This is what you get at The Gordon Guest House for breakfast when all you ask for is toast and tea…
Yeah, and those croissants, they’re filled with chocolate. That’s right.
The plan today was to go to Dunnottar Castle and Castle Fraser, with a stop at the Bridge of Feugh. We did not end up doing two out of three of those things, but made up for it with another castle and what ended up being a garrison.
We started out as planned and went to Castle Fraser. Castle Fraser was closer, and it closed earlier in the day than Dunnottar so we figured it made sense to go there first rather than last.
The earliest part of this building was constructed some time in the 1450s, with subsequent additions being added in what is referred to as a z-plan construction. The Z is formed by starting and ending at the opposing towers.
The property was the home of the Frasers for 400 years. The first upgrade after the original tower took 61 years to complete, from 1575 to 1636. It was modernized in the late 1700s, and interiors were entirely reconstructed between 1820 and 1850. The last Fraser to live in the castle, Theodora, sold the property in 1921. (I am in love with this painting of Theodora. It was painted by Maurice McIvor in 1921.)
The new owners restored the Castle and gave it to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976. The Trust has kept the castle designed to represent various periods, and most of the contents are originals from those time periods.
We followed the self-guided tour markers, passing through the Michael Kitchen to the Great Hall. The trunk kept in this room has some wild kind of locking mechanism. The fire backer is original.
The dining room has been the dining room since the mid-1600s.
The headmistress’s (?) room. Pretty sure my mom still has a version of that sewing machine.
The cradle in the Green Room was last used by the 14th (and last) child of Charles and Jane Fraser in 1836, Caroline. Tragically, she died at 18 months old.
The Green Room also housed a bathtub, and a fancy-schmancy coal scuttle to hold the coal to use in the fireplace. You can just see the coal scuttle behind and left of the bathtub.
The Smiley Sitting Room is actually decorated for and dedicated to the last family to own the castle before it was given to the Trust.
The top of one of the towers has spectacular views of the area, and would actually be a very nice place to have tea and read a book. Apparently there are standing stones about 200 yards from the Castle, but they are inaccessible to the public because they are in the middle of a farmer’s field.
The courtyard as viewed from the tower. There is a lovely tea room and a gift shop there.
Always my favourite room anywhere, the library. The oldest books here are from the early 1500s and they’re written in Latin.
The Victoria Sitting Room, also known as the Red Turret Room (are you seeing a theme yet?) used to be the Master’s Chamber and Study in the 1600s, but by the 1800s it was being used as a sitting room. It is currently decorated in the sitting room style.
The Worked Room was traditionally the Laird’s Chamber, and is the only room left with carved door cases dating to the 1600s. It also contains the Laird’s Lug, which is a small secret room connected to a hidden chamber from which the Laird could spy on his guests in the Great Hall to see if they were plotting against him. Sound familiar?
The North Bedroom still has the original Jacobean door frame. It also houses a 19th century commode (which I apparently did not take a picture of).
In the 1600s, the Charter House was used to store important papers, and this one in fact has a hidden compartment by the fire place with a trap door for those especially secret documents. By the 19th Century it had been turned into a bathroom. For whatever reason, they now keep the oldest item in the castle in this room: a wooden carving of the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God) from the 1500s.
The Bailiff’s Room included a spy hole in the wall where he could keep an eye on what’s happening in the Great Hall.
Ground view of the courtyard.
During lunch in the tea room we discovered that Dunnottar Castle is not included in either our Explorer Pass or Discover Scotland Pass. So we decided to look for someplace that was. We came up with Kildrummy Castle.
What a fantastic choice! The place was huge, and must have been gorgeous in its day. It had a draw bridge with a pit underneath it.
It had four towers, two on either side of the gate for the guards, one for the earliest residence, the other with the prisoner cells and guest chambers.
The courtyard was huge. After the residence tower fell over in the 18th century it was replaced by a tower house within the castle walls. The Great Hall overlooked the ravine, which borders the back of the castle.
The prisoners cells actually had a latrine, which was unusual.
They had their own church within the walls. Look at those windows!
The Earl of Mar probably ordered the castle built, and it was built in 1250. In 1306, Robert the Bruce sent his family to Kildrummy for safety, but the British sieged the castle and all of his family escaped except his brother Neil, who was captured and hanged.
In 1404, Isabel, Countess of Mar, married Alexander Stewart in front of the castle gates. Apparently there’s a romantic story about this, something to do with her handing the estate to Alexander under duress, and then him turning around and giving them back, at which point she announces her agreement to marry him. I didn’t quite catch it all, and the information book we bought is already packed away as I write this.
Kildrummy was abandoned in 1715.
We really enjoyed our visit here, so much so that we asked the attendant if he could recommend one more nearby place since it turned out we had time. He sent us to Corgarff Castle.
Its really more like a tower house that ended up with a star-shaped perimeter wall around it.
The castle was built in the 1500s by the Forbes of Towie, but was burned down by Adam Gordon of Auchindoun in 1571, killing 24 people in the process including the lady of the house.
It was rebuilt sometime after 1645, but then again burned down twice by the Jacobites in 1689 and 1690.
It was rebuilt again as a barracks by the Redcoats after the 1745 Jacobite rising, until it was abandoned again in 1831. During their 95-year tenure, the British hunted Jacobite sympathizer, and then helped excisemen try to stamp out the illegal production and smuggling of whisky.
The soldiers apparently were bored silly during their time here, because they had time to write graffiti on the walls and ceiling.
According to the placards on the walls, the soldiers were also used to build the old military road in the area during the summer months.
We were really pleased with this last minute addition to our itinerary. But we leave Ballater tomorrow to make our way to Glasgow, so we had to get back to pack our things.
We did make reservations for supper though at the Rothesay Rooms Restaurant, which it turns out is a Michelin rated establishment. That’s a first for us.
It turns out the restaurant is only a couple of years old, created when His Royal Highness The Prince Charles, Duke of Rothesay, pledged financial support to the community after the disastrous floods in 2015.
The food, service, ambiance, and the food were hands down the best across the board of this entire trip. Yes, I said the food twice on purpose. It is expensive, but oh so worth it!
Adelle and Dan
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The sewing machine is long gone!