The Scottish Chateau* by Scotland's top architectural historian, Charles McKean, was a real eye opener for me. Most of what we know as castles in Scotland are not, McKean explains, defensive structures, but are Jacobean chateau, in the French sense of a palace or grand home. The Victorian fashion for large piles in castellated form largely used the architectural styles of these 17th century chateau, rather than actual castles. The patternbooks for Balmorality were the fairytale fortresses of the northeast, the likes of Craigievar or Crathes, rather than real mediaeval castles like Tantallon, Stirling or Bothwell, or the grim towers of the border.
And what a patternbook they make! Cupolas, erratic string courses, pepperpot turrets, warm harling, and in the case of the northeast chateau, severe, minimalist, small-windowed lower floors bursting into riotous rooflines and joyous detail.
Crathes, built in 1596 by the Burnett family who had lived in the area since Robert the Bruce granted them the land, was damaged by fire in 1966, although you would not know that today. My favourite room is the music room with its ancient instruments and wonderfully muralled ceiling, and other rooms have similar ceilings, low-beamed and charmingly detailed. This is the future of home decor, I am convinced. Unfortunately you can't photograph the interiors, so you will have to take my word for it!
Crathes' other claim to fame is its gardens. The day we arrived a plant sale was on and the NTS membership were out in force. A lot of wise grey heads amongst the camelias.
But the gardens and wider grounds provide good walks, and Crathes can keep a family entertained for an afternoon. OK, I don't have a family - but we are determined to get value for money from the year's NTS membership we signed up for!
*I don't know if I should link to Amazon any more, now it has become clear they do not pay tax in the UK...
Late May Snow in the Cairngorms
14 hours ago