Crathes Castle is the principal historical seat of the Burnetts, now in the possession of the National Trust for Scotland this 16th century castle is one of the best preserved in all of Scotland. It has quite a fairytale look with it’s pink-harled (Harling is an exterior surfacing technique which weatherproofs a building) exterior and it’s turrets, an almost Disney-esque, design.
The History of Crathes Castle
The castle was constructed by the Burnett of Leys family, after they experienced increased wealth in the mid 16th century. The Burnett family had lived in the area for a couple of centuries before the completion of Crathes. Alexander de Burnard had been appointed Royal Forester of Drum by King Robert the Bruce in 1323, at which point the Burnetts occupied a crannog (an artificial island fort) on the Loch of Leys.
Archaeologists have determined that settlements have existed at Crathes and the surrounding area since 8000 BC.
In 1543, Alexander Burnett of Leys married Janet Hamilton, (illegitimate) daughter of a Roman Catholic canon who, in 1546, bequeathed her – along with his many other mistresses and children – a healthy portion of his wealth before being murdered at St Andrews Castle in 1546.
With this increased wealth, the Burnetts endeavoured to build an impressive home and castle, which is when the idea of the ostentatious Crathes Castle was born. This was subsequently made possible when King Robert the Bruce gifted the necessary land to the family in 1323 for their loyalty. The castle has been continuously inhabited by the Burnetts for over 350 years.
On display in the hall is the Horn of Leys, a jeweled ivory horn, given to Alexander Burnett by Robert the Bruce in 1323. It is on display in the great hall.
Construction of Crathes Castle began in 1553, but due to political problems during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots was not completed until 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys, who also reconstructed the nearby Muchalls Castle during the 17th century.
The 3rd Baronet of Leys, Sir Thomas Burnett had no fewer than 21 children (in 22 years) with his wife, Margaret Arbuthnott, in the latter decades of the 1600s they built Queen Anne wing of Crathes to accommodate them all. Sadly, this east wing burned down in 1966.
Crathes Castle is a six-storey L-shape; its upper levels are intricately decorated with turrets, corbels and a magnificent clock added during Victorian times. Its furniture is magnificent, and tapestries impressively line the walls. However, it is the painted ceilings that set Crathes apart.
A number of ceilings throughout the castle are beautifully painted with regal themes. Visitors enter and make their way through a vaulted basement before climbing a spiral staircase which leads, level by level, to a series of rooms and up to the Long Gallery, and then down into the more modern wing.
Crathes Castle is set on 530 acres of woodlands and fields, including four acres of walled garden, which is almost as famous as the castle itself. Most impressive is the 4 acres of beautiful walled garden which is divided into 8 themed areas.
The castle was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1951.
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