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Castle Fraser


Information guide to Castle Fraser in Inverurie Aberdeenshire Scotland including the history and the ghosts with photographs of the building grounds and gardens. Book Balloon Flights.

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Castle Fraser Scotland


Castle Fraser Aberdeenshire, Grampian, Scotland is Z plan which has had a French influence upon its construction. The central oblong block building is surrounded by two towers at diagonally opposite angles. The Z plan construction is also known as three stepped and a Scottish Baronial Tower House. This was known as the Scoto French style of architecture and can also be seen in others such as Glamis and fellow Aberdeenshire ones such as Fyvie. Though it would be more accurate to describe it thus rather than a French chateau.

The architect was I Bel who was an Aberdonian master mason. His name can be seen to this day in the North side. The Bels were a family of master masons and designers and the father, George Bel, was thought to have designed Midmar whilst his son, David, designed Pitfichie. His other son John, also known by the initial I, was the designer. It is also thought that John I Bel also designed other Aberdeenshire ones such as Crathes, Craigievar, the old Castle of Cluny (no longer in existence) and the extension of Drum built after 1619.


Castle Fraser



Balloon Flights over the Castle - the ideal way to see the building, the grounds and the stunning Aberdeenshire countryside. The balloon flight provides a unique photograph opportunity. Enjoy a glass of champagne before your hot air balloon flight with your fellow passengers or book as a group. More information.



Castle Fraser Aberdeen


It was well situated and commands stunning views across the countryside. This includes the Mither Tap of Bennachie Hill and the Don river. It sits in the Parish of Cluny within the margin of the Kemnay Basin. The location and construction allowed it to be easily defended against attackers and unwelcome visitors. Access is still to this date via a long avenue. This gives visitors some great views of the building and the estate. The woodland park that surrounds the area is called policies and is a common Scots word to describes a park that surrounds a country house. Each face of the Z plan building contained gunloops either in each of the towers or main block. There was an old parapet but this became a pack saddle roof. The rounds of the roof were rebuilt to become turrets with gableted helmets and points.

Access is from the North and this leads visitors through the gateway and into the courtyard. The two storey wings are now seen along with the central block which measures 54 feet by 30 ft and 10 inches. The Michael Tower is 31 ft square whilst the Round Tower of the South East is about 28 ft in diameter. The diagonal length is 100 ft.





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Due to the historic features there is limited disabled access. However the National Trust for Scotland have introduced some new features that will be of great help for those with a disability that makes climbing the narrow 16th Century staircases difficult. These new features include a digital screen which gives visitors the opportunity to see upstairs and the opportunity to view a special iPad application that allows disabled visitors to view a 360 degree view taken from the Tower.


Rendering

Some of the most beautiful rendering includes the Arms of Fraser of Muchall. Above this is the Royal Arms of the United Kingdom. The base has a tablet which reads I Bel dated 1617 with a heart shape lying on its side. This was Bell's sign manual and stood for John Bell the mason made me. It is thought that these coats of arms were carved by the same craftsman who created the stunning fireplace at Huntly. The stone is thought to be either Strathbogie or Delgatie freestone.


Castle Fraser Scotland


The dormer window head at the West of the great armorial frontispiece is a tribute to the first Lord Fraser, Andrew, who married Lady Elizabeth Douglas in 1592. She was the daughter of the Earl of Buchan. The dormers contain a monogram of the initial letters of their names EAFD, a heart and the date of 1618. There is also a fraise and the strawberry emblem.

Turrets

The five rounded turrets are thought to have been created to reduce the number of crow steps on the roof gables, particularly the larger corner turrets. Between the turrets is the large chimney stacks.


turrets



Cornice

The cornice has been described as pseudo machicolated and an embattled parapet with the embrasures being developed into dormer windows. Decoration is in the form of projecting cannon rather than traditional gargoyles. Further up from the cornice the round tower rises for three more storeys. This is then finished off with a corbel table and balustrade. An ogee roofed cap house turret can be seen which houses a staircase.


Castle Fraser Aberdeenshire



Platform

Another feature of the roof is the platform area and would have been used as a private area to sit out in or to observe the surrounding area. This area houses the flag pole and flag.


castle parapet



Entrance Courtyard

Back to ground level as one faces it the two original low wings built by 1636 still enclose the entrance courtyard. These are known as Laigh Biggins and were built, though on a larger scale, much like Midmar. These consisted of the kitchen, bakehouse, brewhouse and quarters for the servants. At the time there was few trees in the estate and the first Lord had to import pine from Norway to floor the upper floors.

