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Approximately 30 kilometres from Aberdeen is the impressive Castle Fraser, one of Scotland’s most illustrious structures. The 5-storey, 16th-century giant is the largest of its kind as well as being beautifully situated on a 140-hectare estate. A proper Scottish castle, it is popular among tourists, wedding planners – and ghosts!
Building the granite structure wasn’t easy. The then lord of the manor Michael Fraser started construction of the castle in 1575 but it was only finished 61 years later. With small changes still being made up to the 19th century, the castle has many peculiarities: guests were tricked, spied upon and eavesdropped on via secret stairwells, hatches and holes in the walls. The Lairds Lug ensured that the lord knew exactly what people were saying about him in the Great Hall.
The various parts of the castle each tell a story about different periods in Scottish history. The Great Hall features moderate medieval arched ceilings, while the east wing houses a lavishly decorated 17th-century dining hall. The portraits, furniture and collections of the Fraser family still play a major role. In the library, built entirely in the Regency style, a portrait of Charles Mackenzie-Fraser keeps a close eye on the visitors.
Not only is the interior of the castle well worth a visit, the surrounding estate is equally popular. In summer this is a popular picnic site with a network of diverse walking paths through forests, meadows and the charming walled garden. The castle is so photogenic that the makers of The Queen (with Helen Mirren as Queen Elizabeth in 2006) used it frequently in their film.
Castle Fraser is the subject of many great tales. At night, the staff sometimes report hearing an inexplicable piano and seeing a lady in black wandering round. It’s thought to be the ghost of Lady Marie Augusta Gabrielle Berengere Blanche Drummond, who died here from tuberculosis in 1874. The most notorious tale involves a princess who is said to have been killed in the Green Room and dragged along a stone staircase. The story has it that the stairs are now covered with wood because the bloodstains would not fade away.
“A Scottish castle needs a few ghost stories”
Castle Fraser, Inverurie AB51 7LD
There are 2 main walking routes: Miss Bristow's Trail (2 kilometres) and The Alton Brae Trail (2.5 kilometres). The first leads through the forest past ancient remains of the castle; the second takes visitors to a pond full of water fowl, dragon flies and frogs. If these are not stimulating enough for the children, they are welcome at the Woodland Secrets Play Area, a magic forest with a teepee, a bamboo-covered path and a giant xylophone. Here you’ll find many places to hide and everything is built from natural, sustainable materials.