A little distance south of Aberdeen just outside Banchory stands Crathes Castle. As I was going south and more or less past it, I popped in. As with most National Trust for Scotland buildings, they didn't permit photography inside the castle but it's open season in the gardens and I found a few inside pictures on the net to illustrate my visit.
The castle we see today has been owned for most of it's history by the Burnett family, though the family's presence in the area date back a couple of centuries before the building. In 1323, Robert the Bruce gave the land to Alexander de Burnard and appointed him Royal Forester of Drum. As a badge of office he was given a horn which is known as the Horn of Leys. This horn (pictures right) can still be seen in the castle's main hall and is the family's most treasured possession. The family dwelling at that time was on a crannog on the now drained Loch of Leys, but in 1553, the Burnetts were obviously feeling a bit flush and had the castle we see today built. The Burnetts it seems were particularly good at avoiding racking up too much history and generally keeping their head down has paid off for them. When, in 1644, the Marquis of Montrose led a Royalist army to the castle and demanded it's surrender, Sir Thomas Burnett did so straight away, treated the marquis to a slap up meal and was left in charge of his own captured castle - during the entire civil war, he kept documents from both sides saying that neither castle nor his family were to be harmed.
Castles are expensive things to keep up and the Burnetts handed over Crathes to the National Trust for Scotland in 1951 but continued to live in a wing until a fire in 1966. I believe they still live in a house on the grounds.
There are in the house, a few restored painted ceilings from the reign of James VI (1567 - 1625).
This ceiling features the Nine Nobles (sometimes known as the Nine Worthies). They were nine people who were seen as exemplary in the medieval ideals of chivalry. They were the three pagans, Hector, Alexander the Great, and Julius Caesar, three Old Testament characters, Joshua, David, and Judus Maccabeus and three christian heros, King Arthur, Charlemagne and Godfrey of Bouillon. They were a common subject for art in this period and featured on some of the Stirling Heads we saw last year in this blog. We get used to the modern image of Julius Caesar, which is probably quite near to how he really looked - you can see though from this ceiling he is depicted in a suit of armour with a big red beard.
This shield was on the outside of the building - it features the Horn of Leys, that we saw earlier on, as part of the Burnett coat of arms.
One of the castle officials opened a window to let another visitor take a few pictures of the surrounding gardens. It would seem wasteful not to take advantage of it myself.
Back at ground level, what had been rather a rainy morning dried up in time for me to have a wander round the gardens.
You might notice in the last picture a weather cock on top of the castle. I zoomed in on it and didn't realise until I looked at the pictures on my computer what a crazy looking creature he was (in a good way.)
Just a few general shots from around the walled garden.
By the time I came out of the green houses, not only had the rain stopped but the sun had come out. Here's a fellow I've not seen for a while.
The flowers might have been past their best but there was still a butterfly out and about looking for a little lunch.
The gardens have some large and ancient yew hedges that date from 1702. They have been trimmed into shapes but, to me, it seems that the hedges themselves have long since decided what those shapes will be.
By the time I got here, the sun had started one of the flower beds steaming.
One last shot of the castle. Have a great day.