The arched entrance is the original construction and is found at the East face of the Michael Tower. Sadly two of the three armorial stones are long gone, though the upper stone is well preserved. The largest one would have been the lowest stone and this would have displayed the arms of Michael and Isobel, his wife. Isobel was the daughter of Duncan Forbes of Monymusk. The middle stone is now situated in the South front. This displayed the Royal Arms which were permitted to be displayed because the Baron was a tenant in chief of King James VI. It dates back to the year 1576. The remaining stone which can still be seen in its original place is the Arma Christi stone. It depicts an angel that is carrying a shield bearing the five wounds of Jesus Christ. Beneath is a scroll with the letters AR CH.
From the entrance courtyard there are stair circles on the right which lead to the first floor whilst the entrance passage continues to the left. The kitchen can be found in the Michael Tower and there is a large arched fireplace. The cellar can be found on the ground floor. When it was used as a residence there would have been service stairs running between the wine cellars and the hall. These are now blocked. The third stairs in the gorge wall lead to the third floor.


Fraser Castle



Entrance Hall

The entrance hall is not the original area and was first used in the 18th Century. It used to lead to a double staircase though this was demolished years ago.

Objects of note include a 19th Century wheelchair that belonged to Colonel Mackenzie. He was born in 1792 and lost a leg at the siege of Burgos on 23 September 1812 whilst fighting for the Duke of Wellington in Spain whilst a Captain in the Coldstream Guards, aged 20 years. His first wound was to his head from a musket shot fired during the storming of Burgos. His life was saved by the cockade, a folded silk handkerchief in his hat. He narrowly escaped death when the musket shot pushed its way through the velvet cover, the hat and the lining and stopped close to his head. The hat can be seen in the Dining Room. As the battle progressed he was shot in the knee and the musket ball was retained inside his leg. Despite the best efforts of the Doctor of the 3rd Regiment of Guards, which included treatment by bleeding and leeches, his leg was amputated six weeks later, on the 4 November, when it failed to heal.

He returned home and led a full life as Laird, never allowing his wooden leg and disability to interfere with his duties. He married, became an MP for Ross and Cromarty and was appointed a Colonel of the Ross-shire Militia, a post he held for 56 years. He died in 1871. The oak refectory table is 17th Century whilst the oak cupboard is 19th Century Dutch furniture.

Kitchen

The builder of the kitchen was Michael Fraser and it is named after him. It is still known as either the Michael Kitchen or the Michael Tower. As you enter the kitchen the brick oven can be seen to the right. Most of the kitchen equipment dates back to the 19th Century. There are some old kitchen implements and equipment which includes a griddle which was ideal for making Scottish drop scones. a grooved rolling pin for oatcakes and a crood mill for the delicious soft crowdie cheese. The original iron yett with wooden draw bar can be seen in the kitchen by the foot of the staircase. This is where the original entrance doorway would have been.

Staircase

The main staircase leads to the Great Hall. It is five feet wide. There is also access to the ante room on the right. The stairhead newel is enriched with a double band of light coloured cable ornament wrought granite from Leschangie Hill.


Castle Photo


Ante Room

The original function of this was as a hall until a junction was built between the Tower and Great Hall. It then became a withdrawing room for the Laird and his family. There is another oak table and this is a Jacobean piece from Dunecht. An oval portrait is that of the Old Pretender Prince James Francis Edward Stuart. Other pieces of furniture include walnut elbow chairs from the 17th Century, two beech carved Stuart style chairs, an 18th Century oak press and a pony hide covered travelling trunk.

The Great Hall

The Great Hall measures 37 feet in length and is 21 feet in breadth. The height of the Great Hall is 19 feet at the crown of the barrel vault. The fireplace sits at the East gable and measures 9 feet 7 inches wide and 4 feet 11inches deep. It is an original fireplace dating back to the 16th Century. There are three large windows set in the arched recesses of the South wall. In the 1950s a small square window between them was uncovered to demonstrate the original fenestration.

In the floor of the south west window is a trap door. This would have lead to the servants staircase.

The iron chest used by Ann Udny who married William is on display.

Laird's Bedroom

The Laird's Bedroom is also known as the Worked Room and can be found in the second floor. Within is a wall closet and another smaller closet set in the stone floor. This is more a vaulted chamber of 6 ft by 3 ft and 6 ft high and this cell is accessed by a hatch that measures 15 by 12 inches. It is known as the Laird's Lug.

Laird's Lug

The Laird's Lug is hidden in the Great Hall. This was thought by James Skene of Rubislaw to be an eavesdropping device also known as the listening chamber. This feature is thought to have allowed the Laird to hide and listen into private conversations. Though some think it has been romanticised by authors and is merely a repository for charters, family papers and valuable pieces. Whatever is believed it should be said that conversations, even whispered, from the Great Hall can be heard perfectly from the stone seat. Sir Walter Scott wrote about a Laird's Lug in his 1822 novel The Fortunes of Nigel. Though it was called a Dionysius Ear and was housed in the Tower of London and used by King James VI. Though the King found it uncomfortable to sit in the ear for an hour and developed a sore back. The King ordered it to be built up.

