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    Scotiana’s Favourite Castles: Fyvie Castle – Part I

    There are many fabulous castles in Scotland but some of them, like Fyvie Castle or Drum Castle which I introduced last time on Scotiana, well deserve to be visited again and again. We discovered Fyvie Castle in 2006, re-visited it in 2007 and again in 2015 but we would have nothing against visiting it again. What a  castle!

    Situated as it is 25 miles north-west of Aberdeen, off the A947, 8 miles south-east of Turriff,  Fyvie Castle also belongs to the Aberdeenshire Castle Trail.

     

    Fyvie Castle south façade © 2015 Scotiana

    Fyvie Castle south façade © 2015 Scotiana

    “In the lowlands of Aberdeenshire, in the midst of spacious, undulating country, stands a building which is, historically, one of the most interesting in all Scotland.”

     (Fyvie Castle – Its Lairds and their Times by  A.M.W. Stirling -1928)

    Fivy Castle is one of our favourite Scottish Castles and its façade reflects a French influence ;-). This influence is more visible on the engraving below…

    Fyvie Castle drawn by Robert William Billings and engraved by J. H. Le Keux

    Fyvie Castle drawn by Robert William Billings and engraved by J. H. Le Keux

    The Fyvie of to-day is a vast building which is curiously foreign in appearance. In the midst of that far Scottish land one seems suddenly transplanted to a château on the Loire. The link between the Scots and the French in a remote age is perpetuated in every line of its graceful structure, from which the battlements and castellated summits of an English castle are absent. As Mr Billings wrote at a date when the impressive pile had not attained to its present dimensions, “There is no such edifice in England. It is, indeed, one of the noblest and most beautiful specimens of that rich architecture which the Scottish Barons of the days of King James IV obtained from France. Its three [sic] princely towers, with their luxuriant coronet of coned turrets, sharp gables, tall roofs and chimneys, canopied dormer windows, and rude statuary, present a sky line at once graceful, rich, and massive, and in these qualities exceeding even the far-famed Glamis” (Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland, Robert William Billings 1848-52)

    Fyvie Castle MA opening the gate © 2015 Scotiana

    Fyvie Castle MA opening the gate © 2015 Scotiana

    Let us open the gates !

    Fyvie Castle park bluebells season © 2015

    Fyvie Castle park bluebells season © 2015

    One can’t be but impressed on discovering the lovely pink silhouette of Fyvie Castle standing among vast expanses of magnificent landscaped parkland…

    Fyvie Castle north façade © 2015

    Fyvie Castle north façade © 2015

    When you arrive at the entrance door, on the north façade of the castle, to buy your tickets for the visit or present your NTS pass, you feel stunned in front of its architectural richness. The pink colour, like in so many Scottish castles, gives it a fairy tale atmosphere though history is far from being rosy…

    HISTORY

    One of the greatest charms of these old castles, and especially of the Scottish castles, is to awake in us a strong sense of mystery.  Echoes of the past seem to resound within their old and thick walls.

    The history of Fyvie Castle dates back to the early 13th century: historical records show that William the Lion spent some time in the castle in 1211 or 1214.  Alexander II, Edward I and Robert the Bruce are among the historical figures who also came there.

    “The castle was probably originally built from wood before being built in stone at the end of the 14 th century.changed to stone-built was in 1385. Up to the late 16th century the castle would have been of a defensive design. In fact research indicates that it most likely had a “child’s toy fort” look. However Alexander Seton enlarged the castle after he bought it in 1596. He added the upper works, which are arguably the finest example of 16th century Scottish baronial style. This includes bartizans, crow stepped gables, skewputs, sculpted dormers and finials in the form of musicians and huntsmen. The south front carriers one of the earliest uses of raised stone margins at the windows. This, combined with the ashlar panel between the drum towers, heightens the plain harling that covers the rest of the castle. By the mid 18th century the north and west wings had been lost and it was at this point that the Gordon Tower was added, it wasn’t until 1890 that there was the addition of the Leith Tower.” (SCRAN)

    Fyvie Castle was purchased by The National Trust for Scotland in 1984. In 1986, a large restoration project was begun, which lasted for seven years.

