Craigievar Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland is an absolutely stunning muted pink fortified castle tower house that is said to have been the enchanting inspiration for Cinderella as well as the official Disney Castle. If there was ever a castle that truly deserved to be called a fairy tale castle, it is this one hands down. It isn’t hard to understand why, because there is definitely something particularly magical about it.
Craigievar Castle stands on the west side of a valley in the absolutely stunning rolling hills of the countryside that forms the eastern foothills of the Cairngorms. Scotland has many, many amazing and simply awe-inspiring castles, however, this one is so different from the rest for many different reasons. Not only does its colour stray significantly from other castles, but it is also seen as one of the best-preserved and most authentic tower houses in all of Scotland and perhaps even the world.
It is also a strong example of Scottish Baronial architecture and it fits so beautifully in its landscape because of this. It is spellbindingly beautiful and sure to enchant children and adults no matter what. These days, it is cared for by the National Trust for Scotland and if fairy tales were real, all of the castles around the world would look just like this one.
When you discover the beautiful surrounding property and inside Craigievar Castle, you will notice an admirable and impressive collection of artifacts, art, Raeburn portraits, armour, and weapons that date back many years ago. Afterward, you can enjoy a peaceful and refreshing stroll around the gorgeous garden and the surrounding estate.
The history of Craigievar Castle
One amazing thing that people don’t realise about this great castle is that, in accordance with its former owner’s wishes, there has not been any artificial light installed on the upper floors. This means that everything within the castle is seen in an authentic and raw way. The castle’s extensive collection of historic artefacts and art is seen in the shifting light from the sun exactly as they would have been when they were made.
This helps to push the authentic experience at the castle and to further help people step back in time.
The early history of Craigievar Castle
William Forbes, the ancestor of the Forbes baronets of Craigievar and the brother of the Bishop of Aberdeen, Patrick Forbes of Corse Castle, purchased the partially completed structure from the impoverished Mortimer family in the year 1610. He arranged for the beautiful castle to begin construction soon after taking over. As stated above, Craigievar Castle is one of the most amazing original pieces of Scottish Baronial architecture and this great seven-storey castle was completed in the year 1626.
Forbes was nicknamed ‘Danzig Willy’ which was somewhat of a reference to his shrewd international trading success with the Baltic states. Some even referred to him as ‘Willy the Merchant’ also based on the same thing as his other nicknames. William’s son soon became a Baronet of Nova Scotia by Charles I and his title is now extant. The Forbes Baronetcy, of Craigievar in the County of Aberdeen, was created in the Baronetage of Nova Scotia on 20 April 1630 for William Forbes.
He was also a descendant of Hon. Patrick Forbes, who was the third son of the second Lord Forbes, and the nephew of the first Baronet of the 1628 creation. The fourth Baronet represented Aberdeenshire in the House of Commons and the 5th Baronet married the Hon. Sarah Sempill, who was the eldest daughter of Hugh Sempill, 12th Lord Sempill. Their grandson, the eighth Baronet, succeeded as seventeenth Lord Sempill in 1884. The titles remained united until the death of his grandson, the 19th Lord and tenth Baronet, in the year 1965.
Craigievar is commonly noted for its exceptionally crafted plasterwork ceilings and it is designed in the same L plan that Muchalls castle was, which is located in the same region as Craigievar. Glamis Castle, Muchalls Castle, and Craigievar Castle are all generally considered to have the three loveliest ceilings in Scotland. The grand ceilings feature plaster figures of the Nine Worthies as well as other family emblems.
The 19th century
By the time that the early 1800s came around, the tower had fallen into decay. Sir John Forbes then began to consider demolishing the tower and went forth to consult the Aberdeen city architect known as John Smith who told him that it was not recommended and he stated that the tower was: “one of the finest specimens in the Country of the age and style in which it was built.” After hearing this, he then opted to restore the building.
Many roof repairs were undertaken circa 1826 and a timber base covered with slates was used. Around the same time, it is said that “the towers were altered and raised, and a new entrance door was put in, which was subsequently restored to the original entrance” according to the records of the Aberdeenshire Council. Re-construction of the entire top floor was almost completely finished aside from a few odd spots that weren’t needing to be restored. Many things were replaced such as the windows, external harling, and pointing and it is very much likely that Smith also designed the gardener’s cottage.
The castle did originally have far more defensive elements including a walled courtyard with four round towers, however, only one of the towers remains today. If you pay attention to the arched door leading to the remaining round tower, you will be able to spot the preserved carved initials of Sir Thomas Forbes, William Forbes’ son. There is also a huge iron portcullis covering the entrance door that is called a yett. Another thing people tend to say about the castle is that it is haunted by at least one ghost, maybe more according to folklore in the area.
The 20th century at Craigievar Castle
Aside from Craigievar Castle, the Forbes family also owned a large granite house at Fintray in Inverurie, Aberdeenshire. This became the main residence of the entire family for many years until the Second World War went through. During the war, Fintray House was used regularly as a large hospital for all of the unfortunate and wounded Belgian soldiers.
