This post is by Nancy Jardine.
Our local schools have recently had their 2 week spring holiday. When I was teaching, those two weeks were avidly awaited – they were an opportunity to recharge my batteries and snatch a short break in cultural venues steeped in history like Vienna, Barcelona, or Mediterranean islands like Malta or Crete. The destinations never needed long haul flights, European cities being easily achievable in a couple of hours from a Scottish airport.
Now it’s my grand kids who’re locked into the school holiday system so, as a regular carer, I’m back to taking spring holiday breaks. We’ll work up to a whole week away…but not just yet… that’ll take a wee bit of practising! At present it’s a ‘Day Out’, one at a time.
Last week we picnicked at 16th century Crathes Castle, along with my daughter who had a day off work. After a long visit to a brand new soft play area, there was heaps of grass to play ball on and space to throw a Frisbee. My 4½ year old granddaughter wanted to go into the walled garden having remembered the fountain and various other interesting features from previous visits, her recall of things quite astounding.
My grandson, only just turned 2 years old, was convinced it was Tinkerbell’s Castle and wanted to go inside, though an inside tour hadn’t been on the original plan for the day. With two adults it was doable—one adult and two little kids not so much.
Aberdeenshire is coined as ‘castle country’. It has the greatest amount of castles per acre in Scotland and there’s a plethora of them to visit, some of them now administered by The National Trust of Scotland of which I’ve been a member for the last thirty years. The interiors are all distinctively different, well preserved, and full of ancient treasures so it’s with trepidation that I enter the portals with a two year old, but I think that you’ve got to culture’em early!
Crathes Castle is set in magnificent grounds of around 600 acres which are typical of other grand estates in Royal Deeside. Aberdeenshire castles have an impressive history that’s documented but also shrouded in legend. The present Crathes Castle, completed c. 1596 and which took around 40 years to build, was the home of the Burnett family for many centuries and was only given over to The National Trust for Scotland organisation in 1959, when the new Burnett heir, resident in New Zealand, couldn’t maintain the property.
Legend plays a part in the story because it’s said that the most prized treasure of Crathes Castle is ‘The Horn of Leys’ which Alexander de Burnard received from King Robert The Bruce in 1323 as his badge of office as forester (overseer of the estates). ‘The Horn of Leys’ is a highly decorated carved ivory horn which now hangs encased behind glass in the High Hall at Crathes Castle; the horn symbol also a part of the Heraldic Coat of Arms of the Burnett family (the name change from Burnard was a common trait) . Photography is not allowed in the castle but the general idea at left of the horn has been taken from a book on Amazon. (I’m not sure I’d be willing to pay over £200 for this copy, though)
My problem with visiting even fairly well known castles is that there’s always something new that I’ve not absorbed on earlier visits that just begs to be researched. I’d never thought before of what the first family dwelling of the Burnetts might have been, i.e. before the present castle was built, but it’s an intriguing question that begs to be researched. The problem is that there’s no documentation from the early 1300s to clarify the answer!
If you’re interested in learning more there are some scant details about our visit to the castle and an intriguing mystery about the first home of the Burnett family who lived on the Crathes estate on my BLOG .
What do you think about culturing ’em early?
Whatever you’re doing this weekend – enjoy it!
Nancy Jardine writes:
Historical Romantic Adventures
Contemporary Romantic Mysteries
Time travel historical adventure for teens
http://nancyjardine.blogspot.co.uk http://nancyjardineauthor.com/ Twitter @nansjar Facebook: http://on.fb.me/XeQdkG and http://on.fb.me/1Kaeh5G (for The Rubidium time Travel Novels.) email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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