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Crathes Castle

Crathes Castle Gardens

Crathes Castle

Photograph Crathes Castle Scotland

Crathes Castle, 16th century tower house, with well known gardens, near Banchory, Aberdeenshire, Scotland. Photographic Print of Crathes Castle from Robert Harding.

Haunted by killer or victim ?

Crathes Castle: One of the most popular castles in the care of the National Trust for Scotland is Crathes in the Grampian Region. Built in the second half of the sixteenth century by the Burnetts of Leys its grounds are equally as famous, being more a series of gardens divided by yew hedges planted about 1702.

Photograph Crathes Castle Scotland

Crathes Castle. Photographic Print of Crathes Castle from Robert Harding.

The ancient Barony of Leys was granted to Alexander de Burnard by Robert the Bruce in 1323 as a token of appreciation of his support, and with it came the post of King's forester. But the king had committed one of these 'faux pas' which could lead to one party being highly offended, for the post was also given to the Irvines of Drum nearby! The matter was settled amicably enough however, for while the Irvines continued to display the official arms of the King's forester -- a silver shield with three holly leaves, the Burnetts, as they came to be known, have incorporated in their Arms a horn. The actual jewelled ivory horn they received from the king is perhaps the most famous of the family heirlooms and has pride of place over the fireplace in the Great Hall.

Their first home was built on an island in the loch of Leys and legend associates the building of Crathes with a tragedy that occurred in their original stronghold. The old laird had died, leaving a wife and an heir, Alexander, who was still a child. The widow Lady Agnes, was a managing domineering woman who had ambitious plans, as the years went past, for her son's marriage with one of the noble families of Scotland.

She wasn't at all pleased when romance blossomed between young Alexander and a relative, a pretty girl called Bertha, who had been left in her care for a few months. Her chance came when Alexander was called away on business that took him some time. As the days and weeks passed the servants noticed his beloved Bertha was pining away. Alexander returned home too late, his sweetheart had died that day.

All solicitous his mother came to comfort him as he stood by the bier. Alexander stretched out his hand to a nearby goblet of wine. As quick as lightning his mother snatched it from his hand and flung it out of the window, into the loch below. Alexander never said a word, but, horrified, he knew his mother had poisoned his beloved. The months went past until one day Bertha's father arrived to claim the daughter he had left in their care. As they tried to explain her death a chill came overthe room. Lady Agnes shrieked and pointed, screaming "She comes, she comes" . . . then fell to the floor, dead.

The unhappy memories made Alexander set in motion plans to build a new castle and Crathes was the outcome. But once a year, so they say, on the anniversary of Bertha's death a ghostly figure crosses the country from the site of the old castle of Leys to Crathes. Opinions differ however, as to whether it is the murdered Bertha or her murderer Lady Agnes.

The painted ceilings in three of the bedrooms are famous. The chamber of the Nine Nobles depicts Hector, Alexander and Julius Caesar; Joshua, David and Judas Maccabeus; King Arthur, Charlemange and Godfrey de Bouillon each supported by a rhyme or proverb and ending with

"Gude redar tell me or you pass
Whilk of these myn maist valiant was?"

The Green Lady's room is the haunt of another ghost. She is most frequently seen crossing the room carrying a baby, only to disappear at the fireplace. She first made her appearance early in the eighteenth century and legend states she was a young girl living at the castle in the care of the laird. She became pregnant by one of the servants who was ultimately dismissed. The girl and her baby disappeared and rumour said she had eloped with the servant. Then the hauntings began . . . and when workmen were engaged on alterations in the room skeletons were found under the hearthstone . .

If you would like to visit this area as part of a highly personalized small group tour of my native Scotland please e-mail me:

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