed fortunes of Mary Queen of Scots and later Scottish kings. Some of the Burnett ancestors found power and wealth in the Americas. One became a Baronet of Nova Scotia and another once owned half of the land upon which Los Angeles now sits.
Crathes Castle is one of my favourite castles, notable for its beauty, mystery and unique place in history. And the garden awaits!
References: The official Burnett website –; National Trust of Scotland.