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Issue 38 - Blazing a trail

History & Heritage

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Scotland Magazine Issue 38
April 2008


This article is 10 years old and some information provided may be time sensitive. Please check all details of events, tours, opening times and other information before travelling or making arrangements.

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Blazing a trail

Although Scotland is home to more castles than you can shake a haggis at, the country's only ‘Castle Trail' is in Aberdeenshire. Gilly Pickup finds out more

Tel: +44 (0)1975 571 331

Kildrummy Castle was once one of Scotland’s most imposing castles.

It was captured by Edward I of England in 1296 and sheltered Robert Bruce’s queen and daughter, before enduring a siege in 1306 in which Bruce’s younger brother was captured after Kildrummy was set alight by a traitor.

Nigel Bruce and his men were hanged.

Osbourne, the traitor and castle blacksmith, was rewarded with gold – poured molten down his throat.

‘Bobbing John,’ the 11th Earl, used Kildrummy as the headquarters to organise the final details of the 1715 Jacobite Rising.

Tel: +44 (0)1466 793 191

Once one of the most noble Scottish Baronial mansions, Huntly Castle, also known as Strathbogie Castle, is a glorious ruin on the banks of the River Deveron.

George Gordon, 4th Earl of Huntly, known as the ‘Cock of the North’ glorified the castle in preparation for a visit by Mary of Guise in 1556. In the 17th century the castle was occupied by Covenanters, while Charles 11 stayed there briefly in 1650 on route to his coronation. The remains of a 12th century motte is still visible.

Tel: +44 (0)1975 651 460

Corgarff Castle nestles at the foot of the Lecht mountain pass. When Adam Gordon of Auchindoun and his men arrived intent on capturing it, they didn’t reckon on feisty Margaret, wife of the castle owner who was at home alone. She shot one of them through the knee. Incensed, Gordon returned later and burned down the castle, killing Margaret andeveryone inside.

In later years, the castle was used as a base for Hanoverian soldiers to combat illicit whisky distilling and chase any Highlanders still foolish enough to wear kilts, an illegal act after 1746.

Tel: +44 (0)1261 818 181

Throughout the centuries Duff House, a magnificent Baroque mansion, has housed several families including the ambitious, wealthy and powerful Duffs. Although it seemed they ‘had it all’ they were seldom lucky in love – one despondent countess once tried to murder her husband there.

In the 20th century Duff House was in turn a palm court hotel, sanatorium and prisoner of war camp. Set in parkland with woodland walks, the house holds a collection of paintings and works of art.

Tel: +44 (0)1330 844 525

Crathes Castle was built to taper towards the top so unwelcome guests would have difficultly in sheltering beneath the battlements during an assault. On the offchance that an intruder was determined enough to get inside, he was liable to be met with a pot of boiling oil or molten metal. If that still didn’t put him off, negotiating the staircase may have done – the 11th step was booby trapped!

King Robert the Bruce granted the lands of Leys to the Burnett family in 1323 and the ancient Horn of Leys, which hangs in the Great Hall, marks his gift.

Tel: +44 (0)1330 833 463

Originally known as Muchall-in-Mar, Castle Fraser’s distinctive turrets, balustrades and gables are an imposing sight.

Upstairs is the Great Hall with its impressive 16th century fireplace and ‘Laird’s Lug.’ This tiny room was where trusted servants would hide to eavesdrop into private conversations and report back to the laird.

In more recent times, the castle was used as a backdrop for some scenes in the film The Queen, starring Helen Mirren.