By coincidence there is a built up doorway in the Great Hall at the North wall. This arched recess houses an iron chest which is called the Jamie Fleeman's Kist which translates to a James Fleming Chest. This historic piece of furniture is thought to have contained the dowry and trousseau of Ann Udny of Udny. In the 18th Century she married Charles Fraser of Inverallochy who was nicknamed Auld Inverallochy.


Inverurie Castle


Portraits

Portraits include the first Lord, Andrew, and his wife. It is not known if this is his first or second wife. The military portrait over the fireplace is that of Major General Alexander Mackenzie Fraser. He died in 1809 and never became a Laird though his son, Col Charles Mackenzie did after his great aunt Elyza died in 1814. The portrait on the South wall is the Major's brother in law Francis Humberston Mackenzie the Lord Seaforth and Baron Kintail. The Brahan Seer had predicted that this last male of the Seaforths would see his sons die before him and that he would become deaf and dumb. The predication came true because he became deaf when a youngster and his fourth son, William and MP for the County of Ross, died aged 23 years and this caused his father to become mute until his death six months later.

Dining Room

From the Great Hall is the Dining Room. It is located in the upper storey of the East wing. Visitors can see a Victorian table laid for dinner with the Seaforth family china, silverware and glassware. A Georgian bookcase houses the Chinese export service of the Ch'ien Lung period. This dates to 1736 to 1795. The mahogany hot cupboard would have been used to keep hot bricks upon iron trivets. Plates would have been kept upon the hot bricks to keep them warm. The sideboard holds a French mantel clock made around the year 1830 by Lopin and a 18th century looking glass. The ornamental candleholders, or girandoles, are also of this era. There is an Italian mirror above the fireplace. The shot at hat that saved the life of the Colonel mentioned earlier can be seen on the ebonised show table.

Portraits in the Dining Room include Colonel Charles Mackenzie and Jane Hay, his wife. There are also military portraits of the Duke of Wellington and General Sir Thomas Bradford who were the commanders of the Colonel in the Peninsular Wars. The Colonel had 14 children and General Bradford was the godfather to one child. The bust is Jane Mackenzie. The paper covered box was used by her to keep letters.

Other items include a hot water urn for serving tea and a wine cooler. Ice for the wine cooler would have been obtained from the icehouse that was in the grounds. There is a French gilt clock on the sideboard which dates to around 1830.

It was redecorated in 1977 by Mrs Michael Smiley.

The Smoking Room

From the Dining Room is the Smoking Room. In previous centuries it would have been the laird's private room. Original access was gained by a small door to the right of the Great Hall fireplace. This entrance also allowed the Laird passage to his bed chamber and family rooms. It is covered in peacock wallpaper and is sometimes called The Peacock Parlour. Furniture within includes a smoker's companion small birchwood stand which has a pipe rack. Regency pieces include a Rosewood centre table and a small work table. There is also an 18th Century walnut cabinet. The fire screen is embroidered and was there to put between the fire and any ladies to protect their complexion from the heat of fires.

Paintings include an oil painting and four watercolours by the Aberdeen artists James Giles RSA who lived in Woodside and a portrait of King Charles I.

The Green Room

Access is gained by climbing the stairs to the top. It has many well preserved Victorian features such as the carpet, curtains, wallpaper, bed hangings, furniture, cradle and Minton toilet set. There is another James Giles watercolour. It is of nearby Huntly. From the Green Room it is possible to access and the platform open air area. In good weather visitors can walk around this area and see some fantastic panoramic views around Aberdeenshire. For reasons of safety it may be closed during times of rain and high winds. It is haunted and more is written about the ghost further below.

The Pink Room

Another named after a colour is the Pink Room. This can be found on the fourth floor. It was redecorated in 1981. One feature is the 19th Century flat weave Scotch carpet which features modern loop pile copy.

The Worked Room

The Worked Room is accessed via a passage where there are portraits of King James VI and King James I. Other portraits are the sons of King James I who were Prince Henry Frederick and Charles I. The portrait of a man holding a book is George Buchanan who was the tutor of King James VI. There are also family portraits in this passage.

It was originally the Laird's bedchamber but renamed the Worked Room because of the 18th Century needlework bed hangings, curtains and seat furniture.

