Craigievar Castle – A Fairytale Experience (History & Travel Tips)


The stunning pink tower of Craigievar Castle perched on a naturally stunning location in Alford, Aberdeenshire is sure to charm people of all ages. This famous tower house fantasy castle was built in 1576. Designed in the Scottish Baronial style, it is among the finest preserved and most adored castles in Scotland. William Forbes finished it in 1626, the appearance hasn’t altered much since then. Architecturally, Craigievar Castle is appealing with a tower topped by elegant turrets that adorn the exterior.

Tours are only available in the summer because the castle does not have any artificial lighting, making everything seem the way it was seen centuries ago but very dim in winter. Due to an extensive conservation project, the castle, store, kiosk, and restrooms are closed until 2024.

Let’s explore in detail the castle’s intriguing history as well as the necessary tips and tricks using which you can make your visit to the castle worthwhile.

The castle was originally off-white but was painted pink as part of a significant renovation program that started in the 1820s.

A panoramic view view of Craigievar Castle.
A panoramic view view of Craigievar Castle. craigievar castle flickr photo by stusmith_uk shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Frequently Asked Questions


Early History

Craigievar Castle’s Building and Completion (14th Century)

The Mortimer family, who had owned the Craigievar lands at least since 1376, were the first to begin the castle construction. During the religious controversies of the Reformation, their wealth plummeted. By 1610, they could no longer sustain themselves, and in that year, James Mortimer sold the Craigievar property to William Forbes. In 1626, the castle was completed by William Forbes.

Unique Structure of the Castle

The castle is an L-plan tower structure with a square tower and a rectangular hall-block. The castle’s gatehouse is located in a supplementary square tower that is angled between the two. On the first and second floors, there is the hall block. The third floor and above are divided by a stone wall, while on the fifth floor, a large single room extends from the wing over one-half of the hall, clearly illustrating the various construction stages. Many watch towers are provided by a complicated configuration of corbelled turrets that make the structure of the castle all the more interesting. 

Craigievar Castle in 1901.
Craigievar Castle in 1901. R. W. Billings, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

The ceilings of Craigievar are known for their exquisite plasterwork, considered one of the best examples in Scotland. The Clan Burnett of Leys, who constructed Crathes Castle and Muchalls Castle (host of another highly commended ceiling), was good friends with the Clan Forbes lineage. The Nine Worthies and other family symbols are depicted in plaster on the ceilings.

Renovation of the Castle (19th Century)

Craigievar started to deteriorate at the beginning of the 1800s. John Forbes had decided to disassemble the tower, but–after consulting Aberdeen’s city architect John Smith–he was persuaded against it since it was one of the best examples of its period and architectural style in the nation. After the advice, Forbes chose to renovate the structure instead of demolishing it.

The castle’s four round towers form its original defensive configuration, which is also why the castle includes a walled courtyard that still exists today. The carved initials of Sir Thomas Forbes, William Forbes’ son, are still visible in the arched gateway of the round tower of the castle. The entry door is additionally protected by a yett, an enormous iron gate to strengthen the protection even more.

A wintry landscape at Craigievar Castle.
A wintry landscape at Craigievar Castle. Nick Bramhall, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The Castle’s Exquisite Interior

By the end of the 1970s, the inside of the castle included a Great Hall with the Stuart Arms above the fireplace, a musicians’ gallery, a hidden stairway linking the high tower to the Great Hall, the Queen’s Bedroom, servants’ quarters, and numerous magnificent plasterwork ceilings. There were several Forbes pieces of furniture from the 17th and 18th centuries inside, as well as a collection of family photographs dating from those eras. Two original Henry Raeburn pictures, complete with original receipts, are also kept in the castle.

Craigievar Castle Under National Trust for Scotland

The Forbes family gave the Craigievar estate to the National Trust for Scotland in 1963. The estate has been listed as a historic building by the Aberdeenshire Council since 1990.

The majestic castle’s interior period décor.
The majestic castle’s interior period décor. Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Current Times

If you are a fan of fairytale experiences, Craigievar Castle is the place for you. The castle’s pink color and its tower turrets make the magical experience as real as you can get. Not only that, but you can also stay at the castle to live out your fantasy dreams. The stunning pink tower of Craigievar Castle is perched in a scenic location that is certain to captivate both kids and adults. 

