After our whirlwind tour yesterday of Culloden, Inverness, and Loch Ness, today we needed a breather, so we slowed down a bit. This was very easy to do in the tiny, tiny town of Braemar, nestled quietly in the mountains of Cairngorms National Park. It’s our second night at the Braemar Lodge Hotel, where yesterday we stayed in the hotel proper while today we’re staying in one of their cabins. And it is just lovely!
We allowed ourselves a late start, which was quite nice, but eventually we made our way to Braemar Castle, which is just up the road from the cabin. The castle was built in 1628 by John Erskine the 18th Earl of Mar. By the 1700s, the castle came under the ownership of John Farquharson the 9th Laird of Invercauld. The laird leased the castle to the government to be used as a military garrison, and it remained a garrison until 1831. At the point, the Farquharson clan began to restore the castle as a family home.
Since 2008, the castle has been open to the public, and it is decorated much like how it might’ve looked in the 1950s. This is because in 1948, Alwyne Compton Farquharson the 16th Laird married American Frances Lovell Oldham, and she decorated the castle to her tastes.
The castle itself stands quite tall right next to a busy field of sheep bleating loudly away. On the inside and the outside, it’s rather a kind of “Cinderella castle,” if you know what I mean. It’s an L-shaped castle, five stories high, complete with parapets atop bartizans. When you walk inside, you’re immediately greeted by a single, stone spiral staircase that allows access to all the rooms in the castle.
What’s most interesting about Braemar Castle is that you essentially get to view the inside of a castle that used to be (until very recently) someone’s home. Rather than the usual “museum style” castle or “ruins style” castle that we’ve seen up to this point (as cool as those are, too!), it was fascinating to see what a castle looked like that used to be the residence of a laird and his wife. It felt a little like seeing Glensheen Mansion in Duluth, MN except in a castle, I suppose. Very neat, indeed!
Following Braemar Castle we made our way to Balmoral, which is the queen’s favorite place to spend most of her time. She was in residence today (indeed, it’s only open to the public from April to July), so we couldn’t go inside nor much less actually see the palace, as the gates remained firmly closed and guarded by a police officer. Still, we got to enjoy views of the River Dee and visit the gift shop where the shop lady told us that it’s not uncommon to see the queen inspecting the gardens.
With post cards from the gift shop in hand, we made our way back to town and had a quite good late lunch at Gordon’s Tearoom (do go if you find yourself in Braemar!), and then checked out some shops along Old Military Road, had an ice cream, then returned to the cabin where I wrote some post cards.
Tomorrow we begin our final descent south before departing from Glasgow on this Friday. We found an adorable bed and breakfast in Prestwick, a seaside town that is close to Culzean Castle.
I don’t have any stray observations this time, as I’ve covered everything regarding our day above. That said, I can feel the end of our holiday approaching, and I dislike it. I get annoyed when certain things end. And it always gets more difficult to remain mindful of the moment when the ending of something so glorious is right around the corner, especially when you’re writing a blog in a cabin in the middle of such gorgeous, gorgeous mountains in such a beautiful, beautiful country filled with such friendly, friendly people.
Oh, Scotland! You are fantastic! And it will be difficult to leave you!