An Englishman's home is his castle....
Well, now a Scotsman's castle can be YOUR home!
Discover a land where majestic landscapes roll down to the sea as this part of Scotland touches the whole of the North East of the country's coastline with beaches and rocky outcrops from Inverbervie, South of Aberdeen (the granite city) all the way round to Buckie, near Fochabers and Elgin.
This is a part of Scotland adored by the Royal Family; they have Balmoral Castle at Deeside in the south of Aberdeenshire and, with this amount of coastline, it is a region with a rich maritime heritage to explore.
If you were to pick an area to stay in Scotland, Turriff (from Scottish Gaelic Torraibh, meaning "place of round hills") is just the place, giving you easy access to castles, distilleries, museums, and a range of historical sites, offering an ideal base from which to discover this lesser known jewel in Scotland’s crown.
This Scotsman's castle, owned by the Urquhart family, is one of the oldest in Scotland and can be traced back to Adam Urquhart, Sheriff of Cromarty in 1357. However, according to the great Sir Thomas Urquhart (1611-1660), translator of Rabelais, the family can even be traced back to Adam and Eve, through remarkable ancestors, including Esormon Ourochartos (Prince of Achaia who married Narfesid, Sovereign of the Amazons) and Bithiah, the Pharaoh’s daughter, who found Moses in the bulrushes. These fantastic claims are symptomatic of the family’s fondness for the romantic and the strange.
Captain John Urquhart (b.1696) bought back Craigston Castle after it had been sold 15 years previously to pay off debts. He had the means to do this due to his career in privateering, at the time a perfectly respectable way of living, and was fondly known in the family as the Pirate!
As you enter the front door, you come face to face with a splendid woodcarving of the family crest. This shows many of the different elements of the family Coat of Arms; wild boars, hunting dogs, mermaids, a naked lady, and knights in armour.
Furnishings in the main rooms date back to the mid-18th and 19th centuries. The drawing room on the first floor contains unique 17th century wood carvings, which depict biblical themes, Scottish kings and great heroes. This room also boasts gilded mirrors, originally from the Palais de Versailles in France.
Despite its grandeur, Craigston is also cosy, with a large open fire and comfortable sofas. Other rooms on this floor include the ante-drawing room, morning room (now a dining room) and Queen’s room. Two stone spiral staircases take you from the drawing room to the different bedrooms (many of which still have Heppelthwaite four poster beds and other original pieces).
The gallery houses portraits of ancestors and others related to the family history, including Peter the Great, plus Craigston boasts two libraries (one with volumes from the 17th and 19th centuries, and one with original and often-signed works from the 20th and 21st centuries). This is living history that you not only can live in, but you can touch. Imagine!
As guests of the Urquhart family, you will have your choice of room; it could be The Fraser, Kings, (my favourite) The Blue Room, The Old Nursery Room or White Room. All are spacious and comfortable.
In the evening you can sit by a roaring log fire in the drawing or ante-drawing rooms and enjoy a good Scottish whisky from one of the many local distilleries. The castle has a fully equipped traditional kitchen, with modern appliances for self-catering. You also have the choice of eating in the kitchen or dining room at your leisure.
If one castle is not enough for you, you can visit Fyvie Castle, a 13th century castle with lavish Edwardian interiors, and imagine what castle life must have been like for the families and their royal guests – among them Robert the Bruce, Edward I and Charles I.
At £2600 per week for 10 people, this works out at 260 per person per week, or £38 pounds per person per night. Great value in this 17th century historic castle.
Dogs are allowed, but limited to 2, and they are restricted to the ground floor of the property.