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Royal Deeside : Castles, Fine Houses and Ruins

Images of Royal Deeside, Scotland
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A land with a turbulent history, where kings used to hunt, where large estates own most of the land and where Queen Victoria found her 'dear Paradise', Royal Deeside offers a fine selection of grand buildings, both old and relatively new. Some are open to the public, others are visible to passers-by and most would have interesting tales to tell if they could speak. Here we mention some buildings to be found in or on the borders of Royal Deeside. on the next page we describe other castles and houses near Royal Deeside.

Within 5 miles of Braemar

The valley of the River Dee runs west-east; Glen Clunie, the valley of the River Clunie runs south-north. Both glens were much used by people travelling through the central mountains of old Scotland. They meet at Braemar so those who held that junction could control traffic and trade travelling in any direction. Thus it is not surprising that King Malcolm Canmore camped here before going on to defeat the 'usurper' King Macbeth. Later, some believe, he built Kindrochit Castle both to control the area and as a base when hunting. The ruins of Kindrochit Castle are still visible in the centre of Braemar adjacent to the River Clunie.

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Invercauld House, Braemar Scotland Invercauld House, Braemar is the seat of the Clan Farquharson

And more recently...

The area known as Braemar was part of the lands of the Earls of Mar and in 1628 they built a new Mar Castle about half a mile to the north. This is now known as Braemar Castle. Burnt by the 'Black Colonel' Farquharson of Inverey and later rebuilt, it is today little changed. By choosing successful alliances the Farquharson lairds gained ownership of Braemar Castle but their seat, however, is at the fine Invercauld House about 3 miles east of Braemar. On the west side of the River Clunie was the Mar Estate with the great house named Mar Lodge about 4 miles from Braemar. The estate was divided into Mar Estate and Mar Lodge Estate. Recently Mar Lodge and the attached Estate was bought by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).

Braemar to Ballater

About 8 miles east of Braemar at the small village of Crathie, royal Balmoral Castle stands alongside the River Dee. Built in the 1850s for Queen Victoria it has remained the favourite Autumn holiday home of the Royal Family ever since. It is open to the public from mid-April until the end of July when it is closed in order to prepare for the arrival of the Queen. During this time many people take the opportunity to go pony trekking in the castle grounds. In recent years road races have been held each spring.

A short distance further along the river Dee stands Abergeldie Castle. Though not owned by the Royal family this has often been used by them. Closer to Ballater on the edge of Glen Muick is Birkhall House, regularly used by the late Queen Mother when on holiday in Royal Deeside but now a home for the Prince of Wales.

Not far from Birkhall House on the South Deeside Road is the ruin of Knock Castle. Standing on a hill adjacent to the South Deeside Road, it was originally built around the beginning of the 17th Century by the Gordon family. It has a fine view across to Ballater and the peaceful scene belies a turbulent past. This is a castle with a tragic and violent tale to tell.

One day the seven sons of Alexander Gordon were casting peats when they were set upon and slain by a party of Forbeses. When the father heard the news he was so upset that he fell on the stairs of the castle and was killed. The leader of the Forbes party was later executed. Ownership of Knock passed to the Gordons of Abergeldie. (The Forbes's and Gordons also clashed at nearby Corgarff Castle.)

Ballater to Banchory

Just about half a mile from the centre of Aboyne is Aboyne Castle, for long the residence of the Marquis of Huntly - the 'cock of the north'. About 8 miles north of the Aboyne - Banchory Road lies Craigievar Castle. This is a castle that could grace any fairy tale. Owned by the NTS it is open to the public in the afternoons only. Three miles east of Banchory is the fine Crathes Castle also run by the NTS. One of the most popular visitor attractions in Aberdeenshire, both castle and grounds are a delight. Yet another castle run by the NTS is Drum Castle. Just a few miles east of Crathes this castle features a 13th Century keep.

(See part 2 for descriptions of some castles near Royal Deeside)

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Introduction Balmoral Castle Crathie Kirk Castles 1 Castles 2
Braemar Castle Nature Reserves 1 Nature Reserves 2 Ballater Station  




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