Crathes Castle (pronounced Crath-es) is a 16th-century castle near Banchory in the Aberdeenshire region of Scotland. This harled castle was built by the Burnetts of Leys and was held in that family for almost 500 years. The castle and grounds are owned and managed by the National Trust for Scotland and are open to the public.
Crathes sits on land given as a gift to the Burnett of Leys family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323. In the 14th and 15th century the Burnett of Leys built a fortress of timbers on an island they made in the middle of a nearby bog. This method of fortification, known as a crannog, was common in the Late Middle Ages. Construction of the current tower house of Crathes Castle was begun in 1553 but delayed several times during its construction due to political problems during the reign of Mary, Queen of Scots. It was completed in 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys, and an additional wing added in the 18th century. Alexander Burnett, who completed the construction of Crathes, began a new project, the early 17th-century reconstruction of nearby Muchalls Castle. That endeavour was completed by his son, Sir Thomas Burnett. Crathes Castle served as the ancestral seat of the Burnetts of Leys until given to the National Trust for Scotland by the 13th Baronet of Leys, Sir James Burnett in 1951. A fire damaged portions of the castle (in particular the Queen Anne wing) in 1966. Another historically important structure in this region linked to the Burnett of Leys family is Monboddo House.
The castle contains a significant collection of portraits, and intriguing original Scottish renaissance painted ceilings survive in several Jacobean rooms: the Chamber of the Muses, the Chamber of Nine Worthies and the Green Lady's Room. The castle estate contains 530 acres (2.1 km²) of woodlands and fields, including nearly four acres (16,000 m²) of walled garden. Within the walled garden are gravel paths with surrounding specimen plants mostly in herbaceous borders. Many of the plants are labelled with taxonomic descriptions. There is also a grass croquet court at a higher terraced level within the walled garden. Ancient topiary hedges of Irish yew dating from 1702 separate the gardens into eight themed areas. Crathes and its grounds are open to tourists throughout the year. A visitors centre provides information about the castle and its surroundings. There is a tea shop on site and a car park for any size of car.
During 2004 excavations uncovered a series of pits believed to date from about 10,000 years ago. The find was only analysed in 2013 and is believed to be the world's oldest known lunar calendar. It is believed that it was used from 8,000 BC to about 4,000 BC. It is believed to pre-date by up to five thousand years previously known time-measuring monuments in Mesopotamia. The site in Warren Field was discovered from the air when unusual crop marks were seen by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland.
The disabled car park is adjacent to the Gift Shop and Courtyard Cafe. The ground floor of the castle is accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. The upper levels are only accessible by staircases, most of which are narrow, spiral staircases. The majority of the walled garden is accessible to wheelchairs and pushchairs. Two of the eight gardens are only accessible via staircases. There are benches located throughout the garden. Most of the waymarked trails are not suitable for wheelchairs. The path to Caroline’s Garden is fully accessible. Disabled toilets are located in the Courtyard Cafe. The Courtyard Cafe is fully accessible. Assistance Dogs are Welcome.
Location : Crathes Castle, Garden & Estate, Crathes, Banchory Aberdeen & Grampian AB31 5QJ
Transport: Aberdeen (National Rail) then bus (201, 202, 203). Bus Routes : Stagecoach Bluebird bus numbers 201, 202 and 203 stop outside
Opening Times : Through the winter the castle is open weekends 11:00 to 15:45
Tickets : Adults £12.50; Concessions £9.00
Tel: 01330 844525