Skene House in Aberdeen is an ideal base for exploring the castles of the city and the shire. Head north, south or west for historic adventures and tales of Earls, Queens and Jacobites. No other part of the UK has so many castles per square mile as Aberdeenshire, so we’ve rounded up 20 (that’s right, 20!!) for your delectation. Our 24 hour reception staff will happily assist with any directions, queries or travel logistics, so become king of the castle, with Skene House.
West of Skene House
1 Crathes Castle, near Banchory – Imagine a life of luxury at Crathes Castle. We’re talking a 16th-century tower house, with an intricate maze of turrets, towers, oak panels and painted ceilings, and a refreshing Walled Garden too. The National Trust for Scotland now take care of this prestigious property. nts.org.uk – 29 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
2 Drum Castle, near Banchory – This Jacobean mansion house has it all. Climb through history to reach the top of a 700 year old tower, enter the grand library and consider 4,000 volumes, some dating back to the 1500s. Take a break in the tearoom, explore the gardens, and let children run wild in the wonderful outdoor-inspired natural playpark. Another National Trust for Scotland gem. nts.org.uk – 32 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
3 Craigievar Castle, near Alford – This stunning pink creation is like something out of a fairytale. So much so, it’s said to have inspired Walt Disney’s iconic blush castle. Make your dreams come true with the National Trust for Scotland. nts.org.uk – 48 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
4 Balmoral Castle, near Braemar – The jewel in the crown, the dear Highland paradise of Queen Victoria, is Balmoral Castle. Still the summer residence of the current royal family and HRH Queen Elizabeth II, the estate is open to visitors throughout the summer season, until the royals visit in August. Guests can stroll in the grounds, learn more about the estate in the courtyard and stable block, and visit the castle’s Grand Ballroom where the prestigious Ghillies’ Ball is held to this day. balmoralcastle.com – 1 hr 15 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
5 Corgarff Castle, Strathdon – Corgarff sums up the drama of Scottish history. Originally a noble residence, Corgarff became an army base for hunting down Jacobite sympathisers and, later, whisky smugglers. Now it’s a far more chilled destination, and guests are welcomed by Historic Scotland. Its star shaped boundary wall is another eye-catching detail. historicenvironment.scot – 1 hr 20 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
6 Braemar Castle, Braemar – Once upon a time this was the seat of Clan Farquharson, today the castle stands out as it’s community owned and run. At one point it was host to Queen Victoria and the site of the Braemar Highland Games, now it’s open to visitors throughout the summer season and holds a mix of colourful events and open days. braemarcastle.co.uk – 1 hr 25 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
On the Coastal Route, heading North of Skene House
7 Slains Castle, near Peterhead – A sublime ruin situated on a cliff top above the powerful North Sea. So atmospheric in fact, it’s said to have inspired Bram Stoker’s Dracula. 50 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
8 Kinnaird Head Castle, Fraserburgh – If you fancy a castle with a truly transformative story then Kinnaird was converted into Scotland’s first mainland lighthouse after it was sold to the Northern Lighthouse Board in 1787. Now the site of the Scottish Lighthouse Museum, it’s possible to visit the old castle and see how it was reworked into a navigation tool for sailors of the high seas. lighthousemuseum.org.uk – 1 hr 13 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
9 Findlater Castle, near Cullen – Two miles east of Cullen sits Findlater Castle. It’s rich in history: in the 16th century it was in the Gordon family who rose in rebellion against Mary Queen of Scots in 1562. The castle was overrun by the Queen’s forces, and Mary defeated the Gordons at the Battle of Corrichie, near Aberdeen. Today the castle is a dangerous ruin, and perhaps best appreciated from a distance. findlater.org.uk/Castle.htm – 1 hr 30 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
10 Spynie Palace, near Elgin – Known as the largest surviving medieval bishop’s house in Scotland, it was residence of the bishops of Moray for 500 years. Take in the impressive David’s Tower (the largest tower house by volume to survive in Scotland) and try to find the coats of arms of the three bishops who inspired this historic building. A Historic Scotland property. historicenvironment.scot – 1 hr 40 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
North West of Skene House
11 Castle Fraser, near Dunecht – Run by the National Trust for Scotland, Castle Fraser features a grand Great Hall, a relaxing walled garden, extensive woodland walks, and a tearoom, giftshop and children’s adventure playground. Quirky features, such as secret staircases, hidden trapdoors and a spy hole, add to the intrigue.nts.org.uk – 32 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
