The sun shines bright upon bonnie Dee.
And bright on its birken bowers
And steals thro’ the shade of the chestnut tree,
On the Baron’s old grey towers.
Excerpt from ‘The Covenanter’s Bride’ in Legends of Leys 1856
The ancient castles of Scotland hold a fascination for many people. Two of The Highland Treasures series novels feature Fàrdach Castle, home of the Munro family and seat of the clan. The third book, now in progress, tells of Durant Castle and Dunollie Castle. Each dwelling has its own characteristics, fitting the lifestyle of the family living within its walls. Many of the old castles are in ruin, but some are preserved for modern day lovers of all things antique to enjoy.
Crathes Castle is owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is one of the most beautiful and best preserved sixteenth-century castles in Scotland. One single family, the Burnetts, has lived in the castle for over 350 years.
Crathes Castle Estate was once part of the Royal Forest of Drum. In 1323, King Robert the Bruce granted the lands of Leys in the upper forest to Alexander Burnard, one of the Royal Foresters. Over the centuries, Burnard’s descendants, the Burnetts of Leys, shaped the Leys Estate into what you see today.
Crathes Castle stands surrounded by trees on a sunny slope overlooking the River Dee. Crathes is located on the banks of the River Dee, 14 miles south of Aberdeen and 3 miles east of Banchory in Aberdeenshire.The Burnett family finished building the castle in the late 1500’s and their original tower house still forms the core of the castle.
An extension built in the early 18th century was destroyed by fire in 1966 and was rebuilt by the National Trust for Scotland. Many fascinating objects and furnishings have survived, including the Horn of Leys, which family legend suggests Robert the Bruce presented to Alexander Burnard along with the estate.
The gardens at Crathes are among the finest in the UK. The walled garden is made up of eight distinct gardens and owes much to Lady Sybil Burnett who lived here from the 1920’s. The original enclosed garden was created as part of the 16th/17th-century castle complex and some of the topiary yews are over 250 years old.
The interior of Crathes Castle is featured in the next post.
Notice the Scottish castle on the cover of A Highland Ruby.
A band of warriors on steuds broke through the trees and approached the place where Gavin sat. The deerhound ran ahead of them with his long legs flying. The animal ran to Gavin and licked his wounded leg. He pushed the large shaggy head away, then took a step to meet his brother. Andrew, with his untied raven hair flying, reined in his horse, dismounted, and hastened to Gavin.
“Brother, what have you gotten yourself into this time?” he asked, picking up Gavin’s arm and examining the bloody bandage. “Bha sibh treun thar glòir.” Andrew’s grey eyes darkened with emotion as he searched Gavin’s.
“Aye,” the warriors agreed in unison.
“He was brave beyond praise,” Erskin added.
Stepping back Andrew said, “We brought you a fine horse to ride.” He motioned to the large grey steud Erskin led—Gavin’s warhorse he had left behind at Fàrdach five years earlier. Maith appeared the same except for a few more grey hairs around his nose.
Gavin nodded toward the luchd-taighe. Erskin immediately dismounted. “Sir Gavin, may I assist you in mounting the horse?” One corner of his mouth turned up and a twinkle lit his eye. “I imagined you were hiding with the band of outlaws. Instead, you’re out here in the forest of Fàrdach fighting wild animals.”
The other nine men, including Andrew, chuckled. The hound licked Gavin’s hand. He immediately jerked it away. Andrew patted the large dog’s head. “Rab helped us find you, and Flora.”
“He came to me on the morn, then left when someone whistled. A lot of leading he did.” Gavin placed the foot of his good leg in Erskin’s strong cupped hands.
“Aye, but he led Flora to Torey. The boy had Rab out running deer for the hunt when the hound ventured off, found Flora, then led her back to the lad. I suppose Rab thought you unable to go with him this morn, but he knew exactly where to bring us later.”
Gavin patted Rab’s large shaggy head. “He’s a good dog, I reckon.” Turning to Erskin, he said, “Ne’re you mind about me fighting wild animals, ‘twas a small thing, really. And you’ll find its carcass in the woods.” Erskin gently lifted, placing Gavin across Maith’s saddle. Gavin bit his lip with pain and weakness but did not cry out in front of the warriors.