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It might look like a fairytale castle, however Crathes Castle was recently voted one of the spookiest places in the world by experts from NetVoucherCodes and it was the only Scottish attraction to feature on the list of 12 spooky places. It also ranked on the top 10 list of 'insta-worthy' haunted houses to visit. This is because the castle is said to be home to two lady ghosts. The most well reported being the green lady ghost. This ghost was even sighted by Queen Victoria herself!

Crathes Castle is a magnificent L-plan six storey castle set in the rolling hills of Aberdeenshire. The land was originally gifted to the Burnett Family along with a very famous horn by none other than King Robert the Bruce himself. The castle was built in the 1500s and the Burnett Family went on to live here for 350 years before handing it over to the National Trust for Scotland. Crathes Castle was built with defense in mind, however it managed to avoid involvement in major battles allowing it to transform into a civilised family home. Whether you are going to visit the castle, go ghost hunting, spot some of the local wildlife or let the younger ones enjoy the wild wood adventure play (which has ziplines, climbing walls and high-level walkways), the castle and it's grounds has something for everyone.

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

This blog post covers:

Where is Crathes Castle and how can I get there?

Crathes Castle is located near Crathes in Aberdeenshire; 3 miles east of Banchory and only 15 miles west of Aberdeen. The easiest way to get to the castle is by car. 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 just over 30 minutes to get to the castle by following the A93. From Inverness, it takes just over 2 hours and 25 minutes via the A96 or A939 and A93. From Glasgow or Edinburgh, it takes over 2 hours and 40 minutes via the A90.
  • By bus - You can take the 201 Stagecoach bus direct from Union Square in Aberdeen to Crathes Castle. The bus takes about 49 minutes, then it's a 18 minute walk from the bus stop to the castle. The bus schedule can be found on the Stagecoach bus website. An adult single ticket on the bus is £5.70 or £10.50 for a period return.

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

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

A brief history of the castle

  • In 1323, the lands of Leys were granted to the Burnett Family by King Robert the Bruce.
  • In 1553, Alexander Burnett started construction on the traditional tower house, much of which you can see today. The tower house has an intricate maze of turrets, towers, oak panels and painted ceilings.
  • The castle wasn't completed until 1596 as the build was delayed multiple times due to political problems during the reign of Mary Queen of Scots.
  • The Burnett Family lived in the castle for over 350 years before handing it over to the National Trust for Scotland in 1951.
  • In 1966, a fire damaged parts of the castle. Most of damage was contained to the additional wing which was added in the 18th century.

Some fun facts

1. King Robert the Bruce bestowed a legendary gift to the Burnett Family back in 1323. This famous gift was the ancient Horn of Leys, which you can see in the Great Hall to this day. This horn is also adorned on the Burnett coat of arms.

2. In the gardens, there are iconic yew hedges which were planted as early as 1702. There is also an abundance of wildlife on the grounds including Red Squirrels, Roe Deers, Pine Martins, Woodcocks, Buzzards, Herons and Wool Carder Bees. See if you can spot any on your own visit!

3. There are said to be two resident ghosts at Crathes Castle; a white lady ghost and green lady ghost. The latter has had the most sightings over the years, none other than Queen Victoria herself has even spotted this ghost. No one knows the true story of what happened to this lady. However, rumour has it that she got into a relationship with the stableboy and got pregnant. When her Dad found out, he flew into a fit of rage and the girl and baby later disappeared. There is some credibility to this story as during the 1800s renovations bones of a young baby where found underneath the hearth of the fireplace.

4. The castle was originally built for defence. One of the defensive features included a 'trip' step; the 11th step in the spiral staircase was made slightly higher than the other steps to trip up attackers storming the castle. These defensive structures were never really utilised and throughout the years, the castle was transformed into more of a civilised family home.

5. In the master bedroom, you will see a four-poster bed dating back to 1594 which belonged to Alexander Burnett and his wife. On the headboard is their initials and on the roof of the bed is a door. The door was added because they believed that if someone was to die in the bed, they could open the door and the spirit could then go to heaven.

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 wild wood adventure play are open:

  • Most days from the 1st January through to the 31st December, from 10am-4pm. It is closed from the 1st-7th April and the 25th December. Opening is also subject to weather conditions.

For the Castle, Shop, Cafe 1702 and Garden, they are open from:

Pre-booking is not possible - tickets can be purchased from the shop.

  • 13th January to the 28th February, Friday to Sunday only, from 10am-4pm.
  • 1st March to the 31st May, Thursday to Monday only, from 10am-5pm. Also, open daily during the Easter holidays.
  • 1st June to the 31st August, open every day of the week, from 10am-5pm.
  • 1st September to the 30th September, Thursday to Monday only, from 10am-5pm.
  • 1st October to the 31st December, Thursday to Sunday only, from 10am-4pm. Also, open daily during the October holidays.

Prices as of February 2023:

If you have a National Trust for Scotland membership, then admission and parking is 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.

When is a good time to visit?

The Castle, Shop, Cafe 1702 and Gardens are all open throughout the year from the 13th January to the 31st December. So, there's no right time or wrong time to visit. Spring, Summer and Autumn are all good times to visit. 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). There's pros and cons for each season. In Spring and Autumn, the weather should be starting to get a bit better and it'll be less crowded. 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. However, in winter there's a chance the castle and grounds will be covered in snow, which would look quite enchanting.

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 Crathes Castle 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 Crathes Castle for the day. There's so much to see up here, you could spend 3 days visiting Aberdeen city and Crathes Castle, and perhaps, Drum Castle, Castle Fraser and Dunnottar Castle too.

If you have 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)
Bogenraith House, Banchory, UK
Located in Banchory, 22 km from Beach Ballroom, Bogenraith House provides accommodation with a garden, free private parking and a terrace.
  • High end (£150+ per night)
★★★★ Banchory Lodge Hotel, Banchory, UK
Situated on the outskirts of Banchory and set in a scenic location between Feugh River and King George V Park and Pavilion.

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Kirsty x