Easter weekend marks the start of the tourist season for most of the National Trust for Scotland's properties and this Easter some of their top tourist attractions were hosting a chocolate easter egg hunt. Needless to say, the chance of some free chocolate was the deciding factor when Aurelia was picking where to go visiting this month...Crathes Castle and Haddo House.
The combination of Easter Egg hunting and castle visits also allowed us to go touring around the backroads of Aberdeenshire to develop some new routes for day trips on our castle tours. When we left our Aberdeen B&B on the Saturday morning it looked like all our plans would have to be scrubbed due to the overnight snow, but we drove inland in the hope of a break in the weather and some "Seasonal" (!?) pictures of Crathes Castle in the snow.
Fortunately, the decision to press on was the right one and we got some of our best ever pictures of Crathes Castle looking very photogenic with a backdrop of a cloudless blue sky and a fresh blanket of snow all around. A perfect Christmas Card scene in March!
Next on our list of attractions to visit was the very haunted Fyvie Castle. Last time we visited the castle we were turned away as we were just a minute or so later than the last tour admission. This time success, although the tour didn't really live up to our expectations. From the outside it looks as if you could be walking around Fyvie Castle for hours, but we were surprised how quickly we found ourselves back at the ubiqutous castle tearoom. This might be because this castle has so many secrets and sealed chambers.
After an overnight stay with friends in Garmond, a tiny one street village near Turriff, we set off for home with a visit to Haddo House near Ellon. Heavy snow meant that the House was being run with a Skeleton crew and the conventional guided tours were being substituted by self guided walkabouts. Normally we prefer this, but Haddo House has some entertaining guides such as Ethel who started work at the house as a maid over 30 years ago.
Fortunately, the House was quite quiet and the staff on hand were relaxed about showing us some of the more interesting aspects of the house. We even got a peek behind the scenes at the labyrinth of passages within the house that enabled servants to move around without being seen by the owners.
I'm not a big fan of guidebooks that throwaway superlatives when describing tourist attractions, but I do mean it when I say that the ceilings of Haddo House are truly impressive. The detail and artistry is of a standard that couldn't be dreamt of at today's labour costs and even in the 1880's the price was a staggering £1.25 million!!!