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24 Jan 2024

Fairytale castle is pink again!

Written by Sarah Burnett
Pink castle next to a tree, surrounded by heras fencing with scaffolding to the right
Craigievar Castle glows pink again
An update on our conservation project at Craigievar Castle, said to have inspired Walt Disney.

If you were watching or reading the news between Christmas and New Year, you may well have spotted Craigievar Castle and the very positive coverage of our charity’s progress on protecting and futureproofing our iconic pink castle in Aberdeenshire.

Media from across the UK, and much further afield too, reported on the restoration of Craigievar’s famous pink glow, thanks to the Trust’s current conservation project at the castle, which is said to have inspired Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. In addition to refreshing the exterior of the seven-storey castle with a secret-recipe pink limewash, the project includes harling repairs, stone conservation, masonry restoration, and roof work, which will help to protect the castle and its interiors from the effects of rainfall ingress, climate change and time.

Pink, scaffolding-clad castle surrounding by rolling countryside and woodlands
Scaffolding for the recent conservation project at Craigievar took around 3 months to install

Speaking to the BBC, Annie Robertson, previously the National Trust for Scotland’s Surveyor for the North East and now its Project Director for Fyvie Castle, told them: ‘We have to look after this building into the future. It's such an important piece of architecture.

‘Craigievar is renowned for being the pink castle. It really is the icon of the castles in Aberdeenshire, but originally it wasn’t pink. It used to be an off-white colour.

‘It wasn't actually until the 1820s when the Forbes laird at the time had instructed repairs at the castle - it needed quite a bit of work - and Aberdeen architect John Smith instructed that the castle should be made pink to match the granite mouldings.’

“It's really important we look after this castle. If we look after the building, then we can provide a good healthy environment inside and that means the collections are looked after as well. It's going to be a really positive reveal, particularly for the local community who look up from the main road and will see this beautiful pink castle glow again.”
Gille Young
Conservator, North

The current conservation work follows an earlier project in 2009, which was pioneering in its response to the widespread use of cement from the postwar era which saw the almost total loss of traditional methods using lime materials. The 2009 project successfully replaced the castle’s cement harling, which was putting the interior collection and outstanding plasterwork at risk of loss due to dampness, and replaced it with lime-based materials which have resulted in near-perfect conditions inside the castle ever since.

The additional conservation and maintenance work in the current project provides a further level of protection, through discrete detail changes to the vulnerable edges of the harling at roof level as well as refreshing the limewashing which should be done at least every 10 years.

Close-up of image of the backs of three people in high vis, doing repair work on a scaffolding-clad wall
Repairing Craigievar's barmkin, one of few surviving examples in Scotland

One important element in the current project is the conservation of the Castle’s ‘barmkin’ or enclosing lower wall, which dates back to the 16th century. Barmkins were once an integrated and important feature of Scotland’s early tower houses, but the surviving section at Craigievar is one of very few examples remaining in place today. Prior to the work, vegetation had taken root in cracks in the cement pointing, and there had also been water ingress into the core of the wall.

With support from funding from Historic Environment Scotland (HES), under its Annual Repair Grant and Partnership Fund schemes, as well as other supporters, the historic wall has been repointed and the flagstones to the wallhead have been re-laid by specialist contractors, using traditional lime-based mortars.

James Henderson, Operations Manager Aberdeenshire South, said: ‘We’re very grateful to our charity’s members and supporters – including Historic Environment Scotland and all those people who donated to our Pink Again fundraising campaign, including from as far afield as the US – who have helped us restore Craigievar’s pink glow and carry out this other vital conservation work.

‘We can’t wait to re-open this fairytale castle to the public this spring. In the meantime, the grounds remain open to visitors throughout the works, so that visitors can admire the castle and its new pink limewash for themselves.’

Back view of a group of visitors, wearing hi-vis, viewing the work underway on a wall, which is surrounded by scaffolding
Visitors enjoying a hardhat tour of Craigievar, including seeing at close hand the barmkin work

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