Thursday, 1 November 2012

Fyvie Castle

Earlier, I posted about investing in an NTS season ticket, and how this would lead to a flurry of National Trust related posts as we spent our weekends visiting houses and gardens across the country in a concerted campaign of getting my money's worth. But now, suddenly, without us going anywhere all year, our membership has nearly run out. At least the money has gone to a good cause (unlike, say, an unused gym membership) - preserving the nation's heritage.

So time to plan. I've always wanted to see Craigievar. But then I discovered it was closed for the season already!

Aberdeenshire near Fyvie:


But at the weekend we finally made it somewhere, at - and this is the important bit about a season ticket - a saving of £2 for car parking and £11.50 per adult. Fyvie on a Sunday was the haunt of pensioners, the last tourists of the season and families with well-wrapped toddlers, enjoying some late season sunshine.

Fyvie pond:


The estate has a pond with ducks, waterfowl and a viewing hide. I wanted to look at the River Ythan too to get an idea of the defensive situation of the castle, but the Ythan is a small burn at this point. Like many other areas in the 18th century, the surroundings were drained and improved from swamp to parkland.

Fyvie frontage trees:


Inside, Fyvie is impressively well-preserved with a fine collection of Raeburns. The castle dates from the early 13th century, and became national trust property in 1984. Before that it was owned by five families - each of whom added an extra tower to the building. It bears the strongest imprint from its 19th century owner, Alexander Leith, who was generous enough to the previous four families to include their coats of arms in all his ornamentation. Famously, the castle is subject to the Fyvie Curse, laid by Thomas the Rhymer in the 13th century, which supposedly predicts that its owners will never inherit the estate down the male line:

Fyvie, Fyvie thou'se never thrive,
As long as there's in thee stanes three:
There's ane intill the highest tower,
There's ane intill the ladye's bower,
There's ane aneath the water yett,
And thir three stanes ye'se never get.

The 'stanes three' were supposedly parish boundary markers removed from their sacred sites for the building of Fyvie. They can't be accessed unless the castle is dismantled - and as the 'water yett' is supposedly the River Ythan - there is no hope for the house of Fyvie. Perhaps this is why it has passed through the hands of so many families.

Fyvie detail:


Probably the castle's most impressive feature is the  great stair, vaguely reminding me of the spiral ramp in Chateau Amboise on the Loire. The ramp at Amboise was designed for cavalry to access the town from the chateau, so it was no surprise to discover that the Gordon family, who took over Fyvie from the Seton family who built the staircase, habitually rode their horses up it, racing each other to see who could get to the top first.

Fyvie frontage:


And what a top! The gallery in the top floor is bathed with light, with 17th century ornament, an organ and a beautiful baby grand piano. My fingers itched to play it... this room can be hired for weddings. According to the guide, somebody had been married here just the day before. I hoped the marriage would prove happier than that of Lillias Drummond, who in 1601 was starved to death in the next door Douglas Room by her husband Alexander Seton for failing to produce a male heir. With actions like that, it sounds like the house of Fyvie deserved not to thrive.

2 comments:

blueskyscotland said...

Enjoyed your tour of a castle I,ll probably never get to visit.Good to see it by proxy.

Nicky Cousins said...

Hope you got to Craigievar Castle, it is an awesome sight when looking for driving through the lanes to visit. Lovely place to visit. Thank you for posting about Fyvie Castle, will aim to visit next time I am up in the Hughlands