The North East of Scotland is home to a veritable feast of castles, both restored and in ruins. One which has been restored to its former glory is the Castle of Fyvie.
Fyvie Castle is claimed to be the finest example of Scottish Baronial architecture. Whether or not this is a valid claim, I am not qualified to say. What I will say is that it’s a mightily impressive £6’s worth.
Fully restored and furnished to its former glory by the National Trust for Scotland, Fyvie Castle and grounds hold something for every interest, so don’t expect to pay a flying visit. This place justifies a day to itself.
The Castle has five towers, each built and named after one of the five families who owned it in succession. On the south side, the Meldrum Tower is on the left, the Preston Tower to the right, and in the centre the Seton Tower forms a grand arched entrance. This is the work of Alexander Seton, Earl of Dunfermline, in 1599. He created a fantasy of corbelled turrets, parapet, carved dormer windows and armorial panels.
The Gordon Tower was added in 1777, and in 1890 the Leith Tower was built. The latter was modelled on Huntly Castle, and contains music and billiard rooms, and a gallery and organ.
In the main, the castle is only one room deep, with the rooms opening into one another in 17th century style. The pièce de résistance is an elaborate processional staircase, built by Seton in 1605. Based on a French concept, it is profusely decorated with heraldry. Also worthy of note is the Morning Room, with its amazing 17th century plasterwork, a panelled charter room, and a spectacular collection of paintings, including work by Batoni, Raeburn, Romney, Gainsborough, Opie and Hoppner.
On a fine summer’s day (remember them?) the landscaped grounds offer a variety of interesting walks. In particular, the walks by the lochside can be quite breathtaking. Extensive woodland surrounds the Castle, and a bird hide is provided. The original walled garden has been restored, and grows traditional Scottish fruit and veg.
Elsewhere in the grounds, you will find restored an ice house, racquets court, and their Lordships’ historic outside loo!
The first significant record of Fyvie Castle is a visit by the English King Edward I in 1296. I can’t tell you what he thought of it, because he didn’t sign the Visitors Book. A little later, it became one of the royal residences of King Robert the Bruce (or de Brus if you prefer to believe our national hero was French). He decreed that the surrounding lands should become a hunting forest.
The Castle passed through many hands over the years. I will mention only a few, in case I become seriously boring.
In 1397, it passed to the Preston who built one of the towers – Sir Henry Preston, who fought at the battle of Otterburn.
In 1596, for (I believe) the first time, the Castle was sold and bought. Alexander Seton, another tower-builder, bought it from the then owners, the Meldrums. He went on to attain a lordship, and entered Parliament in 1598 as the first Lord Fyvie.
The Castle and estate were seized by the Crown in 1689, after the death of the third Lord Fyvie, who had blotted his copybook by fighting on the wrong side at Killiecrankie.
During the 1740s, the Castle passed into the hands of the Gordons, a family both famous and notorious both locally and elsewhere. Suffice it to say, this family produced Lord Byron, and that Scottish traditional dance so beloved of drunken aunties at weddings, the Gay Gordons. Actually, it’s the “Gey” Gordons, but that’s another story.
Fyvie Castle is 25 miles north west of Aberdeen, just off the A947, through the village of Fyvie. The Castle is open daily in the summer months; the grounds are open all year. A tearoom serves lunches, tea and coffees, there is a NTS shop, and there are well informed guides. Parts of the Castle have disabled access, with parking for the disabled by the main door.
© Mike Clark 2002