Fyvie Castle

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Just north of the small town of Fyvie, this is reached by a long drive past the lake with ducks, swans and a lot of green algae. The car park is next to the walled garden which is a modern garden divided up into squares separated by paths with newly planted fruit trees and grass. There is an herbaceous border along one wall and flowers are planted among the vegetables. It is different.

It is quite a long walk to the castle through trees with borders of flowering plants before the castle comes into view. It is a L shaped building and typical Scottish with harled walls, crow step gables, dormer windows, turrets and pointed towers surrounded by beautifully kept lawns.

The castle has had a chequered history and has passed through a succession of clan families; Preston, Meldrum, Seton, Gordon and Leith. Each has left their mark by adding a new tower to the building, all of which survive. The first was the Preston Tower, dating from 1390-1433 which is on the far right of the main facade. The Meldrum tower to the left, was the next to be added. The Seton family added the Seton Towers in 1599 which dominate the main entrance and the great processional staircase in 1605. The Gordon Tower was added in 1777, and lastly the Leith Tower in 1890. Alexander Leith was a local boy who had made his fortune in the steel industry and bought Fyvie Castle to house his huge collection of paintings, tapestries, armour and furniture.

The castle is a rabbit warren inside and very confusing with rooms opening off each other. We were not given an information leaflet. These are charged at 50p (although were free at Pitmedden Gardens and Drum Castle). A free flow system operates and there are knowledgeable guides in most rooms. There are information sheets which give the name of the room but minima information. There is no indication which part of the building or tower you are in. This makes it difficult to put the rooms into context. As in other NTS properties, photography is not allowed inside the castle.

The tour begins in the GRAND ENTRANCE HALL with armour and antlers on the walls. The fire place has a huge carved wood surround which includes two large armchairs on either side. Above is a stone relief of the Battle of Otterburn. Presumably because the original castle had been a Royal stronghold until the battle when it passed to the Preston family.

The Seton great processional staircase, often referred to as the wheel staircase, leads off to the right. There is more armour on the walls. The DINING ROOM is on the first floor of the Gordon Tower. It is a large room with a huge table which seats up to 24 people. This is laid with deep blue and gold French porcelain plates, each with a different crest from the French Royal family. Glassware with gold decoration was commissioned by the Leith family for a golden wedding. The walls are covered with deep red wallpaper and the plaster ceiling has the coats of arms of all the different families who have owned the castle, a typical Leith touch. At one end of the room is a massive carved wood fireplace and their are family portraits on the walls.

Beyond the dining room is the BUTLER’S PANTRY in the Leith tower. This has a wood sink for washing glassware. There are three taps. One for hot, one for cold and one for rain water. There is a dumb waiter from the kitchen and walls are lined with cupboards storing china.

The tour continues up the great staircase to the MORNING ROOM. This was originally the great hall which was divided into two. The room is lined with wood panelling and there is a tapestry on one wall. It has a plaster ceiling and chandelier. The fireplace is lined with blue Delft tiles. There are easy chairs, small spinnet and a writing desk.

A door leads into the BACK MORNING ROOM with cream wallpaper and a less elaborate plaster ceiling. There is a lovely chest of drawers inlaid with tortoiseshell with gilded handles and corners. Round the walls are armchairs with tapestry seats and backs.

From this there is a long narrow corridor leading into the other wing. This has red wallpaper and carpet and has prints on the walls. The first room is the SETON ROOM, a small sitting room with glass fronted display cupboard containing china.

At the end of the corridor is the LIBRARY in the Seton Tower. This has red wallpaper and large bookcases on the walls. There is a central desk and a grandfather clock. This has one hand which tells the hour. There are smaller dials which record minutes and seconds as well as the day of the month. The marble fireplace has a carved wood mantle with gilded fruits and flowers. We missed the the death mask of a murderer above the bookcase. He was hung and the mark left by the noose is visible on the neck. There are two smaller rooms off again with books and a small desk.

Returning back down the corridor, the tour continues with the CHARTER ROOM in the Meldrum Tower. Oak panelling conceals fire proof safes. On the walls are crests of the Seton and Hamilton families. There are portraits of James VI and Elizabeth, Queen of Bohemia who was the daughter of James VI. There is a beautiful small cabinet inlaid with deep red tortoiseshell and engraved bone on top of it and a small box with an embroidered top.

The tour continues upstairs to the DRUMMOND ROOM which has a model of the castle , room plans and some information. It also has seats you can sit on and rest feet and legs.

The tour continues down a long corridor with a plaster ceiling painted brown to resemble wood. There are tapestries and paintings on the walls. On the right is a small bathroom. The GORDON BEDROOM is off on the left with an unusual American four poster bed. The head board and canopy are detachable. The furniture is heavy carved wood with metal handles. Off this is a bathroom and a small sitting room with a huge carved bureau.

Next is the DUNFERMLINE BEDROOM and DRESSING ROOM. The dressing room has a marquetry boat bed and cupboard. The fireplace has a plaster over mantle with a mirror above. The bedroom has a four poster bed, dressing table and easy chairs.

At the end of this corridor is the DRAWING ROOM which is above the dining room. This also has an elaborate plaster ceiling with family crests. The walls are green and there are green upholstered chairs.

This opens into the GALLERY in the Leith Tower. This is a large room with a splendid stone fireplace with decorative blue, white and turquoise tiles with a horseman and peacock on them. Walls are panelled and there is a plaster ceiling. At the far end of the room two massive barleycorn twist pillars with vines and grapes from a Dutch church, support the organ pipes which occupy all of the end wall. Below is a small symphony organ which can also be used to play rolls of card. There is a lovely wooden table with a carved border of birds.

The tour continues up to the DOUGLAS ROOM, a small room with panelled walls. These seems to be used as a store room with a bureau, chest of drawers and six tapestry chairs stored here.

Back down the great staircase. the tour ends in the BILLIARD ROOM below the gallery. This has half panelled walls and a wooden beamed ceiling. As well as the billiard table, there are big sofas around the fireplace.

The tour exits either by the shop (the usual selection of NTS goods) or the (average) tea room.  

Interesting, but didn’t quite work for us. At £12 or £8.50 for concession it is expensive. Non NTS or NT members also have to pay £2 for the car park.

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