The Gardens are Burgeoning at Crathes Castle

One of my favorite springtime past times is wandering through a garden looking for the emergence of the tender newborn noses of plants triumphantly pushing defiantly and making their way through the crust of soil, rocks and other obstructions in their path. The shoots are so tender and fragile; and yet, somehow they defy all odds to present themselves to the world.

I have visited Crathes Castle several times in the past, and the various gardens within its boundaries are a marvel; worthy of visiting at various times of the year to experience their everchanging vistas.

Once I arrived back in Scotland, from my recent venture to The Netherlands for 10 glorious days, I spent a couple of days taking care of some domestic chores (like laundry for instance) in preparation for more exploration and I couldn’t imagine any place better to start than at Crathes!


As we drove along the tree-lined road to the garden, my heart quickened at the prospect of what I would find on this wonderfully ‘Bonnie’ day in Scotland!

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We parked the car and headed toward the castle, previewing the map on the interpretive panel at its approach to remind us what was in store…

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…and then continued along the path as we approached the backside of the castle as we worked our way to the walled gardens gate…what a view!

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Arriving at last at the gardens’ gate!  Yeah! This is going to be good; I can just feel it in my gardener’s bones! This is one of my all-time favorite gardens!

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Immediately inside the gate, the beautifully manicured landscape unfolded before me in all its early spring glory…ahhhh!


Lindsay and I decided to start exploring in a counter-clockwise circuitous fashion, hugging the walls as we went, so we walked under the wooden trellis on the right and headed up that path, instantly finding all sorts of interesting features and spring blossoms…

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IMG_1482About midway in the east wall of the garden, we happened upon a gate leading to the Woodland Gardens.

Naturally,  my curiosity implored me to venture onward to see what treasures lie beyond…

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Back inside the main walled garden, we continued on along the second half of the east wall, occasionally walking into an inviting little subsection with camellia, tulip, and yellow dog-tooth violet blossoms basking in the morning sunshine.

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Right now it’s not very “colorful” because it is so early in the spring, but here’s a couple of pictures of what the right-hand side pathway on the panoramic picture below will look like in the not-so-distant future.


We then continued on until we came to the northeast corner where the Dovecot gracefully towers above the almost 4-acre garden offering up some great views from its steps (above).

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Immediately surrounding the Dovecoat, we found some interesting flowers, including white and chocolate colored trilliums.

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Continuing on along our stroll until we came about midway along the north wall…

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…until a pathway beckoned us in to explore the center of the garden and a gorgeous view of the castle beyond…


As we strolled, we happened upon these two gardeners who were busy weeding (a never-ending job I might add).  They told me there are only 6 gardeners that maintain this huge garden and I complimented them on their meticulous work which they really appreciated.


Then we headed for the Victorian Glasshouses just a bit further on…



Inside, we were graced with a wide variety of delights…

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Back outside once again, we came upon a variety of tree that grows rather prolifically in my neck of the woods, Madrone!IMG_1540

As we made our way to the Upper Gardens closest to the castle, we came across all sorts of delightful specimens here and there…



Although the herbaceous borders were just beginning to grow, it was fun to imagine the glorious colors that would soon grace this pathway…


Now, the Upper Gardens!


The upper level of the garden is divided into four gardens, each having a background of yew hedges. Near the Castle are the Croquet Lawn and the Upper Pool Gardens; with themes of yellow, red and bronze. The Fountain Garden has a Victorian atmosphere with plants in varying shade of blue, and the Rose Garden contains floribunda and hybrid tea roses in a formal layout.

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As we worked our way to the Fountain Garden, we passed the Croquet Lawn (which was recently reseeded for the season).

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I noticed Lindsay examining something so I wandered over to see what he was focused on, Ahhh! The emerging clematis that graces the railings with their beautiful purples blossoms later in the season!

The final leg of our garden tour led us back down the stairs from the Upper Gardens to the main gate in the south wall.

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We had worked up quite an appetite and were feeling “a wee bit peckish” (as Lindsay would say), so we strolled back toward the castle and beyond to the stable area where they have a nice little cafe where we enjoyed their soup and sandwich combos.  Lindsay opted for Leek & Tattie soup; I chose the Butternut Squash with a kick of chili pepper added and we shared a BLT.  Yum!

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After that delicious, and filling, lunch, we wandered back to the Castle entrance and decided to tour the castle. I’ve visited before, several years ago, and it certainly was worth a second look within.  This castle belongs to the Burnett family. Since I have found so many ancestral connections to Scottish Castles across the landscape in my travels, I double-checked, but alas, amazingly I have no connections to this one.

