Scotland Road Trip - July 2018 - Day 3
Our list of castles to visit for the day was extensive! We packed a little extra bag with lunch, towels and swimming costumes (just in case) and set off. It was cold leaving the hotel, a sensation we hadn't felt in quite some weeks due to the heatwave.
Our first castle of the day was Castle Fraser (National Trust for Scotland). This is a castle I had seen in quite a few pictures and I was keen to see it in person. From the National Trust for Scotland website I understood only the gardens to be open, but when we arrived we discovered that the castle was too, so that was an added bonus. The walled garden is beautiful, and was in full bloom whilst we were there. And because we had arrived so early, we by and large had the place to ourselves.
Castle Fraser is a wonderfully homely castle, with a real warmth to it, despite being one of the largest tower houses in Scotland. It's filled with nooks and crannies, narrow passages, and a secret spy hole! And you are able to climb right to the top of the main tower and stand out on a balcony with amazing views across the grounds.
After Castle Fraser we drove to Craigievar Castle (National Trust for Scotland), which, painted pink, has a wonderful fairytale quality to it. You can only tour the castle as part of a guided tour, so we decided to forgo venturing inside in this instance, but I would love to go back, as part of the authentic experience of touring the castle, is there is no artificial lighting beyond the ground floor!
Our next stop after Craigievar was Kildrummy Castle (Historic Scotland), not to be confused with Kildrummy Gardens which we may have accidentally visited first, misunderstanding the road signs. The entrances to both are about 400 yards apart! The castle is a short walk up from the car park, through some scenic fields. Not much of the structure is left, but Historic Scotland have recently added some new signs, which describe some of the castles fascinating and tragic history!
After Kildrummy Castle, we visited Auchindoun Castle (Historic Scotland). This was my favourite moment of the day. The sun had come out, the roads were empty and increasingly more scenic as we neared Cairngorm National Park. Auchindoun Castle is up a narrow, unpaved track (at first we were unsure if we were even allowed to be driving up it, but the smallest car park awaited us at the top). About a 1km trail takes you to the castle, which you can see impressively framed by the mountains from the car park. It's looked after by Historic Scotland, but unpersoned. We didn't see another soul during our time there, and having carried our small picnic lunch with us, we ate it bathing in the sun, with castle ruins towering behind us, as we looked out over the mountains. It was a wonderful feeling and incredibly peaceful.
Despite the castle having a feeling a seclusion, it's not very far away from Balvenie Castle (Historic Scotland), which was our next stop. It's a ruin, although much of the main structure still stands. It's imposing and impressive.
Our final castle of the day was Huntly Castle (Historic Scotland). It's another castle that allows you to climb to the top! It's also a fantastic combination of traditional castle and French inspired Renaissance design, and within some of very impressive carved fireplaces still exist.
After a fantastic day of exploring we returned to Aberdeen exhausted, but excited for our final morning!