Crathes Castle was built as a castle to stay in rather than defend and remains intact today

Picture the quintessential Scottish castle – think turrets and towers set in beautiful woodlands – and the chances are that Crathes Castle fits the bill.

Set on the north side of the Dee Valley and just 12 miles from the city of Aberdeen, Crathes ranks among one of the best preserved and most authentic Scottish castles of them all.

Add to this amazing interiors, magnificent gardens and great play parks for the kids and you’ve got a great day out.

Read on to discover why Crathes Castle should be on your must-visit list next time you take a holiday in Scotland. 

Crathes Castle history

Crathes Castle’s history lies entwined with the Burnett family. Their first link with the castle appears on the scene in 1323 when Robert the Bruce gifted them the land (almost 600 acres), but it wasn’t until over two centuries later that their descendants built a castle. Alexander Burnett laid the first stones in the late 16th century and work finished in 1594.

Like so many Scottish castles, Crathes takes the typical tower house structure. The square building rises up to six storeys and comes topped with a riot of turrets, towers and corbels. The castle looks its finest at first and last light when the harled façades glow pink or yellow.

Unlike lots of castles in Scotland, Crathes has had a peaceful history. Its purpose was never defensive and the castle has managed to stay intact, practically in its original form. Its principle use was castle accommodation in Scotland and the Burnett family lived at Crathes for over 350 years. In 1951, they bequeathed the castle and grounds to the National Trust for Scotland.

Crathes Castle fast fact:

In true Scottish style, Crathes comes with a ghost staying in a castle. The Green Lady, carrying a baby in her arms, makes the occasional appearance in her room and was reportedly first spotted by Queen Victoria. Who the Green Lady is remains a mystery, although workmen carrying out refurbishments in the 19th century claimed to have found the skeletons of a woman and child underneath the hearth… 

Highlights at Crathes Castle

This Scottish Castle certainly packs in the treats, both inside and out. What’s more, there’s something for everyone, young and old. Don’t miss the following must-sees at Crathes:

Painted ceilings – the Renaissance illustrations are among the finest you’ll see anywhere and offer a feast of colour and design. See the best in the Nine Worthies Room, the Green Lady’s Room and the Muses Room. 

Long Gallery – at top of the castle and with a stunning wood-panelled ceiling, the long room also houses the Charter of Nova Scotia dating back to 1626.

The four-poster bed – taking pride of place in the Laird’s bedroom, this 1594 original surely provided one of the ultimate castle stays in Scotland!

Horn of Leys – sitting over the fireplace in the Great Hall, this ornate ivory horn was given to the Burnett family by Robert the Bruce. 

Walled Garden – designed in the Arts and Crafts style of the early 20th century, the gardens contain eight distinct areas including a greenhouse with Malmaison carnations, herbaceous borders and fountains. 

Yew sculptures – several magnificent topiary yews dominate the grounds where they have been standing proud since 1702. 

Crathes Castle fast fact:

The June Border on display in the Walled Garden offers a stunning spectacle of colour and scent when the herbaceous flowers come into their own in early summer. Many horticultural lovers rate it on a par with the gardens at Sissinghurst in Kent. 

Why visit Crathes Castle

Your first reason to visit Crathes is because it offers possibly the ultimate castle experience. Few other castles in Scotland combine a picture-perfect façade with such authentic interiors. The rooms offer a succession of delights from portraits and tapestries to wooden panels and painted ceilings. Original features include the spiral staircases and the yett, latticed in iron bars and guarding the main entrance. 

You’ll also love Crathes for the grounds. Set against a backdrop of pretty woodlands and rolling hills, this is rural Scotland at its best. Some six nature trails crisscross the grounds and take you through woods, by streams and across pasture. For a more ordered display, the Walled Garden is unique in Scotland and ranks among the best in the UK. 

Children will be begging for a return visit to Crathes Castle once they discover the Wild Wood and Go Ape tree-top adventure. Suitable for all ages and offering a true adrenalin rush, the two play parks have zip lines, high-level walkways, Tarzan swings and daring crossings. You may never be able to leave! 

Crathes Castle fast fact:

The best view of the Walled Gardens and its borders, fountains and features comes from the terrace. Take a seat here and admire the eight sections spreading before you. 

Visitor information

Unlike some Scottish castles, Crathes opens all year round. Visiting hours (guided tours only) are between 11am and 4pm except from April to October when they extend from 10.30am to 5pm. Find out more about planning your visit to Crathes Castle here.

Crathes Castle fast fact:

The Castle provides a handy stop-off on the stunning Deeside Tourist Route, a Scottish road trip that runs from Perth to Aberdeen. Find out more here.

Staying in a castle near Crathes

After getting a taste for living like Lairds and Ladies, you might fancy a stay in a castle of your own.

This magnificent Victorian castle, just down the road from Crathes, has it all. Fine façades complete with those fairy tale turrets and towers, a Great Hall, historic paintings and décor for all 26 of you.

Your castle accommodation comes complete with dinner with the Laird while your whole stay is fully staffed and catered. Add to this 3,000 acres of simply stunning scenery on the estate that looks over to Lochanagar, the hill at the centre of Balmoral Castle, and you’ve got yourselves a right royal holiday! Book yours now.

Read more in our Scottish Castles series:
1. Dunnottar Castle
2. Stirling Castle
3. Eilean Donan Castle
4. Urquhart Castle
5. Culzean Castle
6. Balmoral Castle
7. Glamis Castle
8. Floors Castle
9. 7 reasons to visit Stirling
10. Castles in Scotland – all you need to know
11. 14 Scottish castles with Royal connections
12. Fascinating facts about royal castles

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Picture the quintessential Scottish castle – think turrets and towers set in beautiful woodlands – and the chances are that Crathes Castle fits the bill.