Above the fireplace hangs the portrait of Miss Elyza and she used this as a bedroom. She was born in 1734 and died in 1814. She did most of the needlework found in the Worked Room with the help of her friend and companion Miss Mary Bristow. The needlework has kept remarkably well preserved because they used vegetable dyes and the watered woollen fabric moreen. The copse to the South is named Miss Bristow's Wood in her honour. There is a granite monument in pyramid shape which bears the inscription:

Sacred to the memory of a friendship which subsisted forty years. Elyza Fraser erects this monument in the groves planted by her late lamented friend.

There is also a Latin inscription and it translates as:

Farewell. Alas, how much less is the society of others than the memory of thee.

Upon her death her heir Charles Mackenzie added an inscription in honour of his aunt.

Other portraits include a portrait of her sister Martha who married Colin Mackenzie of Kilcoy, an engraving of their second son General Alexander Mackenzie and James Byres of Tonley a friend of Miss Elyza.

The Regency breakfast table has a Chinese famille rose punchbowl.

Leaving the Worked Room brings visitors to the China Room that contains the collection of China pieces. This includes a collection of frog mugs which were donated to the NTS by Mrs Halvard Braekstad.

The next is a trophy room with collections of stuffed animals such as a falcon, deer antlers and heads. There are also many stuffed dogs which are thought to have been pets of Colonel Frederick Mackenzie.

Chapel

There are several rooms located in the Michael Tower. These are found on the second floor and are both vaulted. The smallest is thought to have been a private Chapel, Oratory or used for private prayer. It is located beneath the sculptured panel of the Arma Christi on the outside wall. There is an aumbry much like the Church would have used to keep the Holy Communion items and a 16th Century oak roundel. This is carved with the Agnus Dei, the Paschal Lamb. There is a hinged board on the floor that was thought to have led to a secret passage in the chimney and led to the Michael Kitchen.

There is a painting of the Virgin Mary and Child in the Chapel. The French armoire wardrobe is thought to originate from Normandy.

Priest's Room

A larger room to the West is thought to have been a Priest's Room. Some historians think it may have been used as an office by the Bailiff. He would have overseen the running of the estate, paid workers in the office and kept his records in this small room. A feature is a peephole that looks down to the Great Hall. This had been covered over for many years but was uncovered in 1940 during renovation work. Calculations written on a wall by 17th Century workmen were uncovered at the same time. Furniture include two stools from the Stuart era, a Flemish cabinet and a Jacobean oak table.

The ceiling boss has three fraizes or strawberries which are the emblem of the family. They also have the initials of MF.

Library

The Library was created from two existing rooms. It was designed by John Smith an architect in Aberdeen who was nicknamed Tudor Johnnie. The bookcases date back to 1839 and the wallpaper is original from the same year. The Persian carpet is from the region of Herat.

When the National Trust for Scotland took ownership they discovered some 18th and 19th century printed music sheets. The NTS organise concerts using this music in the Great Hall.

There is a cast iron stove in the Library. Above it is a portrait of a young Charles Mackenzie painted by Henry Raeburn. This painting was donated to the National Trust for Scotland by Mr D S Bowser.

The longcase clock was made by Thomas Stone of London. The two lead balls that hit Colonel Charles Mackenzie at the battle for Burgos are on display and his wooden leg can be seen in the wall cupboard.

The games table is for playing the 18th century game Trou Madame.


The history can be traced back to when the land was intended as an estate for the Frasers of Muchall-in-Mar. Those of Frizels came from the Anjou province in France hence why their emblem is a Freze strawberry shape. It is thought that they came to Britain with Henry II of England in the late 12th Century though their surname was spelt Frasier. In time they moved to the North of England before moving to the Borders of Scotland and then the Lothians. By the 13th Century the family had an estate in Cornton in Stirlingshire.

The earliest recorded trace of the family in Aberdeenshire was in 1366 when Thomas Fraser of Cornton received a charter from William de Keith of the lands of Kinmundy. In time the family spread throughout Aberdeenshire with distinct families in Cowie, Durris and Philforth. There were also those in the Highlands at Lovat in Inverness-shire.

He was a descendant of the first Thomas, resigned the lands of Cornton. In return he received the lands of Muchall-in-Mar, Stoneywood and Kinmundy from King James II. The family prospered in Aberdeenshire and married into many leading families such as the Arbuthnotts of Arbuthnott, the Irvines of Drum, the Forbeses of Castle Forbes and Monymusk. For example Michael married Isobel Forbes.

Fraser Clan Motto

The clan motto is Je Suis Prest which translates from French to English as I am Ready.

