Crathes Castle

Are you free to visit a castle today?
How about a magical turreted castle with stunning gardens, magnificent grounds and woodland, amid rolling hills and glorious countryside? 
We couldn't resist either, especially as we had been living in a cloud of fog/haar that had stayed around for far too long. 
It was time to head inland from the coast to hopefully find sight of a little blue sky and if possible some sunshine. And what do you know?... we were lucky... we found both. 
As we drove out of Aberdeen on the A93 to Crathes Castle, the mist began to clear and the sun broke through.
Crathes castle and grounds are presently owned and managed by the National Trust of Scotland and are open to the public.
Crathes has always been one of my favourite castles to visit in Aberdeenshire. 
It's within easy reach and there's lots to see and do in and around this magnificent 16th Century tower house, that you're sure to have a memorable experience if you get the opportunity to visit. 
The land was gifted to the Burnett family in 1323 by Robert the Bruce and you can still see their badge of office, the ivory Horn of Leys, hanging in the High Hall. You can also see the horn above the large window to the left of the tower in the above photo. 
The horn symbol was added to the family coat-of-arms and it can be seen throughout the castle. It's also carved onto the Laird's bed.
The coat of arms of the Burnetts of Leys contain a hunting horn and three thistles.
The actual Horn of Leys remains in the ownership of the Burnett family and is on display at the Castle. If you'd like to read more about the Burnett family then click here.

We chose to walk around the gardens whilst the sun shone before entering the castle. 
The famous gardens feature massive yew hedges that were planted as early as 1702. 
Every time I see these hedges I imagine them moving and dancing around like something in a Disney movie. Aren't they amazing?
The walled garden is really eight gardens ranging from the formal to the modern, so there's something for everyone to enjoy. 
It's a little early in the year to see the gardens at their best at the moment. Especially the colourful double herbaceous border in full bloom... which is quite exquisite. So I'll just have to nip back in June to capture them in all of their glory.
If you look into the photo to the left below, you will see two stick domes. These are supports for the plants. If I remember rightly they were made from willow and there are workshops to show you how to make them. I much prefer the natural look of the stakes than the plastic alternative. There are a few workshops throughout the year which some include the head gardener giving a tour of the gardens.
It looks like the weather is changing once again...
So let's take a look inside the castle shall we?
Watch your step when ascending the tower stairs because there's a 'trip' step...I'll not tell you which one as the helpful National Trust volunteer will do that when you visit. It was intended to disconcert attackers climbing the staircase. 
Amazingly, there are some rooms that retain the magnificent original painted ceilings. And if you feel a chill in the air in one particular room, then that could possibly be 'The Green Lady, Crathes' own ghost!
This view is from an upper window of the castle overlooking the crochet lawn, some of the formal gardens and greenhouses. As you can see unfortunately we've lost the sunshine. 
Further afield, the 240 hectare estate offers six separate trails to enjoy. 
If you click here you will be able to see the walk that my daughter and I enjoyed one frosty November morning. 
At the property there is a cafe, gift shop, adventure playground for the children, the North-East's only 'Go Ape' tree top adventure and the Arting Around studio.
So all the family can enjoy the outing. 

Just one point before I finish...
I'd like to state that I haven't received any remuneration for this post but when I did join the National Trust during the Easter break, my name was entered into a draw. I didn't pay much attention to the details at the time, but when the postie arrived at my door with a large parcel I was thrilled. My name had been drawn and I won a fabulous high spec pair of binoculars! 
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Have a great weekend everyone
xoxo