Historic Houses of Aberdeenshire
Aberdeenshire is dotted with historic houses and castles, many of them outstanding examples of Scots Baronial architecture. Each one has a fascinating story to tell with countless legends and several royal connections.
Our tour starts with a bang at Drum Castle, where 700 years of history is woven into its battlements. Haddo House showcases the crisp neo-classical style of William Adam, while Fyvie Castle presents a prime example of the more extravagant Scots Baronial form. Castle Fraser is the most elaborate Z-plan castle in Scotland, while Craigievar seems simply to have grown naturally out of the rolling hills. The Queen’s late summer residence of Balmoral Castle is the most modern property we visit, though no less fascinating, and we conclude at glorious Crathes Castle, every inch the classic Scottish tower house.
Please note: several of the properties included in this tour are owned by the National Trust for Scotland and as many of our guests are NT/NTS members, we have not included admission costs for these properties. There is therefore a supplement of £100.00 for non-members.
Travel by luxury coach from our regular Scottish pick-ups is included, featuring:
- Luxury leather seats with 3-point seat belts and arm rests, facing illuminated tables
- Air conditioning/heating
- Curtains and privacy glass
- Air suspension
We depart by coach from our local pick-up points and head north stopping en route for lunch (not included).
In the afternoon we visit the Drum Castle and Gardens. The sweep of 700 years of history is stamped into Drum’s stalwart battlements, medieval square tower and sprawling extensions. The Royal Forest and Tower of Drum were given to the Irvine family by Robert the Bruce in 1323. Later a Jacobean mansion house was added, and in the Victorian era the lower hall was converted to a library.
The beautiful Garden of Historic Roses is divided into quadrants that show how roses have been cultivated from the 17th to the 20th century. The ancient oak forest adjoins the castle, providing a sense of continuity through the centuries and a home for red kites, roe deer, red squirrels and badgers.
Following our visit we continue to Inverurie where accommodation has been arranged at the 4-star Mercure Aberdeen Ardoe House Hotel. Converted from a 19th-century mansion house in Baronial style and set in 30 acres of countryside, the hotel has full leisure facilities including swimming pool.
Dinner will be served in the evening, in the hotel’s restaurant.
After breakfast we will set off for our first visit of the day to Haddo House, which was designed by William Adam for the 2nd Earl of Aberdeen in 1732, and refurbished in the 1880s. Unusual for Aberdeenshire in that it is not a castle, the house elegantly blends crisp Georgian architecture with sumptuous late Victorian interiors by Wright and Mansfield and is noted for its fine furniture, paintings and antiques. Throughout the house personal portraits, monuments, plaques and memorabilia build up a fascinating account of the Gordon family who have lived at Haddo continuously for over 400 years. Paintings include works by Pompeo Batoni, William Mosman, Sir Thomas Lawrence and James Giles.
Haddo also boasts a delightful terrace garden with geometric rosebeds and fountain, commemorative trees, a lavish herbaceous border and secluded glades and knolls. A magnificent avenue of lime trees leads to Haddo Country Park with its lakes, monuments, walks and wildlife.
In the afternoon we visit Fyvie Castle. This magnificent fortress in the heart of Aberdeenshire is a prime example of Scots Baronial architecture, whose rooms are filled with antiquities, armour and lavish oil paintings. Ghosts, legends and folklore are all woven into the tapestry of Fyvie’s 800-year-old history. William the Lion was at Fyvie around 1214 and later Robert the Bruce and Charles I were among its royal guests. Guides are on hand to answer any questions.
Outside we find an 18th century walled garden developed as a garden of Scottish fruits and vegetables. There is also the American garden, Rhymer's Haugh woodland garden, a loch and parkland.
We return to our hotel, where dinner is served.
Following breakfast we begin today at Castle Fraser, one of the grandest of the Scottish baronial tower houses. Built between 1575 and 1636 by the 6th laird, Michael Fraser, Castle Fraser is the most elaborate Z-plan castle in Scotland. One of the castle’s most evocative rooms is the strikingly simple Great Hall. The castle contains many Fraser family portraits, including one by Raeburn, and fine 18th- and 19th-century carpets, curtains and bed hangings, and even Charles Mackenzie Fraser's wooden leg! The estate contains a flight pond, mixed woodland and open farmland, with two waymarked walks giving magnificent views of the local hills. The historic walled garden features shrubs, flowers, wall-trained fruit and vegetables. There is also a shop selling exclusive gifts.
We continue to Craigievar Castle, another fine example of Scots Baronial architecture, which seems to have grown naturally out of the rolling hills. The great tower stands just as it did when completed in 1626 and the castle is home to a fine collection of family portraits and original plaster ceilings. There is also much original Jacobean woodwork and some beautiful furniture, including the 'Craigievar table'. Surrounding the castle are extensive parkland grounds with two waymarked walks. There is also a small Victorian kitchen garden and a Scottish glen garden.
Our final visit takes us to Royal Deeside and Balmoral Castle. Built around 1854 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert the image of the castle is recognised world-wide. Though relatively modern it is clearly in the style of a 'Scottish' castle. It is a private home of the Royal family and each autumn the family spend up to two months holidaying there.
We return to our hotel, where dinner is served in the evening.
After breakfast this morning, we depart for Crathes Castle. Standing against a backdrop of rolling hills Crathes Castle is every inch the classic Scottish tower house. Inside there is a labyrinth of cultural history, from family portraits and fine antique furniture to painted ceilings. Of additional interest is the 1½ acre walled garden, which incorporates herbaceous borders and many unusual plants, providing a wonderful display. On the estate there are seven marked trails that lead through the mixed woodlands, along the Coy Burn and past the millpond.
After our visit we will resume our journey back to our original pick-up points.
- Brightwater Tour Manager
- Local Travel - Private a/c coach
- Meals - All meals included with water (wine with dinners)
- Entries & Tips - Entry to all sites in program; tips included
- Hotels - Accommodation in hand-picked hotels.