Craigston Castle Revisited – Summer 2019

A story of revisting Craigston some 60 years on, from our recent guest George Merson:

In July I travelled to Aberdeenshire to rediscover my Scottish roots, a long overdue trip I’d promised myself for many years. One of my top priorities was a visit to Craigston Castle which I’d previously arranged with William, the owner, and his house manager, Elisabetta. My association with Craigston was through my grandparents who lived and worked on the estate for over 30 years as employees of the then Laird, Bruce Urquhart. As a result I spent many weekends and school holidays visiting my grandparents there on the estate and countless days exploring its idyllic surroundings, including visits to the castle.

I had not set foot in the Craigston Castle since I was a young boy, some 60 years ago, and was a little apprehensive of my imminent visit. This was because I had retained many fond memories of the castle and the estate which contributed to a very happy childhood. Would these childhood memories now be exposed as an over-inflated figment of a child’s overactive imagination and would I now be disappointed when seeing the castle again through the eyes of an adult?

My wife Sheila and I were greeted by Elisabetta at front of the castle on a cloudy Aberdeenshire afternoon. Even under a sunless sky, the castle looked quite spectacular and imposing. After the warmest of welcomes by the effusive Elizabetta we commenced our visit of the Castle. Elisabetta was quite insistent that we should be received into the castle through its impressive main entrance which can only be opened from the inside. We stood expectantly outside the main door as Elisabetta disappeared through a side entrance and then made her way to unlock the main door and admit us into the castle. A few moments later our attention was sharpened as we heard bolts and latches being unfastened and finally the turning of a key in its lock. Slowly the ancient great door swung open revealing a magnificent hallway adorned at its far end by the family coat of arms in beautifully carved oak positioned over an archway which lead to other parts of the castle.

In an instant my earlier misgivings about the accuracy of childhood memories were completely dispelled as we progressed into the hallway, Elisabetta closing the door and locking it with a massive key over a foot long. The reality of Craigston I now viewed in front of me was far grander than my childhood recollections and I was not disappointed. Moving on we first entered the kitchen and pantry areas on the ground floor, still much as I remembered them, including the dumb waiter, but now equipped with an Aga and modern appliances for the convenience of 21st century life.

We then climbed the impressive main staircase and entered the ante- and main drawing rooms, both beautifully furnished with 18th and 19th century furniture, walls festooned with old family portraits and other artworks in keeping with this baronial and historic setting. Window recesses and doors were clad in intricately carved wood panels. Standing in the midst of the drawing room one could not be anything but overwhelmed by the truly memorable surroundings which evoked an atmosphere of sheer timelessness and with history of the building exuding from every nook and cranny. We then passed into a magnificent dining room, again beautifully appointed with period furnishings.

Moving up a stone spiral staircase, complete with stout rope handrail for security, and passing along various passageways, we entered each of the guest bedrooms in turn, all sympathetically filled with fine furniture befitting their historic surroundings. Ensuites and nearby bathrooms to provide for the comforts of modern life were beautifully tiled and equipped whilst not detracting from the atmospheric character of the castle.

Throughout our tour Elisabetta provided us with a detailed commentary on the various objects we viewed and answered our many questions. We were very appreciative that she had taken time out of her busy schedule to accommodate our visit, particularly as a party of guests were due in the following afternoon. Elisabetta’s love, energy and enthusiasm for Craigston was apparent from the moment we met her and throughout our visit. Many thanks to you Elisabetta for being the perfect host
Although we did not lodge at the castle, I feel that any guest would be more than amply rewarded by a stay in this unique, historic and most atmospheric of settings, situated in the midst of beautiful countryside. This is truly a cut above many other holiday properties, and I am looking forward to booking it in the near future for a family reunion.

William and his team at Craigston have done a remarkable job in maintaining the fabric of the castle, both externally and internally and congratulations are in order. I am deeply conscious that as owner of this great edifice he also has the heavy responsibility of ensuring its survival for the enjoyment of future generations, a rolenwhich he and his team are discharged admirably. I left Craigston and the estate with the warmest of feelings vowing to return soon.

George Merson, Deal, Kent, Summer 2019