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12 Apr 2022

Amazing spaces – Aberdeenshire

A view of a very large country house, seen from across a very neat lawn.
Haddo House, Ellon
Our expert teams highlight some of the most stunning and fascinating rooms in our castles and historic buildings in Aberdeenshire.

Great Hall – Crathes Castle

Banchory

Going from a simple tower house to the magnificent turreted building we see today, Crathes Castle has seen many changes over the centuries. Its great hall, though, always provided a communal social space.

‘In the alcoves of the great hall are fragments of painted decoration, and it’s very likely the rest of the hall had this elaborate decoration too,’ says Trust chartered surveyor Annie Robertson.

This style of decoration fell out of fashion, though, and was later whitewashed, before the Victorians gave the space a Gothic-style finish.

It’s thought there was a coat-of-arms above where the high table would have been. Over the years the fireplace was also moved and windows were enlarged, a result of the Renaissance influence and the desire for more light.

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The Great Hall, Crathes Castle

Library – Drum Castle

Drumoak

Situated in the original tower of Drum Castle, the library is the only part to be integrated into the Jacobean house. Originally the room would have been the common hall of the old castle.

The library takes up the whole vault space and we believe the corbel brackets are still in place behind the timber lining. Also behind the linings and in the depths of the walls are the guarderobe, buttery and a small pantry, though they are completely inaccessible today.

The 19th-century library – housing 4,000 books – reflects the interests of cultured gentlemen, featuring mainly the classics, law and theology as well as volumes relating to the Scottish Enlightenment.

Above the fireplace hangs an oil painting of the Archangel Gabriel by Hugh Irvine, while the chairs feature needlework of the Irvine and Forbes coats of arms.

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The Library, Drum Castle

Music room – Leith Hall

Kennethmont

One of the last additions to Leith Hall, the music room was added by the Laird, Colonel Alexander Sebastian Leith-Hay, in 1868 and was originally used as a billiard room. 

Decorated in a Victorian style, it has the original wallpaper and carpet. The three sash and case windows are disproportionate to the space and demonstrate Victorian grandeur in design. 

‘As you come towards the house from the car park, four matching windows can be seen. The fourth window is sited in an adjacent stairwell to provide symmetry to the building,’ says visitor services supervisor Beatrice Fettes-Leagas.

‘The fireplace, originally from Shane’s Castle, Ireland, was introduced when Henrietta, the last Lady of the house, married Charles Leith-Hay. They changed the use of the room to the music room we see today.’

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The Music Room, Leith Hall

Library – Haddo House

Ellon

A lowly hayloft at Haddo House took on a new lease of life when the 7th Earl of Aberdeen brought his new bride, Ishbel Marjoribanks, to the country house in 1877. The couple refurbished and modernised the house, which had been built by William Adam in the 1730s, creating the interiors that we see today. They spared no expense, employing top Edinburgh architects Wardrop & Reid and acclaimed interior designers Wright & Mansfield. The site of the hayloft and rooms nearby were cleared to create a space for the library.

‘Everything was custom-built: the ceilings, the bookcases in cedar with inlaid ebony detail, and the marble fireplaces are copies of those at the London home of Ishbel’s father,’ says chartered surveyor Annie Robertson.

The ceiling gilding is particularly impressive, as it was designed to be seen under dim light. What’s thought to have been the biggest chenille carpet in Europe, meanwhile, covered the floor.

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The Library, Haddo House

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