Castle Crazy

Scotland’s Silver City is known for many things: its beautiful parks that have culminated in it winning numerous “Britain in Bloom” accolades; the tranquility and the fun that its sandy shores provide and a cosmopolitan collection of the biggest shopping and dining brands. However, whether you come to see the nature, the beach, the entertainment of a bustling city or even the glittering granite skyline, there is something else that you can see in particular abundance – castles. We are not just talking about a handful of castles, but over 300 and that is because Aberdeen is fortunate enough to be located on the outskirts of Scotland’s Castle Country. As the title alludes to, if you want to find castles, then you are certainly in the right place as Castle Country has more castles per acre than anywhere else in the UK. Consequently, whatever shape, size or colour you like your castles in – you are certainly going to find one that fits the bill!

Therefore, if you are staying with us in our Aberdeen apartments and are looking for a fun day trip full of majesty and rich heritage, make sure to check out Scotland’s dedicated “Castle Trail”. Consisting of 17 castles ranging from dramatic ruins to fairy-tale enchantment, there are so many wonders to explore and many are only an hour or so drive away from Aberdeen. For details of all the 17, make sure to check out http://www.visitaberdeen.com/assets/castletrail.pdf to get your Castle itinerary sorted. However, to give you a taster of all the fun that lies ahead, read on below to find out some of our personal favourites.

  1. Balmoral Castle

When talking about castles in Aberdeenshire, there is certainly one that can never be missed out – Balmoral Castle. Castles tend to have associations with royalty and that is certainly the case with Balmoral Castle because if it being located in Royal Deeside was not a big enough indicator, it is the much beloved holiday home of the royal family and this goes all the way back to Queen Victoria’s time who was actually the monarch to purchase the castle as she loved it so much after visiting it on a romantic break. However, the castle you are seeing today is not actually the original because Queen Victoria had it knocked down and then rebuilt – when you are a Queen, you are able to wield that level of power!

Apart from the royal connection, it is a stunning castle to view in its own right with the majestic grounds and the illustrious ballroom being particular highlights to look out for alongside the special exhibits. Due to the grounds and architecture being particularly well maintained and preserved – it is clear that it will stand the test of time and will be enjoyed for generations to come.

  1. Crathes Castle

Complete with the magic of turrets, towers, wielding staircases and gorgeous grounds, this 16th century tower house has all the enchanting features you associate with majestic castles. Complete with the finest and the most elegant decoration on the inside, particularly keep an eye out (or up!) for the lavishly painted ceilings,  there is also so much more on the outside to explore with over 200 acres of quintessential British woodland and countryside to roam. Between the aesthetic beauty and the sweet-smelling aroma of the luscious rose gardens, this is a castle to hit all the senses. Likewise, it is perfect for all the family with a children adventure’s playpark and most importantly of all, the ultimate UK tree-top adventure: Go Ape!.

  1. Dunnottar Castle

Some of us like our castles in a form that is akin to the splendour of those found in Disney movies, however some of us like them a little bit more dramatic – if so, Dunnottar Castle is the one for you. Exhibiting magnificence in a slightly different form, there is nothing quite like the indomitable, breath-taking cliff-side location of Dunnottar Castle which is rumoured to be one of Scotland’s most impressive ruined castles. Surrounded by the ominous North Sea, this ancient and wonderfully gloomy castle conveys the rich stores of its past. With famous historical figures such as William Wallace and Mary Queen of Scots having visited the castle, this is certainly a castle for all the history buffs out there particularly as it was the infamous sight where a small garrison held out against Cromwell’s army for eight months and subsequently saved the Crown Jewels. Likewise, even movie fanatics will be particularly taken by this castle because as it tells the stories that are akin to those only found in the movies, it is no surprise that it has actually been featured as the landscape to many a feature film due to its cinematographic wonder. Therefore if you are wondering why the castle may seem so familiar, that is potentially because you have seen it showcased in movies including Hamlet featuring Mel Gibson as well as Victor Frankenstein (it was even partly inspiration for Disney’s Brave!).

  1. Cragievar Castle

However, for those fonder of the traditional castle type which emanates an ethereal and enchanting atmosphere, look no further than Cragievar Castle. A charming seven-storey castle, what particularly makes this castle stand out is its luminous and iconic pink coloured exterior – certainly one for those little girls who dream of being a princess. If you feel a little bit of magic in the air then it would not be surprising because Walt Disney was so taken by the castle, it is supposedly what inspired his pioneering imaginative spirit to conjure the renowned castle motif associated with the Disney brand. Still home to family portraits and ornate ceilings, the castle retains many of the treasures collected by the Forbes family across their 350 year residence there and it is that family atmosphere that really gives the castle that unique and welcoming spirit.