    ARCHITECTURE

    Fyvie Castle is built in a “Z” shape and has towers named after each of the families that have owned the building.

    Fyvie Castle south façade Seton Tower © 2006

    Fyvie Castle south façade Seton Tower © 2006

    • East Tower: The Preston Tower (1402)
    • West Tower: The Meldrum Tower (1433)
    • South front centre: The Seton Tower (1600 ?)
    • North Tower : The Gordon Tower (1790)
    • North West : The Leith Tower (a wing rather than a tower which became the new entrance in 1905)

     

    LEGENDS

    Fyvie Castle Unexplained Sue Coburn 2016

    Fyvie Castle Unexplained Sue Coburn 2016

    An air of mystery is created by the hair-raising stories associated with Fyvie castle.

    “The castle (like many places in Scotland) is said to be haunted. A story is told that in 1920 during renovation work the skeleton of a woman was discovered behind a bedroom wall. On the day the remains were laid to rest in Fyvie cemetery, the castle residents started to be plagued by strange noises and unexplained happenings. Fearing he had offended the dead woman, the Laird of the castle had the skeleton exhumed and replaced behind the bedroom wall, at which point the haunting ceased. It is said that there is a secret room in the south-west corner of the castle that must remain sealed, lest anyone entering meet with disaster. It is unclear if this is the same room in which the skeleton was found. There is also an indelible blood stain, two ghosts and two curses associated with this place.” (Wikipedia)

    But certainly the most popular ghost associated with Fyvie Castle is that of Lilias Drummond, nicknamed the “Green Lady”.

    “The sill of the north-facing window recalls another of Fyvie’s legends – that of the ‘Green Lady’, traditionally the ghost of Dame Lilias Drummond, Alexander Seton’s first wife. On the night of his second marriage to the pretty young Grizel Leslie, contracted in 1601 only a few weeks after Lilias’s death, the couple heard heavy sighs outside their chamber window. In the morning they found these words carved [upside down] on the sill from outside.” (NTS brochure)

    Many people, including the property managers and custodians of the Castle (and excluding us), claim they have seen the “Green Lady” or felt her presence in or outside the castle. “It is said”, writes Sue Coburn in her fascinating  book Fyvie Unexplained “that the unhappy Dame Lilias, clad in shimmering green satin and emitting an iridescent light, with ropes of pearls round her neck and wound through her hair, still flits up the wide stairway that her husband built, and along the corridors of the home where she was supplanted by a younger rival.”

    No need to say that I’ve downloaded Sue Coburn’s book and read it straight through ;-).

    Two curses are also associated with the castle.

    • A sealed medieval dungeon – It is said that there is a secret room in the south-west corner of the castle that must remain sealed, lest anyone entering meet with disaster.

    •  The ‘Curse of the Weeping Stones’ is supposed to explain the death of every eldest son in the castle’s families over the past 600 years – perhaps the reason why the castle has changed hands so often? Until the three stones are discovered and removed, the curse is said to hold. The whereabouts of only one is known: it’s on display in the Charter Room. One of the curses has been attributed to the prophetic laird, Thomas the Rhymer. The curse is said to have been part of the mysterious three weeping stones. Only one weeping stone is known to exist and is kept at the castle. The other two have never been found.

     

    GROUNDS & GARDENS

    The gardens are open all the year long from 09.00 to sunset. After visiting the many rooms of the castle it is very pleasant to go and rest under the majestic century-old trees of the park and to linger along the beautiful alleys lined with a great variety of plants including some rare species.