Then, in the year 1963, the family donated the entire Craigievar estate to the National Trust for Scotland which then took over the operation. Since 1990, the estate has been a listed building of the Aberdeenshire Castle. By the time that the late 1970s came around, inside Craigievar Castle, there was a beautiful Great Hall that had Stuart Arms over the grand fireplace, a musicians gallery, a secret staircase connecting the high tower to the Great Hall, the Queen’s bedroom, servants’ quarters, and most admirable of all, the splendid plasterwork ceilings.
There was also a collection of lovely Forbes family portraits inside as well as many Forbes furnishings that dated back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Also, inside were two original Henry Raeburn portraits complete with the original receipts.
The 21st century
Between the years of 2007 and 2009, the castle was closed so that its exterior could be given a new harl that returned it to what is believed to be a close equivalent of the harling put in place during the refurbishment of 1820. In April of 2010, it was once again opened to the public. In 2019, a report provided people with this summary of the castle grounds:
“Little remains of the 17th century designed landscape and the grounds around the Castle date from the late-18th and early-19th centuries. Further planting, particularly of ornamental conifers, was added at the end of the 19th century. In the 1930s a rock garden was created behind the coach-house and, more recently, flower borders were added around the Castle and in the kitchen garden”
In early 2019, a volunteer discovered what is thought to be an original door of the property that was made of oak. It was subsequently replaced in 1825 and was considered to be missing until that sighting in 2019. The door was then restored perfectly and made as a display piece that you can now view today.
The current day at Craigievar Castle
These days, there is plenty to do at this enchanting castle. If this castle couldn’t get enchanting enough, you are completely able to enjoy an amazing and fairy tale Craigievar Castle wedding to fulfil your Cinderella destiny. If you are fortunate enough to have your wedding day here, you and your partner will feel like complete royalty on your wedding day and you will feel a love like no other.
During your wedding, you will be surrounded by extensive parkland and woodland in a tranquil environment. The bottom line is that Craigievar Castle is truly a magnificent venue that people will be rushing to visit.
You may enjoy reading about other Scottish castles such as Kelburn Castle.
Craigievar Castle Timeline
- 1610-William Forbes, the ancestor of the Forbes baronets of Craigievar and the brother of the Bishop of Aberdeen, Patrick Forbes of Corse Castle, purchased the partially completed structure from the impoverished Mortimer family
- 1626- This great seven-storey castle was completed
- 1800- The castle begins to fall into significant decay
- 1826- Many roof repairs were undertaken in an attempt to resurrect the castle from its decay
- 1930- A rock garden is created behind the coach-house
- 1963- The family donates the entire Craigievar estate to the National Trust for Scotland
- 1990- The estate is added as a Listed building of the Aberdeenshire Castle
- 2007 to 2009- The castle is closed so that its exterior could be given a new harl
- 2010- The castle and its grounds are once again opened to the public
- 2019- A volunteer discovers what is thought to be an original door of the property that is made of oak
Why is Craigievar Castle famous?
Not only is Craigievar Castle very well-known for how well it has been preserved, but its claim also to fame lies particularly in its colour. It obviously isn’t very common to see a pink castle anywhere, so people flock from all over the world just to get a glimpse of this intriguing pink castle. It was given its distinguishable pink colour by a man of the name of John Forbes who painted it in 1824.
Since then, it has become somewhat of a statement piece and the entire reason that this castle is so famous. To this day, there is not a single castle like it in the entire world. On top of this, it is also said to be the castle that inspired Walt Disney to create the stunning Cinderella’s Castle.
Facts about Craigievar Castle
- The castle hasn’t always been pink, in fact, it started as more of a cream colour
- The Mortimer family held the estate since around 1376 until it was purchased in 1610
- The castle is built as an L-plan tower house with a rectangular hall-block and a slightly offset square tower
- It is said that the castle and surrounding area is haunted by various ghosts
Featured in TV and Film
Books on Craigievar Castle
- Craigievar Castle by author unknown (1987)
Who owns Craigievar Castle?
Though Cragievar Castle has previously had many owners, it now remains the property of the National Trust for Scotland. It was in 1963 that the Forbes family donated the estate to the National Trust for Scotland, and it was at that point that it completely took over the operation of the estate. Since the year 1990, the estate has been a Listed building of the Aberdeenshire Council.
In accordance with the previous owners’ wishes, no artificial light has ever been installed on the upstairs floors. This allows for the castle’s stunning and extensive collection of historic artefacts and art to be seen in the shifting light from the sun. What this means is that you will be able to view it all just as it would have been in earlier days.
These days, there is plenty to do at this enchanting castle. If you enjoy walking, you can embark on one of the great Craigievar Castle walks. You can enjoy a lovely 2-mile marked hill trail through the firs with a hilltop circle folly and a grand view of Lochnagar. There is also a shorter walk around the castle and meadow that features some amazing broadleaved veteran trees in the lovely Autumn season.
You are even able to organise a tour of the castle and gardens for your wedding party. Just so you’re aware, there is no space onsite to have your wedding reception, so you will have to make other arrangements for this. Keep in mind that all tours within the castle are limited to a group of ten and that there is a quaint little coffee shop that allows you to take a seat and relax.