Panoramic side view of Craigievar Castle .
Panoramic side view of Craigievar Castle. Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

You can find a lovely collection of family pictures and ancient plaster ceilings inside the castle. Additionally, there is a lot of authentic Jacobean woodwork and exquisite furniture, such as the Craigievar table, which you cannot skip out on. To keep the youngsters engaged and interested, the castle has a family trail and offers a children’s quiz.

A worm's eye view of Craigievar Castle.
A worm’s eye view of Craigievar Castle. Craigievar Castle flickr photo by GariochT shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

The castle grounds are open all year so you can stroll around or go for a picnic. There are vast parkland grounds around the castle which gives you the opportunity to observe the outside of the castle from all panoramic aspects and really snap some incredible shots. Don’t forget to visit the Victorian kitchen garden and the Scottish glen garden on the castle estate.

Interesting Craigievar Castle Facts

There are a number of exciting facts about Craigievar Castle. Below is a list of facts that you might find intriguing:

  • The castle’s upper floors never had any artificial lights installed. The artifacts may be seen in the same amount of natural light as they did hundreds of years ago.
  • The property’s original oak door, which was rebuilt in 1825 and thought to be gone until 2019, was found by a volunteer. The door was later restored and placed on display.
  • The castle was originally off-white but was painted pink as part of a significant renovation program that started in the 1820s.
  • The upper floors of the castle were added later on as part of the 1820s renovation program. 

Visiting Craigievar Castle – Tips and Tricks

The 17th-century Craigievar Castle is known to be the fantasy castle of Scotland. It not only appeals to children but adults as well. The castle packs an environment of playfulness and harbors a wealth of historic knowledge too.

If you’re keen to see this fairytale-inspired marvel, you can make your trip simple and enjoyable by using the tips and tricks listed below.

Visiting tourists around Craigievar Castle.
Visiting tourists around Craigievar Castle. Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

How to get to Craigievar Castle?

There are three ways to travel to Craigievar Castle from Aberdeen. You can travel by bus or taxi, or you can drive there as well. The bus will take around 3 hours and will cost £13 ($15 USD). The taxi will take approximately 40 minutes and will cost £82 ($100 USD). Driving yourself will take about 40 minutes and cost £8 ($10 USD).

Ticket Prices, Visiting Hours & Travel Tips

Information was checked & updated on November 5, 2023.

Please note that the castle, shop, kiosk & toilets are presently closed until 2024 for external renovations, but the grounds of the castle are still open to tourists.

A stunning view of Craigievar Castle from its gardens.
A stunning view of Craigievar Castle from its gardens. Holger Uwe Schmitt, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Things To Do at Craigievar Castle

  • Discover the woodland pathways and gardens of the castle. Watch out for the pine martens!
  • Have a relaxing stay in the holiday cottages of the castle. 
  • If you visit with children, you can keep them interested with children’s quizzes at the castle.
  • You can hire the venue for weddings or private parties.
  • Nature spotting is popular at Craigievar Castle. Have fun spotting the Scottish wild cats, pine martens, house martins, and roe deers.

How Long Will It Take to Tour Around?

It will take you around an hour to tour all five floors of the castle. The guided tour allows you enough time to take in all the valuable historical information. 

Some words of advice and tips: 

  • Only guided tours are allowed inside the castle.
  • Due to the stone stairs going up to the castle and the store, access may be challenging for persons with restricted mobility.
  • Please be cautioned that access to the upper floors is via steep spiral staircases.
  • You can request lightweight folding seats at the castle. 
  • The pathways through the woods are uneven. The paths may become muddy in rainy weather and are quite steep in certain places.
  • The use of drones is not allowed on the site of the castle without authorization.
  • Access to the roof of the castle is not allowed.

Quick Video Tour of The Main Craigievar Castle Areas

Kainat Khalid
Kainat Khalid
Kainat is an English literature graduate with a profound interest in historical architecture. She has studied and explored the dusted pages of history for years which has ignited her passion to explore the existing remnants of our past glory and revisit them from a revised perspective. “There is no present without the past” is what she believes in and what drove her to begin cataloging these timeless historical monuments.

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