–––––– Castle of the Month September 2017 ––––––
Craigievar Castle is a magnificent and imposing old tower house with a fantastic atmospheric and period interior, long held by the powerful Forbes family and set in beautiful wooded grounds in the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire near Alford in northeast Scotland.
Aberdeen & Gordon: About 4.5 miles south and west of Alford, on minor roads west of A980 1.5 miles north of junction with B9119, north of Rumblie Burn, at Craigievar Castle.
NTS NJ 566095 OS: 37 AB33 8JF
OPEN: Castle open Apr-Jun & Sep, Fri-Tue 11.00-16.45 (last entry); Jul & Aug, daily 11.00-16.45 (last entry); grounds, open all year. Weddings and events. Holiday cottages.
Tel: 01339 883365 Web: www.nts.org.uk
A well-preserved and picturesque castle located among rolling hills, Craigievar Castle is a massive L-plan tower house of seven storeys, and was completed in 1626. Turrets, gables, chimney-stacks and corbelling crown the upper storeys; in contrast to the lower storeys, which are completely plain.
The walls are rounded at the corners, and are harled and pink-washed. The square tower, in the re-entrant angle, is crowned by a balustraded parapet enclosing a flat roof, with a caphouse topped by an ogee roof. The castle stood in a small courtyard, with round towers at the corners, one of which survives.
The entrance, in the re-entrant angle, leads to a vestibule to three vaulted chambers, and to a straight stair in the centre of the house, which rises only to the first floor. The hall, with a private chamber, occupies the first floor, and is a magnificent vaulted apartment, with mixed groin- and barrel-vaulting, and a fine plaster ceiling. A narrow stair leads down to the wine-cellar, and there is a small minstrels’ gallery. The hall has a fine large fireplace with ornamental stone carving, and there is a laird’s lug, accessed from a narrow entrance in the adjoining passageway.
The floors above are occupied by many private chambers, reached by five turret stairs. Many of these rooms are panelled, and there is also good contemporary plasterwork.
The property belonged to the Mortimer family from 1457 or earlier, and they held it until 1610. They began the castle, but ran out of money, and it was sold to the Forbeses of Menie, who finished the building in 1626.
Sir William Forbes of Craigievar, a Covenanter, was responsible for the putting down of Gilderoy the freebooter and his band, and having them hanged in Edinburgh. He commanded a troop of horse in the Civil War, and was Sheriff of Aberdeen. Sir John Forbes of Craigievar is on record in the 1680s and 1690s.
Forbes of Brux and Paton of Grandhome, who were both Jacobites, hid in the laird’s lug to avoid capture. Queen Victoria visited in 1879. Sir William Forbes inherited the title Lord Sempill, and the family became Forbes-Sempill. The castle was given to The National Trust for Scotland in 1963 by the then owner William Forbes-Sempill, 19th laird of Craigievar, and the Forbeses of Craigievar are recorded as now living near Castle Douglas in Galloway. The tower was renovated and reharled from 2008 to 2010, and is now pink-washed.
In 2016 it was reported in the papers that unauthorised art nude photos had been taken in and around the castle some years earlier, with the model Rachelle Summers ‘draped across antique 17th-century furniture' (as opposed to modern 17th-century furniture?). Gabriel Forbes-Sempill, daughter of William, 19th laird, is reported in the The Scotsman (and elsewhere) as saying: ‘I am by no means a prude but I don‘t believe my parents gave the castle to the nation for this sort of thing.’ The NTS conducted an investigation and vowed that this would not happen again. A further development is that in November 2017, a legal action was raised by the photographer, claiming that the photos were authorised and that the publicty surrounding the controversy had damaged business. The case is ongoing…
Craigievar is said to be haunted by a Gordon, who was murdered by being pushed from one of the windows of the Blue Room by Sir John Forbes – although it appears this window formerly had bars. Another ghost is said to be a fiddler, drowned in a well in the kitchen, who only appears to members of the Forbes family.