Things to do in Scotland – ten castles in Aberdeenshire
Aberdeenshire is Scotland’s castle country. With over 300 castles, more per acre than anywhere else in the UK - absorb the history and heritage of north east Scotland along Scotland’s Castle Trail. Below you’ll find our guide to ten ‘don’t miss’ castles in this lovely corner of Scotland.
1 BALMORAL CASTLE
Described by Queen Victoria as ‘my dear paradise in the Highlands’, Balmoral is a favourite with the present-day Royal Family and is open to the public from April through to July each year. Queen Victoria purchased Balmoral for her husband Prince Albert in 1852, and Prince Albert commissioned a new and larger castle, that was better able to accommodate the Royal Family.
Balmoral Castle, Ballater AB35 5TB; tel: 01339 742534; website.
2 BRAEMAR CASTLE
Built in 1628 by the Earl of Mar, Braemar Castle (pictured left) has had a dramatic and varied history. It was burned by the Black Colonel John Farquharson in 1689, used as a garrison for Hanoverian troops after the Battle of Culloden and has been the home of the Chiefs of Clan Farquharson for over 200 years. Nowadays, the castle is run by the local community as a visitor attraction whilst restoration is ongoing.
Braemar Castle, Braemar AB35 5XR; tel: 01339 741219; website.
3 CASTLE FRASER
A Scottish baronial tower house which is under the care of National Trust for Scotland. The castle dates back to the fifteenth century and was the home of the Fraser family. Visit the Great Hall, built in the 1400s, see eighteenth-century embroidery in the Worked Room and admire historic Fraser family portraits, including a work by renowned artist Sir Henry Raeburn.
Castle Fraser, Inverurie AB51 7LD; tel: 0844 493 2164; website.
4 CORGARFF CASTLE
This isolated Medieval tower house built in the sixteenth century and now cared for by Historic Scotland, is surrounded by an unusual and distinctive star-shaped perimeter wall which was added in the 1700s. Originally the home of the Forbes family of Corgarff, the tower became a soldiers’ barracks in the mid eighteenth century, when Redcoats hunted down local Jacobite sympathisers. Today, visitors can see what barrack life was like in the reconstructed barracksrooms.
Corgarff Castle, Castle Lodge, Corfarff, Strathdon AB36 8YP; tel: 01975 651460; website.
5 CRAIGIEVAR CASTLE
Craigievar is a striking, pink harled turreted castle 6 miles from Alford, which was the seat of the Forbes family for 350 years until 1963. Visitors can see a collection of family portraits, Jacobean woodwork and original plaster ceilings. Craigevar also reputedly inspired Walt Disney, when he was designing his Fairy Castle in Florida.
Craigievar Castle, Alford AB33 8JF; tel: 0844 493 2174; website.
6 CRATHES CASTLE
A sixteenth-century tower house (pictured left) with ornate turrets and winding staircases, which stands in 240 acres of grounds. Work in the castle began in 1553 and was completed in 1596, as the home of the Burnett family, who remained owners until 1951. A visit to Crathes, with its sumptuous interiors, estate walks, adventure playground and Go Ape! treetop adventure course offers a fine day out for all the family.
Crathes Castle, Banchory AB31 5QJ; tel: 0845 643 9215; website.
7 DRUM CASTLE
Drum is a unique historic property which combines a medieval tower house with a Jacobean mansion and additions by later Victorian builders. The property is the oldest under the care of National Trust for Scotland and also includes the Old Wood of Drum, an ancient oak woodland. Don’t miss the hidden chamber which was unearthed for this first time in 2013 and once hid Alexander Irvine the 17th Laird of Drum, a Jacobite rebel evading capture, for 3 years.
Drum Castle, near Peterculter AB31 5EY; tel: 0844 493 2161; website.
8 DUNNOTTAR CASTLE
A ruined clifftop fortress (pictured left) situated in a dramatic location on the north-east coast of Scotland and just a pleasant 2-mile walk from Stonehaven. Visitors can explore the many different rooms including the keep, chapel, lodgings, drawing room and stables, learning the history of the castle which held Cromwell’s forces at bay for eight months, saving the Scottish Crown Jewels.Dunnottar Castle, Stonehaven AB39 2TL; tel: 01569 762173; website.
9 KILDRUMMY CASTLE
A former stronghold of the powerful Earls of Mar, Kildrummy is a ruined thirteenth-century castle with a twin-towered gatehouse which may have been created for England’s Edward I, who stayed here twice. Visit the chapel, round towers and hall, and see the large intact curtain wall.
Kildrummy Castle, near Alford AB33 8RA; tel: 01975 57131; website.
10 SLAINS CASTLE
Slains, known as ‘New Slains Castle’ to distinguish it from a nearby older ruin, was built in 1597 and stands on the coastline overlooking the stunning and expansive beach of Cruden Bay. The castle has literary connections, as it was reputedly the inspiration for Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’.
Slains Castle, Castle Road, Cruden Bay AB42.
QUICK LINK: History Scotland's ultimate castles guide
The Castles of Scotland: A Comprehensive Guide to More Than 4,100 Castles, Towers, Historic Houses, Stately Homes and Family Lands by Martin Coventry
Balmoral image © Nick Bramhall; Braemar Castle, © Braemar Community Trust; Dunnottar Castle: Eduardo Unda.