After an incredible three days in Edinburgh, we were ready to start our tour of the Scottish countryside with visits to Aberdeenshire Castles. We rented a car in downtown Edinburgh, and then drove to our first countryside castle, Glamis.
In this post:
- Glamis Castle
- Dunnottar Castle
- Douneside House Hotel
- Castle Fraser
- Fyvie Castle
- Crathes Castle
- Banchory Lodge
- Ballater/Braemar (hiking!)
Although not an Aberdeenshire Castle (it’s in Angus), this beautiful estate was on the way there. We got there around opening time and had a great guide who took us through the inside. Glamis is the childhood home of HM Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother and also inspired Shakespeare to write MacBeth. As with almost every castle we explored, it also hosted Mary, Queen of Scots. The same family has lived there since the 1300s, and some great stories include that one Lady Glamis was found guilty and executed for witchcraft; King Malcom II was murdered on the site of the present castle; the family forfeited the castle to the Crown and then it was occupied by King James V; and it was occupied by Cromwell’s troops. There are many ghost stories, too! Below is a gallery of photos from our visit.
Our next stop was Dunnottar Castle, which is an incredibly beautiful, windswept ruined castle on the eastern coast. There are lots of steps up and down to the castle, but the effort is so very worth it. There are different sections to explore, including fortified walls, the living quarters, a chapel, the cemetery, and stables/support buildings.
Some of the incredible history includes that it was captured by William Wallace in 1297; owned by the extremely powerful Keith family who became the Earls of Marischal; visited, of course, by Mary Queen of Scots and James VI; the castle protected the Scottish Crown Jewels, which were smuggled out just in time before it was forced to surrender to Cromwell’s forces; the Keiths supported the Jacobites and lost all of their property and the castle. At one point it is said the Earl even had a lion at the castle!
Dunnottar is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen, surrounded by water on three sides, jutting out high on a cliff. Views toward and from the castle are incredible. I would rate this particular castle as one of our top ones that we saw while in Scotland, and definitely the best of the Aberdeenshire Castles. I highly recommend you add it to your touring list. It is so isolated, desolate and beautiful! See some of our beautiful shots from this visit below:
We then checked in to our hotel, the beautiful Douneside House in Tarland. They offer military discounts, which worked great for us! There is a sad history of all three sons dying right before and during WWII, and of how Lady MacRobert donated a plane to the British Royal Air Force. She also started a foundation, The MacRobert Trust, that does a lot of charity work and honors military personnel. So if you are military, you can qualify for a military discount there.
We celebrated our anniversary that evening in their delicious, intimate restaurant. The views from our room were stunning, and the gardens and walking paths around the hotel were breathtaking. My husband used their fitness center, and said it was top-notch. Our food, our room, the drinks, and service were all very good. See below for a gallery of photos of our room, our views, and the incredible gardens and walking paths at Douneside House.
The next day we again went castle-hopping. Our first stop was Castle Fraser. And yes, in the gift shop, they had a life-sized cutout of Jamie Fraser from Outlander. And yes, I took it out to the courtyard and posed with him. Don’t hate.
This building was also very striking. We went all the way up to the top of the round tower to see the beautiful countryside around the the estate. Below is a gallery of the beautiful locations and scenes from Fraser.
Next we went up to Fyvie Castle, an 800 year old castle. It has beautiful grounds, and the inside is very grand. There is a stature of Sir Jeffery Hudson, known as Lord Minimus, who was a dwarf and a favorite of English Queen Henrietta Maria of France. He led an amazing life–you can learn more about him here. Our guide speculated if he was the inspiration for Tyrion Lannister in Game of Thrones.
See the gallery below for great photos from our visit (and the amazingly cute dogs we saw there)!
It was pretty late and we missed the last tour for Crathes Castle, but we stopped there anyway and explored the grounds a bit and looked at the beautiful building. Here are some shots from that one:
We had dinner reservations for Banchory Lodge. It is a lovely inn and restaurant on the banks of the beautiful River Dee. The food was good, service was fantastic, and we sat by the river for a bit before heading back to Douneside House.
The next morning we got up early and headed for our first Scottish hike. We stopped in Ballater (cute little town) for a quick breakfast, and then drove to Braemar to hike up an easy hill, Creag Choinnich. The hike is only 2.5 km and it took us about 2 hours, as we walked all around at the top and enjoyed the beautiful views of Royal Deeside and over to the Cairngorms Mountain Range.
That was our last stop in Aberdeenshire! Next up: Inverness and the Cairngorms.
Have you been to Aberdeenshire? We love our castles, so it was a great choice for us. What is your favorite castle in Aberdeenshire or which one would you like to see? Please comment below!