Described by Historic Scotland as "One of the crispest, sparest and most truly Scots houses in the north-east", Ardgrain was built by the Kennedy family in 1629 over a much earlier structure dating from 1411. The Kennedies were the hereditary constables of Aberdeen, whose ancestors built Ellon Castle.
Constructed during the brief architectural transition from Tower Houses to country Houses, Ardgrain is unique in sharing both tower and country house features, and is thought to be the oldest building of its kind in the North-East of Scotland.
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Originally known as Muchall-in-Mar, Castle Fraser is one of the grandest 'Castles of Mar', built by the Earl of Mar, along with Fyvie Castle. Located near Inverurie, Castle Fraser was completed in 1636, and is a five storey Z plan castle, sited on an earlier square tower structure. Reminiscent of a French Château, Castle Fraser is considered the most elaborate Z-plan castle in Scotland.
Castle Fraser contains a wealth of historic furnishings, paintings and fine embroidery. Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, Castle Fraser and its extensive woodlands, walled garden and landscaped grounds are open to the public during the summer months.
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Designed by William Adam, and built between 1735 and 1740, Duff house is thought to be one of Britain's finest Georgian houses. Nestled in the Deveron Valley, Duff House was built for William Duff of Braco, who became Earl Fife in 1759.
Disputes between William Duff and William Adam grew so fierce that Duff himself never lived at the house. So acrimoniously did this end that it is said that he never even looked at the completed house, having his carriage blinds drawn whenever he passed by.
In later years Duff House was in turn a palm court hotel, a sanatorium and a prisoner of war camp. Since 1995 Duff House has been part of the National Galleries of Scotland and houses a range of art treasures and superbly furnished rooms. It also hosts a programme of artistic events and is used as a base for artists and writers.
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Dunnottar Castle near Stonehaven was originally the home of the Earls Marischal, once one of the most powerful families in the land. This L-plan castle stands on a rocky outcrop and parts of the site dates back to the 13th Century, but records also suggest a much earlier settlement as far back as 681.
Dunnottar is most famous for the small garrison which held out against the might of Cromwell's army for a total of eight months in 1650. This saved the Scottish Crown Jewels, known as the "Honours of Scotland", from theft and destruction.
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With a history tracing back over 800 years, Fyvie Castle has been described as one of the finest of all castles in Scotland. Now owned by the National Trust for Scotland, this historic castle is open to the general public during the summer months.
Five families are said to have each contributed to the castle and its construction, Preston, Meldrum, Seton, Gordon and Leith. Local legend has it that each built one of the five impressive castle towers.
Fyvie’s main grounds and lochside were landscaped in the early 19th century. Fyvie Castles 18th-century walled garden has been developed as a garden of Scottish fruits and vegetables and the gardens and other parkland areas are open to the public all year.
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Pre-dating the Slains Castle at Cruden Bay, Old Slains Castle at Collieston was built by the Errol family and is 6 miles to the south. Old Slains Castle was blown up by King James VI as a punishment for their part in the 1594 plot by the Earl of Huntly against him.
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Now a crumbling ruin, Slains castle started life as a tower house. The original Slains castle (at a separate site south of Cruden Bay) was destroyed by King James VII in retaliation for support given to the rebellious uprising of 1594. In 1597 a the Earl of Errol built a tower house north of Cruden Bay to become the replacement castle.
Slains Castle is one of the most popular castles in Scotland, perhaps most famously for its association with Bram Stoker. While on holiday at Cruden Bay in 1895, Bram Stoker started work on his most famous book, Dracula. Slains Castle became the inspiration for Count Dracula's castle, and in early versions of the book the count even came ashore to UK at Cruden Bay.
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