Princesses of the (Edzell) Castle

We’ve passed Edzell Castle many times en-route to Glenesk, scene of our (many) epic adventures and disasters. Despite the pull of Queen’s Well, Loch Lee, Rapunzel’s Castle (Invermark) and Mount Keen, Midi flat-out refuses now to go anywhere near Glenesk.

Princesses of the (Edzell) Castle

I’m not sure whether that’s from being haunted by past epics or mistrust of me and Jon’s abilities to judge the weather. So it took us until 11 September last year to finally stop off at Edzell Castle and use our Historic Scotland passes to have a good old explore. I wish I hadn’t left it so long! It only opens in summer (1 April to 30 Sep) so I thought I’d write about it now, while we’re waiting to make a return visit shortly.

The castle is only a short drive outside the village of Edzell in Angus, with its beautiful gorge walk and bridges, excellent cafes and Victorian arch. In spring time, the fields around the castle are usually covered in stripes of white, orange and yellow daffodils and narcissi. And from the outside, the castle looks like any other red sandstone ruin. But once you’re inside...!

We paused at the small visitor centre to talk to Hillary the custodian and read the information boards telling us about the history of the castle and its family, the Lindsays. The stone part of the castle is from the 16th Century, and its beautiful walled garden was added in 1604. The friendly and helpful Hillary gave the minxes a quiz to complete as they toured around (they all really enjoy the Historic Scotland quizzes a lot), and off we went.

The main ruin still has some intact rooms that make it really easy to see how they were once used. Baking-daft Midi spotted the huge bread oven right away, while the more romantically-inclined Mini searched for window seats and fireplaces. Around the ruin are plenty of information boards with images that help you see what the less complete rooms once looked like. All 3 counted and compared mason marks in the walls, remembering what they were from our visit to Elgin Cathedral last year.

After leaping and racing around the raised wooden platforms, we went to the main tower and its spiral staircase that reaches to the top. It’s only 2 or 3 levels, but with each level being an awful lot taller than modern floors, it feels like you’re hundreds of feet in the air. The howling autumn wind and very few other visitors made it a bit of a spooky experience. Still, it was worth the climb: we looked out on the walled garden and oohed and aahed. The design of the garden and the many sculptures and carvings around the walls are its highlight rather than its flowers (Hillary told us that early July is the best time to see those). Mini practised her reading skills spotting the words spelled out in box. She doesn’t read Latin (!) so stuck to finding the letters.

Back on solid ground again, Maxi spent a long time looking at the carvings of planetary deities, the Cardinal Virtues, 7 Deadly Sins and the Arts, trying to spot which were which from the imagery used. There seemed to be so many things tucked away in nooks and crannies that the garden alone held the girls’ attention for an hour.

At the corner of the garden was the summer house, still intact with oak panelling, old glass, card table and bedroom. The girls imagined coming down to play here in the evening and fondly dreamed of parties, games and a crackling fire, while Jon and I thought of the midges… Round the corner at the bath house ruins, it was our turn to have a fit of the romantics, picturing bathing in the beautiful scenery and countryside, whilst minxes being minxes, they leapt off walls and into imaginary pools, pretending to ambush and drown each other.

Finally, hunger made us beat a retreat. We dropped by the visitor centre to say goodbye to Hillary and she pointed us in the direction of the huge pear tree in the grounds and told us to help ourselves. Some of the pears just within Jon’s reach were ripe with a beautiful red blush, so we did. Delicious! The peacocks must have heard us munching because 2 of them came running down the hill beyond the castle towards us. Still, we couldn’t pause too long and drove back to Edzell for ice cream, hot coffee, a play on the huge playground and a quick forage of some very early brambles to turn into Edzell Apple and Blackberry Jelly the next day.

Actually, remembering how tasty that jelly was, I think we’ll have to pay the castle and garden another visit in autumn this year as well as at Easter.

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About the Author

Jay Greengrass

Jay Greengrass

About Me & Mine

Hello! I’m Jay, married to Jon, living in North East Scotland with our 3 daughters: Maxi (10), Midi (8) and Mini Minx (6).

Favourite place in the world:

It’s hard to choose between the stretch of Moray Firth coast between Findhorn and Cullen, and Westray (a northerly Orkney island). Both have an amazing diversity of beautiful coastlines in a small space (empty, clean, sandy beaches; crystal-clear rockpools; crags, cliffs and stacks), fascinating wildlife, friendly people and endlessly interesting weather. Bar visits to friends and relatives, we’ve taken all our holidays in Scotland, north of where we live, for many years. We’ve still barely scratched the surface of this beautiful country.

Favourite things to do outdoors:

Rock-pooling and scrambling on local beaches; camping; walking in the gentler local hills; foraging for fruit and jam-making ingredients; and growing our own fruit and vegetables against the combined deterring efforts of our cat and the weather.

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