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Castle Fraser is one of the largest tower houses and nicest stately homes in Scotland. Construction started on the five-storey Z-plan castle back in 1575 and it hasn't really changed since this date, except from some alterations in the 18th and 19th century but some of these were later reversed to bring it back to it's historic roots. It belonged to the same family, the Fraser family, for over 400 years! Since it was essentially a family home, the rooms are quite small in comparison to other mansions to give it a more 'homely' feel. Unlike most castles in Scotland, Castle Fraser has done a good job of managing to avoid involvement in major sieges or conflicts allowing it to have a relatively nonturbulent history. The castle is set within 140 acres of land, and within the estate is walled gardens, a flight pond, mixed woodland and open farmland. There's also lovely walks that you can do through the estate. If you buy a ticket to visit the castle then you can actually climb all the way up the round tower house for incredible views over the grounds.

Continue reading to find out where Castle Fraser is, how to get there, some history of the castle and opening times!

This blog post covers:

Where is Castle Fraser and how can I get there?

Castle Fraser is located near Craigearn in Aberdeenshire; 4 miles north of Dunecht and only 16 miles west of Aberdeen. The only way to get to the castle is by driving. I would highly suggest renting a car if you don't already have one, especially if you want to do the North East 250 or do more sightseeing around the area.

  • By car - From Aberdeen city centre, it takes about 35 minutes to get to the castle by following the A944. From Inverness, it takes just over 2 hours via the A96. From Glasgow or Edinburgh, it takes around 2 hours and 45 minutes via the A90.

There's no option to go by bus or train as there's no bus stops or train stations near the castle.

Drum Castle in relation to Aberdeen and the Cairngorms National Park.

A brief history of the castle

  • Archaeological records show evidence of an older tower house on the grounds dating back to the 1400-1500s.
  • Between 1575 and 1636, the castle was rebuilt by the 6th Laird of Fraser, Michael Fraser, into the five-storey Z-plan castle that you see to this day.
  • In 1644, the leader of the Royalist forces in Scotland, James Graham, Marquis of Montrose attacked, captured and took anything of value from the castle. The 3rd Lord Fraser then inherited the castle in 1656.
  • The castle was modernised in the 18th and 19th century with a new south entrance, sash windows, garden landscaping and a stable block. The interiors of the building were also altered. However, a lot of this work was later reversed to bring the castle back in line with its historic roots.
  • The last male heir, Frederick Mackenzie Fraser, had no children to inherit the castle. Therefore, after he passed away and with the burden of growing finanicial difficulties, his widow made the decision to sell the castle to the Pearson family in 1921.
  • The Pearson family used the castle as a shooting lodge before handing it over to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976.

Some fun facts

1. Castle Fraser was more of a stately home, than a fortified castle. It never really had to use any of its defensive structures as it managed to escape involvement in most sieges and conflicts.

2. The castle has a small room just above the Great Hall called the "Laird's Lug". In this room, the laird could listen into his visitor's conversations. The castle also has its very own spy hole that peers into the Great Hall. See if you can spot it when you visit the "Bailiff's Room". There's other quirky features in the castle including hidden trapdoors, secret staircases and a wooden leg.

3. The castle was used as the backdrop for some of the scenes in the 2006 film "The Queen" starring Helen Mirren.

4. The castle remained in the Fraser Family for over 400 years and is filled with the families portraits and ornaments.

5. The castle is home to a couple of ghosts. The most sighted is the ghost of a princess who was staying at the castle. She was apparently murdered whilst she slept in the Green Room and her body was dragged down the stairs of the round tower. The blood stained the stairs that much that they had to cover them with wooden panelling, which you can still see today!

Opening hours and prices (as of February 2023)

The grounds are open:

  • From the 1st January through to the 31st December, from dawn to dusk.

The walled gardens are open:

  • From the 1st January through to the 31st December, from 10am-4pm.

For the Castle, Shop and Tearoom, they are open from:

The castle will operate guided tours only in January and February and they must be booked in advance on this website (click here).