The history is divided into two thoughts about the original building. Some think that I Bel designed and built the complete structure whilst others consider him to have built upon an original 15th Century tower and that the Michael Tower used to be a free standing building. It is thought that Thomas Leiper completed the building to the third storey from 1576 and was stopped in 1588 when Michael died. When his son, Andrew, came of age and married further work is thought to have brought the structure into a Z plan.

The second theory has some substance when the gunloops are compared to the gunloops of nearby Tolquhon which was designed by Thomas Leiper between the years 1587 to 1589.

The second Lord, also called Andrew, was opposed to the Laud's Liturgy prayerbook in 1637 and in 1638 he publicly supported the Covenant and their pledge to maintain the Presbyterian Church and Scotland's laws. On the 13 September 1644 the 2nd Lord led two cavalry charges against the Royalist right wing during the Battle of Aberdeen. He was also involved in the attacks upon Towie Barclay and Turriff. The Royalists took their revenge when Montrose rode here and burnt his corn fields and barns, though made no attempt to attack the building. This took place on the 18 October 1644.

The 3rd Lord was also named Andrew and he succeeded in 1656. He lived from 1619 to 1674 and had two wives from important Highland families. These were Katherine the daughter of Lord Lovat and Lady Jean Mackenzie who was the daughter of the Earl of Seaforth. Lady Jean played an important part in the history when her husband had agreed to sell it to John Mour of Kermuck because the Lord had gotten into financial problems. Instead Lady Moir persuaded John Moir to buy the other family estate at Stoneywood and so the building and Barony was saved. As a mark of thanks Lady Jean presented John Moir with a five guinea gold piece. John Moir kept this and it remained in his family as a talisman.

In 1682 the estate was disponed to the Earl of Mar because of debt and then again the year after to John Keirie of Gogar. Fortunately the Lord was able to stay. John Keirie died on 1703 and tried to buy back the lease of the estate. This was broken in 1712 when the Earl of Mar did not receive his money and disponed the estate to William of Inverallochy.

The 4th Lord was the last Lord and when he inherited it in 1683 the family fortunes were in decline. The same year he married Lady Marjorie Erskine who was the first daughter of the 7th Earl of Buchan. He was a Jacobite and he refused to attend Parliament and in 1690 after the Jacobite collapse he surrendered to Major General Mackay at Ayr. His son was dying and Lord Fraser was permitted to return home. Two years later he was in trouble again, this time for proclaiming the exiled King James VII and II at the Cross at Fraserburgh. He received a fine of £200. In 1695 he took the oath and supported the Act of Union in 1707 but came out for the Old Pretender in 1715. A year later he fell to his death at the cliffs of Pennan in the Aberdeenshire coast whilst a fugitive after the failure of The '15.

After his death it came into the ownership of William of Inverallochy. He died in 1721 and his son, Charles inherited. His nickname was Auld Inverallochy because he lived to an old age. He married Ann Udny. Her father was John Udny of Udny MP and her mother was Lady Martha whose father was the first Earl of Aberdeen.

Two of their children died in battle. Charles, the eldest son, died at Culloden in 1746. He had commanded the Regiment in support of the Young Pretender, Bonnie Prince Charlie (Prince Charles Edward Stuart). Charles survived the fighting on Culloden Moor but was wounded and found the next day by General Hawley. He ordered James Wolfe to kill Charles but he refused and an ordinary soldier killed Charles. Their other son, Simon, was to die at Quebec in 1759. By a fate in history he was under the command of General Wolfe.

Their remaining son, also called William, inherited when his father died and also the estate of Udny when his uncle died. He died in 1792.


Miss Elyza Fraser

William and Ann also had two daughters. So when the son William died his sister Martha inherited the estates of Inverallochy and his other sister, Miss Elyza, inherited. She remained unmarried and died aged 80 years in 1814. The arms of Miss Elyza can be seen on the south wall and dates to 1795. Building work initiated by her includes the door on the south front and enlarging the west window of the Great Hall to improve the view. She also improved the gardens and employed the landscape gardener Thomas White to work on the estate. He planted irregular rings and clumps of trees and the now familiar curved drive that leads to the South front. He also built a dam in the burn to produce an S curved ornamental lake.

She had arranged for her nephew, General Alexander Mackenzie to inherit and the estates upon her death but he died in 1809. She refused her sister's son, Charles Frederick, his inheritance because he gave her a bulldog rather than respecting her wishes for a lapdog which is why Alexander was to have been her intended heir.



When she died in 1814 the estates were inherited by Colonel Charles Mackenzie. The mausoleum to Miss Elyza is in Cluny Churchyard and was considered the finest classical tomb in the North of Scotland. James Byres of Tonley who was a close friend designed her mausoleum. They were childhood friends and met in adulthood in Rome where she had been sent to avoid any family scandal because she had an infatuation about her uncle the Laird of Udny. She left James Byres a fine snuffbox, her carriage and best pair of horses in her will.


