With over 300 castles to choose from which will be your favourite? You can find all sizes and shapes from majestic ruins such as Dunnotar and Slains, ancient Scottish tower houses to baronial family homes. Aberdeenshire has its own signposted “Castle Trail” taking a tour round many of the most popular sites in the area.
Crathes, a 16th century castle built by the Burnetts of Leys and now managed by the National Trust for Scotland, is the location of both the Mega Day event and venue for the week’s camping. On a visit to the castle, gardens and wider estate you can try out the aerial runways of Go Ape, take a guided tour of the castle, and wander round the walled gardens before lunching in the tearoom and of course finding the many geocaches on the Crathes Castle trail.
Image courtesy of Visit Scotland
The castle is famous locally for the intricate and well preserved paintings found on the ceiling of the Chamber of the Muses and the castle’s resident ghost, the “Green Lady” whose tragic tale is described by head tour guide Ron Mairn, here
Just 5 miles away, towards Aberdeen, you’ll find Drum Castle which dates back to the 1300s and features one of the oldest tower houses in Scotland. The castle is managed by the National Trust for Scotland and features a historic rose garden and for the children there is one of the best adventure play parks around. There are of course caches nearby including one from the Explore Royal Deeside Geotour.
Image courtesy of National Trust for Scotland
40 minutes north-west of Crathes Castle, you’ll find Aberdeenshire’s own fairy-tale castle, Cragievar. Again run by the National Trust, this castle dates back to the 1600s and the Forbes family. With its turrets, gargoyles and high corbelling, this pink harled castle is reputed to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s castle. The are many caches within the beautiful grounds on the Cragievar Castle Trail.
Half an hour away to the north of the campsite is Castle Fraser – another local castle with an excellent set of geocaches within the grounds. Once the home of the Fraser family, it is one of the largest tower houses in the land and features hidden staircases, the “Laird’s Lug” used for eavesdropping on conversations and a host of stories about the colourful characters that once lived in and, who knows, may still haunt the corridors and staircases!
Another Deeside castle is Braemar, owned by the chief of Clan Farquharson and leased by the local community who open it to the public. Unfortunately the castle at Balmoral won’t be open to the public during Mega week – it closes each August when the Royal family are in residence, although you might see them going to church early on Sunday at nearby Crathie Church. You can still visit the grounds and huge estate which are open all year round.
Head to the coast and you’ll find what is undoubtedly one of the most photogenic ruins in the North East, Dunnottar Castle. A ruined medieval fortress located on a rocky outcrop, this was the hiding place of the Honours of Scotland (the Scottish Crown Jewels) during Oliver Cromwel’s invasion in the 17th century and a haunting place of imprisonment for 167 Covenanters during the 1685 rebellion. You’ll find an Earthcache here – and why not pop into the beautiful harbour town of Stonehaven to the north for a notorious deep-fried Mars Bar from its inventors, the Carron Fish Bar.