    Fyvie castle arbre croisée des chemins © 2015 Scotiana

    Fyvie castle arbre croisée des chemins © 2015 Scotiana

    Alone or not alone ? Sometimes you feel as if you are being watched…

    Fyvie Castle gardens © 2006

    Fyvie Castle gardens © 2006

    Janice took this wonderful picture. A living painting !

    Fyvie Castle Garden entrance door © 2006

    Fyvie Castle Garden entrance door © 2006

    The 18th-century walled garden is being re-created to grow traditional Scottish fruits and vegetables

     

    Fyvie Castle boathouse loch Fyvie bluebells © 2015

    Fyvie Castle boathouse loch Fyvie bluebells © 2015

    Fyvie Loch is a lovely place with its little boathouse reflecting its romantic silhouette on its quiet waters. It’s also the ideal place to watch birds. According to the season, you can see a number of them gliding slowly on the water, flying and fishing: swans, ducks, moorhens, ospreys to mention only the best known species… in winter greylag geese and different kinds of ducks …

    BIBLIOGRAPHY

    • Fyvie Castle, Garden & Estate – The National Trust for Scotland 2014
    • The Baronial and Ecclesiastical Antiquities of Scotland illustrated by Robert William Billings, architect, in four volumes.. Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood and Son, 1852. Hathitrust Digital Archive version of a copy in the University of California Library. Web. 10 October 2018.
    Fyvie castle AMW Stirling 1928 edition detail cover

    Fyvie castle AMW Stirling 1928 edition detail cover

    • Fyvie Castle, its Lairds and their times  by A.M.W. Stirling published in 1928

    Open on my desk is  the first edition of Mrs Stirling’s book. Its pages of which have been cut carefully with a paper knife by a previous reader, up to the end of the book …  I wonder if my precious book happens to be one of those which could be found on the bedside tables of each bedroom in Fyvie Castle… anyway, given my slow reading, it will remain on my desk for some time! It’s difficult reading for a French reader. But Vouloir c’est pouvoir 😉

    Mrs AMW Stirling English writer (1865-1965)

    Mrs AMW Stirling English writer (1865-1965)

    A.M.W. Stirling (26 August 1865, London – 11 August 1965) was the author of several books dealing mostly with the lives and reminiscences of the British landed gentry of Yorkshire. She was also the founder of the De Morgan Centre for the Study of 19th Century Art and Society, a gallery in the London Borough of Wandsworth which was home for a few years to the De Morgan Collection – a large collection of the work of the Victorian ceramic artist William De Morgan and his wife, the painter Evelyn De Morgan.

    Fyvie Castles Its Lairds and their times Sue Coburn 2005

    Fyvie Castles Its Lairds and their times Sue Coburn 2005

    I have visited the Castle many times, and never get tired of walking through the rooms that tell so many tales – it feels as if the owners have just popped out for five minutes and will be back shortly – it still feels lived in, even though it is no longer the family home.

    The National Trust brochure for the Castle is excellent, but I felt it did not go far enough in its history of the Lairds and the times in which they lived, to satisfy my curiosity. ‘Surfing on the net’ on ‘Fyvie’ came up with information on a 1928 book written by an A.M.W. Stirling, available from ‘antique book’ sellers. (…)

    The castle  is under the care of the National Trust for Scotland and if you want to visit it I must but recommend you to pay close attention to its opening times, including the dates of the wedding ceremonies taking place in the castle for it could be closed to visitors then.

    Fyvie Castle wedding cars © 2007

    Fyvie Castle wedding cars © 2007

    “Within Fyvie Castle wedding ceremonies are held in the interconnecting Gallery and Drawing Room. From the Entrance Hall guests are guided up the sweeping stone wheel staircase and through the stylish Drawing Room to the Gallery, famed for its intricate decor and 17th-century Flemish tapestries.” (NTS)

    Bonne lecture ! And have a good visit if you intend to go to Fyvie Castle soon… many interesting events take place there in la morte-saison

     Á bientôt to learn more about this castle for there will be a second part to this post.

    Mairiuna

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