Colonel Charles Mackenzie Fraser

Between the years 1818 and 1840 Colonel Charles Mackenzie and his wife Jane made the alterations which can still be seen to modern day visitors. This included decorating so that much of the 17th and 18th century decor was lost. A grand staircase was built and passages added to the two wings though these were removed in 1950 after the lead from the roof was stolen. He suspected that many of the treasures had been stolen and plundered during the last years of his aunt's life. She was bed ridden for about eight years and when he inherited there were many empty picture frames in the lower floors.

He and Jane were married in 1817. She was the daughter of Sir John Hay. Charles' father was Lieutenant General Alexander Mackenzie who died from Walcheren fever in 1809. His mother died at a young age and because his father was often away on military campaigns young Charles was brought up with his Aunt, Lady Gibbs, at Hayes in Kent. Her husband was Sir Vicary Gibbs who was an Attorney General and then a Lord Chief Justice.

Charles and Jane had 14 children but sadly only 3 outlived them. These were Eleanor Jane who in 1855 married the first Bishop of Gibraltar. They had three children but sadly Eleanor died at the age of 34 years when her third child was only five months old. Their other surviving daughter was Augusta Charlotte. She had five children after her marriage to Robert Drummond of Drummond's Bank in Charing Cross, London, England. Their son was Frederick who married Lady Blanche Drummond after the death of both parents. Lady Drummond was the daughter of the Earl of Perth and she died two years after their marriage. Her wedding dress is on display along with an umbrella with an inscribed handle that reads Thou shalt not steal. Frederick Mackenzie then married Theodora Lovett Darby of Leap, Ireland.

Frederick did not father any children so when Colonel Frederick died in 1897 it was passed onto Thomas Croft at the age of seven. He was the grandson of Eleanor Jane and the Bishop and went on to become the Privy Chamberlain to the Pope and Master of Ceremonies at St Peter's. He died in 1956.

The rocking horse that they purchased for their children is still in the nursery. The bridle, saddle and stirrups are remarkably well preserved. Amongst the papers historians found a receipt for the rocking horse which cost £2 14s.

They installed an organ in the Great Hall which unfortunately meant that the lower portion of the Laird's Lug was destroyed. This organ was removed over a century later in 1938 and donated to St Anne's Episcopal Church in Kemnay.

Other building work by Colonel Charles Mackenzie including adding a cupola lit double staircase which led to the Great Hall, a gun room and a game larder. He also made a library on the fourth floor from two of the rooms.

He often left the area and Jane to go on business. She would write to him and this collection of letters survived though no replies from Charles are within the collection. She was affectionately called Janey by her husband.

The author Lavinia Smiley wrote about their life here in her booklet Life at Castle Fraser 150 years ago which was first published in 1978. The cover has a beautiful pencil drawing illustration by James Giles in 1829. Her account includes the servants employed with details of their wages and household purchases. Other information include the births and deaths of their children and extracts from family letters. Lavinia Smiley was the daughter of Major and Mrs Michael Smiley and granddaughter of the Hon Clive Pearson (more info below). In 1998 she published another book called The Frasers of Castle Fraser Scotland. She was able to use letters and papers left by the second wife of Colonel Frederick Mackenzie when the buildings and furnishings were sold to the first 1st Viscount Cowdray before his widow moved to England.


The seventh son of Charles and Jane was Frederick Mackenzie who was born in 1831. He was said to be a strict master and would sack any maids caught dusting in his presence. He had installed the servants bells that can still be seen in the tearoom which were the big kitchens. He died with no heir in 1897. There is a memorial stone in the woods which reads:

Frederick Mackenzie Fraser of the Castle Fraser and Inverallochy the last of his race to live and die in this his ancient stronghold on these lands who passed away May 19 1897 aged 66 and was laid to rest at Cluny. On the back Theodora, his second wife, added the inscription Farewell ye hills and dales - Farewell.

His first wife was Lady Blanche Drummond who died in 1874 (her ghost is said to haunt here) and he was survived by his second wife Theodora Lovett Darby. Theodora Mackenzie erected a plaque to his memory under the Miss Elyza window in the West gable. It reads FINIS.

The last male descendant in the line of the family was Colonel Frederick Mackenzie.

In 1922 it was purchased by the 1st Viscount Cowdray at auction and given to his second son the Honourable Clive Pearson. The Cowdray family earnt their fortunes from engineering round the world and took an interest in restoring old and historic Scottish buildings. The Hon. Clive Pearson employed Doctor William Kelly, an Aberdeen architect and antiquary, to undertake restoration work and this took place between 1938 and 1941. This included repairing crumbling plaster, leaks to the roofs and rotting woodwork as well as restoring many of the original features. They were given advice by the last housekeeper of the family, by then an aged lady.