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Luckily, in this National Trust property, they do allow photographs inside, so you’re in for a treat!

The tour began in the lower levels of the Castle working its way up to the top; first stop, the kitchen!


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Just past the kitchen, we are guided past the original entry door to the Castle (which we saw from the outside), complete with its Yett (iron stronghold gate), and then up the spiral staircase to the Hall.

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This room is full of interesting features and treasures which includes a lampshade with handpainted Bible passages, stained glass windows, a magnificent fireplace with ornately carved mantel and an interesting looking book of the genealogy of the Burnett family which looks like a Bible sitting on a special holder.

Crathes sits on land given as a gift to the Burnett of Leys family by King Robert the Bruce in 1323 and the prize possession on display is the  “Horn of Leys.” IMG_1628Robert the Bruce spent time hunting in the area after he defeated the Comyn faction at the Battle of Inverurie in 1308. Bruce enjoyed his hunting so much that he created a royal forest here, and named his supporter, Alexander Burnett, as the first royal forester of Drum.  He also honored the appointment of Burnett as a forester by giving him The Horn of Leys, a carved ivory horn ornamented with precious stones. The Horn of Leys hangs over the fireplace and the Burnett family crest depicts a hunting horn.


Sir Thomas Burnett of Leys, 3rd Baronet of Leys and 15th Laird painted by John Scougal.

The ceilings in the rooms alcoves still have the original painted ceilings that used to adorn the entire ceiling.


Construction of the tower house was begun in 1553 and completed in 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys. The man and woman depicted in these carvings on a large piece of furniture in the hall are said to be of Alexander and his wife, Elizabeth. We will see more carved depictions of them when we get upstairs to the bedchambers…

Next, we visited another room with some interesting remains of painted beams overhead on the ceiling beams…

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…and an original Charter dating from 1545!  Wow!

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Following that, we entered a very pretty pink bedroom…

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We came across yet another framed Charter…

…followed by the bedchamber of Alexander and Elizabeth and their elaborately carved bed!

The carvings were exquisite, including the Lord & Lady, as well as the faces of the carvers themselves on the bedposts and some whimsical animals!

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After that, we entered a room with very well-preserved ceiling paintings called the Nine Nobles.

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The next room we entered was the Green Lady’s Room and was obviously a place for the children to hang out with the Governess, as it was filled with children’s furniture, including an antique baby walker & cradle amongst other interesting items, such as an old spinning wheel.

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Its ceiling was also ornately painted…

The next room we visited was the Muses’ Room, complete with its own painted ceiling.


The room itself was also filled to the brim with all kinds of goodies…starting with old musical instruments…

Intricately embroidered pillows…



…hand embroidered seat coverings…

…and many other interesting vases, urns, flatware, needlepoint, mirrors, etc.


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At the top of the Castle, we come to the Gallery, where the Lord held court and laid down judgments…

The ceiling, with all of its’ heraldic adornments, was a sight in itself…

The room even offered up some fantastic views of the gardens below from its windows…


IMG_1677After we made our way back down the stairs, we were led into the Family Room, which contains a plethora of genealogical gems for anyone who has Burnett connections in their ancestral trees of their own…








Then we continued down to the Stone Hall with its original stone floor…

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Our final descent to where we started was where the “Queen Anne” wing used to be before the devastating fire occurred.

We then descended the final staircase, back to the reception area, passing the rack of walking sticks with their various interesting handles…


…and a significant final stained glass window…

After all those pictures from the gardens and the castle, my camera declared it was done, and promptly went dead.  Can’t say I blame it.  It worked hard all day long to capture some simply wonderful images!

Attitude of Gratitude ~ Today I’m grateful for the sunshine and the delightful plants all over the gardens, pushing their way through the soil, emerging to bring flowers and blossoms to fill the hearts of many who will visit the gardens this coming summer.  I am also grateful to the Burnett family and the National Trust for preserving and maintaining a priceless treasure trove of historical artifacts for us to enjoy.

Author: Claudia Frew

Adventuresome, independent, and fun-loving 68-year young American great-grandmother who loves to travel; often going solo!

3 thoughts on “The Gardens are Burgeoning at Crathes Castle”

  1. We so remember our visit to Crathes Castle and the gardens. Wonderful yew topiary gardens did amaze us. I would really like to catch it again sometime when its all in full bloom. Beautiful castle inside and out. Lindsay is such a poser in the reflection of that mirrored (I believe it was a musical lyre?) Nice to revisit the castle and grounds through you and Lindsay. Again, your luncheon looked delightful…..yum!


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