12 Tolquhon Castle, Tarves – This elegant castle is the work of Sir William Forbes, 7th Lord of Tolquhon, and architect Thomas Leiper. Its indulgent decorations include carved human figures on the twin-towered gatehouse, two of which are thought to be Sir William and his wife Lady Elizabeth. An intricate memorial, the Tarves Tomb, was also created for the lord and his lady in the parish church in nearby Tarves village. Today visitors are welcomed by Historic Scotland. historicenvironment.scot – 36 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
13 Dunnideer Castle, Insch – Little remains of Dunnideer but its weather-beaten rectangular tower dates back to the 13th century, and may even be the earliest tower-house on the Scottish mainland. canmore.org.uk/site/18128/dunnideer – 52 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
14 Kildrummy Castle, near Alford – Once the seat of the mighty Earls of Mar, Kildrummy is now a noble ruin. This 13th century castle is now under the stewardship of Historic Scotland. historicenvironment.scot – 53 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
15 Fyvie Castle, near Turriff – A castle with a history dating back 800 years. Indoors, revel in history and ghost stories, and appreciate one of the largest private collections of Raeburns in the world. Outdoors, take in the loch, glass-roofed racquet court and ice house. Guests included Robert the Bruce and Charles I, but now it’s under the stewardship of the National Trust for Scotland we can all visit this grand property. nts.org.uk – 54 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
16 Huntly Castle – Visit one of Scotland’s most impressive late medieval buildings, and admire the handiwork of the 1st Marquis of Huntly, including a heraldic ‘frontispiece’ over the main door, a double height oriel window, an impressive round tower and a rectangular turret. Today, Huntly Castle is managed by Historic Scotland. historicenvironment.scot – 60 minute drive from the Skene House properties
17 Delgatie Castle, near Turriff – Delgatie hosted Mary Queen of Scots after the battle of Corriche in 1562, but on the whole this castle has experienced relative continuity as it’s been mostly in the Hay family since it was taken from the Earls of Buchan after the battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Today its Lairds’ Kitchen and tearoom is the place to pick up excellent baking and enjoy a North East ‘fly cup’. delgatiecastle.com – 1 hr 5 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
18 Balvenie Castle, near Dufftown – Built in the 1200s by the influential Earls of Buchan, this stronghold was taken by Robert the Bruce in 1308, and transformed into a castle of sophistication in the 1500s. At this point James II granted Balvenie to his half-brother, the Earl of Atholl. Every year they paid the very unusual rent of a single red rose per annum. Discover more and visit this Historic Scotland site. historicenvironment.scot – 1 hr 18 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
South of Skene House
19 Dunnottar Castle, near Stonehaven – Atmospheric, ruinous Dunnottar Castle, is perched on a dramatic cliff top just outside Stonehaven, featuring incredible views some 160ft above the North Sea. Fought over by Wallace and Cromwell, it was the hiding place of the Crown Jewels (or the Honours of Scotland as they are known), and it’s well worth a visit. dunnottarcastle.co.uk – 25 minute drive from the Skene House properties.
Home from Home
20 Skene House, Aberdeen – The saying goes that every man’s home is his castle. At Skene House we pride ourselves on creating a home from home in our sophisticated suites. Each one, two or three bedroom suite comes complete with its own fully furnished kitchen and relaxing living room, as well as free, strong wifi, and ample, secure city centre parking (also free). We also boast architectural flair and history: Skene House Holburn is B-listed, and our church property (the annexe to Skene House Rosemount) was designed by an architect who apprenticed under Alexander Greek Thomson, who inspired the legendary Frank Lloyd Wright. The main block of Skene House Rosemount was designed by the architect who also designed the elegant Citadel in Aberdeen city centre. So return from a day of castle hunting to a fully serviced, immaculate, historic apartment. Make Skene House your home, and thereby make it your castle. Stay with Skene and be part of our Clan! skene-house.co.uk
Do bear in mind that Aberdeenshire is also renowned for a refined selection of country houses, stately homes and hunting lodges, but that’s a whole different blog post! Stay tuned, and watch this space.
At Skene House you’re the one in control. Your own place. Your own kitchen. Your own bathroom. Your own bedrooms. Your own front door. Your own apartment. Skene House offers the Suite Life in Scotland. For more information browse skene-house.co.uk, get in touch at +44 1224 659 392 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.