  1. Castle Fraser

Located only a convenient 16 miles from Aberdeen, if you are looking for splendour and grandness there is no castle that quite fills the brief like Castle Fraser which is one of Scotland’s most impressive baronial tower houses. Dating back to the 15th century, Castle Fraser is really orientated around the stories of its lairds and thus is rooted in Scottish history dating from the medieval and Victorian times. Particular highlights include the atmospheric simplicity of the Great Hall as well as the stunning panoramic views that are afforded from the round tower.

Fancying paying a visit to one, two or more of these castles? Of course! Well about challenging yourself and seeing how many you can visit in one day, or alternatively, how about a holiday dedicated to exploring the riches, treasures and captivating stories of these properties? With each of these castles offering something different, you can never explore too many – just make sure to check the opening times of the castles because they are subject to seasonal operating hours.

Images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balmoral_Castle

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crathes_Castle

http://www.castlexplorer.co.uk/scotland/fraser/fraser.html

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunnottar_Castle

http://www.undiscoveredscotland.co.uk/alford/craigievar/

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Welcome To Royal Deeside

Balmoral (36)

When people come to visit the UK, it is often due to the desire of exploring the rich historic tapestry that is often associated with the country. Indeed people want to explore the scenic landscape and its historical landmarks that tell the enlightening stories of times long gone. Moreover, it is not just the stories of the past they crave, but also those that interweave tales that involve the monarchy and royalty because after all, who does not wonder what it would be like to to be a majestic ruler? Therefore, it is no surprise that iconic Great British landmarks are comprised of renowned attractions such as Edinburgh Castle, The Royal Mile and Buckingham Palace which are steeped in history with a royal glow. However, when people think of cities like Aberdeen, more often than not they have associations of a corporate destination, as opposed to a place where they could visit for leisure purposes. While Aberdeen is prime business territory, it is clear that it offers much more than that and while The Spires is located only minutes away from the bustling city centre complete with shops and restaurants, it is also important to consider what lies in the other direction – Royal Deeside.

So you may be asking, what makes Deeside so royal? Well, it is the royalty, Queen Victoria in particular, that has made the area so renowned due to it being a popular holiday destination with them both in the long ago Victorian times and even today with Queen Elizabeth. The phrase, “royal seal of approval” certainly applies in this context! A particular royal landmark that particularly cannot go without being missed is the Balmoral Castle seeing as Prince Albert built Balmoral Castle particularly as a retreat for himself and Queen Victoria. Queen Victoria was such a fan of the area, she bought land there and even famously proclaimed “Every year my heart becomes more fixed on this dear paradise“. As a regular holiday destination for the royal family, Royal Deeside is unmistakeably a prime visiting spot for any Royal fanatic. A particular sign of interest to look out for on a trail across the towns and villages that comprise Royal Deeside is the Royal Warrants which symbolises the businesses that are a supplier to the Queen’s household – Ballater in particular is a favourite with businesses from butchers and garages being fortunate enough to have the Warrant bestowed upon them.

A particular highlight of Royal Deeside includes the “Victorian Heritage Trail” which has been a tourist favourite for over 150 years and is where you can even walk in the footsteps of the royalty. Along this trail you will encounter all kinds of quaint, charming and scenic villages and towns such as Banchory, Ballater and Braemar which are in stark contrast to be the fast-paced city life of Aberdeen. Braemar in particular is renowned for its Highland Gathering which is known to be one of Scotland’s best and is a major tourist draw – potentially as it remains a royal favourite.

The other element that makes Royal Deeside so iconic is its absolutely stunning landscape which provides the perfect backdrop for all kinds of activity in nature from walking to cycling to skiing to just pure wildlife watching – it is a tranquil haven away from the bustling streets of the city. While Aberdeen is marked for its sparkling granite skyline, Royal Deeside is renowned for the diversity of its nature and the enchanting atmosphere – from mysterious forests to the gentle tinkle of crystal clear rivers to dramatic mountain faces. Every corner is undeniably a photo opportunity and a chance to escape reality!

From castles including Balmoral, Crathes and Braemar to distilleries to heritage centres, there is so much to found and enjoyed in Royal Deeside whether you are travelling by yourself or with the family. Therefore, when you come to stay with us in Aberdeen, do not feel restricted by the city boundaries – there is so much more to be found on a day trip out of the city; particularly with The Spires sitting at the entrance to Royal Deeside.

To learn more: http://www.visitaberdeen.com/royal-deeside/

                                http://visitroyaldeeside.com/

Image: http://www.lifeofpottering.co.uk/2015/05/the-cairngorms-balmoral-castle.html