Further restoration work continued between 1946 and 1955 when it was given to Lavinia, the daughter of the Hon. Clive Pearson. Her husband was Major Michael Smiley.



Castle Fraser Aberdeenshire


It was given to the National Trust for Scotland in May 1976 by Major and Mrs Michael Smiley along with an endowment and 26 acres of surrounding parkland. Mrs Smiley also donated a personal gift of the redecoration of the dining room. The NTS constructed an access road and car park and opened it to the public in September 1977 with the financial assistance of the Scottish Tourist Board.

In 1993 the NTS were able to purchase 320 acres of the surrounding land and develop the area for visitors.



In the China Room is a collection of China which was donated to the National Trust for Scotland by Constance, Lady Liverpool and Mrs Halvard Braekstad.


Contact Details

Sauchen
Inverurie
Aberdeenshire
AB51 7LD


Tel: +44 (0)1330 833463


The opening times can be found at the National Trust for Scotland website at
www.nts.org.uk


Do consider buying the quality guide book. It contains much of the history and some professional photos and images of the inside as well as some stunning pictures of the outside. The guide book also contains the family tree.



The Tearoom is open the same dates as the building. Like most National Trust for Scotland tearooms it is a set menu with items such as homemade soup of the day, homemade cakes, drinks, sandwiches and baguettes. However it also has a special hot meal of the day for under £5. The day we visited we were lucky enough to enjoy haggis, neeps and tatties, served with oatcakes and beetroot.



The garden is open year round, daily from 9:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. It's a pleasant walk around the enclosed gardens - I was very envious of their huge vegetable patch where the skilled gardeners grew an impressive array of vegetables. Some of these can be purchased on the way out and money is placed in an honesty box. There is also a super year round display of fruits and flowers and some stunning seasonal borders.

The south facing walled garden was the creation of Colonel Charles Mackenzie and when the National Trust for Scotland became the owners in 1977 they brought the garden back to look how it would have done in his time. To mark the NTS owning it some Golden Jubilee roses were bred by James Cocker and Sons of Aberdeen. They were descendants of the 19th century gardener.

Grounds are open all year round, daily from 9:30 a.m. to sunset. There are some breathtaking views and it's a pleasant walk, we took our dog along and there is a swing area for wee loafers.


Entry is fee to National Trust Members - We bought a year's family pass (2 adults and 2 children or grand-children) and has free admission to National English Trust properties added - well worth it if you intend to visit over two properties.
Adult, Concession, Adult group, Child or School group and Family ticket prices can be found at their website.


It is a magnificent and well-preserved Scottish baronial tower building made from the local granite. It's often called a "Z" castle due to the floor plan resembling this shape. The drive in commands a super with it's well preserved towers and is a real joy to behold and a glimpse of treasures to come. It was built in 1575 and previous family members added onto the original structure. As you enter (called the Laigh Hall - meaning low) you can see the original servants staircase to the left, which was demolished during the Second World War. The Entrance Hall has a display of weaponry and serves as the payment area.

This then leads through to the base where the original kitchen still has an impressive open fire and tools for cooking and baking.



Laird's Lug

Up the stairs leads to The Great Hall where there is an impressive sixteenth century fireplace and the famous "Laird's Lug". This was a strong room or prison cell until Sir Walter Scott romanticised it into a hidey hole where the Laird's trusted servants would hide and listen into private conversations and plots against the Laird and report them back to him!

This and the adjoining Dining Room display various family furniture and portraits, some of which are Raeburn's.


Smoking Room

The Smoking Room is remarkably well preserved with early nineteenth century wallpaper of peacock design that earned it the nickname of "Peacock Parlour".


Tower

Up some more dizzy inducing stairs leads to the bedrooms - named Green and Pink - before another set of stairs lead to the rooms and the tower. If you've a head for heights, it's well worth popping out for the breath-taking views across Deeside.


Castle Tower



Priest's Room

Working your way back to ground level will take you to The Worked Room/The Laird's bedroom and then The Chapel with a wee adjacent Bailiff's or Priest's Room which has a wee squint hole for spying on The Great hall below!


The original name for this building in Kemnay, near Inverurie was Muchall-in-Mar and the building work was completed in 1636. There is a mark on a panel on the northern side which is signed "I Bel". This is thought to be the mark of the master mason made during the construction. It was built on the lands of Muchall and retained the name Muchall in Mar until changed in 1695.