  • 6th January to the 28th February, Friday to Sunday only, with guided tours at 11am and 1.30pm.
  • 1st March to the 31st March, Friday to Monday only, from 10.30am-4pm (last entry at 3pm).
  • 1st April to the 16th April, open every day of the week, from 10.30am-4.30pm (last entry at 3.30pm).
  • 17th April to the 6th July, Friday to Tuesday only, from 10.30am-4.30pm (last entry at 3.30pm). Due to an event at the castle on Saturday 22nd April, the castle and tearoom will open at 12.30pm.
  • 7th July to the 3rd September, open every day of the week, from 10.30am-4.30pm (last entry at 3.30pm).
  • 4th September to the 15th October, Friday to Tuesday only, from 10.30am-4.30pm (last entry at 3.30pm).
  • 16th October to the 29th October, open every day of the week, from 10.30am-4.30pm (last entry at 3.30pm).
  • 30th October to the 18th December, Friday to Monday only, from 10.30am-4pm (last entry at 3pm).
  • 19th December to the 31st December, the castle, shop and tearoom are all closed.

Prices as of February 2023:

If you have a National Trust for Scotland membership, then the castle, walled gardens and parking are all free. The National Trust for Scotland card is £5.25 per month for an adult, £4.65 for senior (60+) and £3.00 for young adults (16-24) but it will get you access to over 100 historic places all over Scotland. Definitely a worth while investment if you are going to be a lot of exploring around Scotland.

However, if you do not have a National Trust for Scotland card, then to visit the castle it costs £14.50 for an adult ticket, £11.00 for a concession and £1.00 for a young scot ticket or £33.00 for a family ticket or £27.50 for an adult family ticket. The tickets to the castle involve a guided tour.

When is a good time to visit?

There's no right time or wrong time to visit. Spring, Summer and Autumn are all good times to visit. In Spring and Autumn, the weather should be starting to get a bit better and it'll be less crowded. I visited the castle in April and there was only a handful of people and the weather was cold but sunny (definitely still jacket/coat weather). In Summer, it'll be a lot busier but the weather should be hopefully quite a bit warmer and sunnier (you never know though, it is Scotland after all) and also, the gardens should be in full bloom at this point. I'd advise against winter, because it can be quite snowy/icy and therefore, the roads might be a bit dangerous to drive on. Plus it'll be very chilly and the gardens won't yet be in bloom.

Should I visit as a day trip or as part of the North East 250 route?

If you live in or close to Aberdeenshire, then you could visit Castle Fraser as part of a day trip. However, if you are going to be travelling from further afield, then you will probably want to stay over and spend a couple of days here exploring the area as it's a long way to come to just visit Castle Fraser for the day. There's so much to see up here, you could spend 2 days visiting Aberdeen city and Castle Fraser, and perhaps, Drum Castle and Dunnottar Castle too.

If you have 3-4+ days, you could also consider doing the North East 250. The North East 250 is similar to the North Coast 500 but as the name suggest it's half the number of miles. The North East 250 is a 250-mile circular route, typically starting and ending just outside Aberdeen. However, you can start and end wherever suits you best. There is loads more to see on the route from hundreds of castles (you'll actually be sick of the sight of them after this trip), whisky distilleries and lovely little seaside towns.

The route highlights the best of what Scotland has to offer. I will do a comprehensive blog post series in the future detailing this route in great detail so stay tuned!

North East 250 route.

Where to stay around this area

  • Budget (£0-£75 per night)

This is where we stayed for doing the NE250 and I'd highly recommend. It's so cheap! We went in April and paid £40 per night with breakfast included. Also, the beds are super comfy!

★★★★ Holiday Inn Aberdeen West, an IHG Hotel, Westhill , UK
A 10-minute drive from Aberdeen city centre and Aberdeen International Airport, this modern and stylish hotel offers the best and latest in Holiday Inn...
  • Mid-range (£75-£150 per night)
★★★★ Thainstone House, Inverurie, UK
Set in 44 acres of gardens and woodland, Thainstone House is just 15 minutes from Aberdeen Dyce International Airport.
  • High end (£150+ per night)
★★★★ Macdonald Pittodrie House, Chapel of Garioch, UK
One of the most historic hotels in Scotland with turrets and spiral staircases, Pittodrie House is set in 2,400 acres of land, just a 30-minute drive from...

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Kirsty x