Legend has it that a Princess was murdered in The Green Room, and then her body was dragged down the stairs. Whilst there is no actual ghostie - bloodstains appear on the hearth and the stairs - and are scrubbed away - only to reappear again...
No Scottish Castle tour is complete without a Ghost Story and here is no exception!
There has also been ghostly piano music and voices heard in the empty hall.
Witnesses have seen the ghost of Lady Blanche Drummond who died in 1874. She appears in a long black gown.


LOOK OUT FOR...

Hunting for the wooden leg kept our wee loafers interest, as did searching for the stuffed dogs!


Book A Balloon Flight over it.


Directions - it can be found along the A944 from Aberdeen and is easily sign posted.






The following events take place:


Each year there is a steam engine and vintage vehicle fair in the grounds. Entertainment includes Celebration Singers from Pinehurst North Carolina, America and the Strawberry Hill Fiddlers from New York, USA and the Scottish Fochabers Fiddlers who with the Bellie Church have hosted the entertainers. Together they brought a musical blend of guitar, fiddles, percussion and keyboard music.

There was over 28 steam engines and over 200 classic cars and vehicles which included tractors, fairground organs, stationary engines, commercial vehicles, motor bikes, steam saw mill, steam lorry and working exhibits. During the annual fair there are stalls, kids rides, models, children's entertainment, terrier racing, dog and duck show, traditional Scottish music, the Kintore Pipe Band, special children's activity area, Royal Navy display unit and food and drink.

It is organised by the Bon Accord Steam Engine Club and sponsored by EventScotland.



Another popular event is the annual two day jousting tournament. Ii often features the Knights of the Damned. Other events during this weekend event are re-enactments by local groups, bird of prey displays such as falconry, sword fight displays and fireball demonstrations.



It often hosts Highland Games in the grounds. For example there was mini Highland Games for primary 1 and 2 school children. These included putting the stone, tossing the caber, tug o’ war and a cross country run.



The Festival Players Theatre Company often perform plays and past performances have included the Shakespeare romantic comedy As You Like It. It was part of their UK tour where they performed at 60 venues.



The Noddy Tour came as part of their summer tour. Children could come and see Noddy, Big ears and his Toyland friends and take part in singalongs, games, parades and other activities. Children could also have a professional photograph taken with the Noddy car or have their parents take their own photograph. Other activities included puppet show, colouring competitions, music workshops, a fun zone, soft play area and magic show. Kids who came dressed as their favourite Toyland character could win a prize.


In December 2006 it was visited by three camels who took part in a Christmas star pilgrimage procession. This festive pageant was a recreation of the Nativity scene and the trio of camels carried the wise men to the stable where baby Jesus was born. The courtyard had been transformed to look like the stable where the Virgin Mary gave birth to Jesus with Joseph by their side. Other members of the cast were dressed as a sheep and donkey and watched over the crib.



A popular event during the summer is the walks. Each is organised and run by one of the staff. For example the head gardener will often take an organiser stroll around the walled garden and visitors can learn from the experts.



Bat Watch

They host a bat watch event run by the National Trust for Scotland Rangers. Participants get a spot of supper then join the NTS Rangers to walk around the grounds as the bats emerge.



Carol Concerts

Carol Concerts are often held each Christmas. Each night the money raised is donated to the NTS. The performers include the Aberdeen Orpheus Choir on the opening night and the last night. The Inverurie Choral Society, City of Roses and the Granite City Chorus also perform.



The Queen

In the film The Queen which starred Helen Mirren she played Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. There was a stag that she saved from being shot by the Royal Family hunting party but then the stag was shot by another hunting party on a neighbouring estate to Balmoral. One scene showed her going to the neighbouring estate to see the body of the stag with the ghillie. Borntoloaf think this part was filmed here.



Tartan Shorts

The Tartan Shorts road races take place here. These are two Tartan Shorts road races. The first event organised by Run 4 It is for children and is a 2.5km race that takes place at 10:30am. This is followed by the adults race which is 5 kilometres and starts at 11am.






Most Haunted

Most Haunted, the television ghost hunting programme, came here in Spring 2009 and filmed overnight for Living TV. This included Most Haunted presenter Yvette Fielding and her colleague Ciaran O'Keeffe.



A ghost hunt and walk takes place from 8pm to 2am on certain dates. This most haunted type ghost hunt event hopes that the ghost of the princess can be contacted.

During this there will be an introduction from the North West Spirit Seekers paranormal team and medium, the ghost walk with their medium, a demonstration of their equipment and a medium workshop. Then participants can make full use of the paranormal equipment throughout the night and have the opportunity to be involved in seances and other paranormal experiments. For more information or to book a place please visit. www.northwestspiritseekers.co.uk



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