Castle Fraser, Aberdeenshire – Clan Fraser
Originally given to Clan Fraser during the 15th century, Castle Fraser would slowly evolve from a medieval tower into a dominating and expansive castle.
Granted to the Frasers in the aftermath of the King’s destruction of the former Earldom of Mar into several smaller baronies, the family would waste no time in exerting their influence over the area, constructing a three-storey rectangular house. They would later expand the building further, carrying out more work in 1570. This second expansion reflected the architecture of the time as the castle was turned from a defensible position into a grand mansion – as clan chiefs and families began to project their status through the prestige of their homes.
It is after the completion of this renovation in 1618 that the reputation of the Fraser clan would reach its zenith, as Andrew Fraser would be made 1st Lord Fraser. To celebrate this new title, Andrew would complete further work on the castle, adding two new wings to enclose a courtyard as it would finally resemble the building we see today
Sadly for the Frasers, their fortunes would eventually decline, as the castle was attacked by Royalist Forces after the 2nd Lord Fraser became an avid Covenanter. Capturing the castle at the second time of asking, the Royalists would sack the building, leaving it in disrepair. Attempts to restore the building to its former glory would drain the accounts of the family, leaving them on the verge of bankruptcy by the time of the 3rd Lord Fraser.
This debt would sadly be passed to the 3rd Lord’s son, who would clear the debts that his family had accrued, however, he would do so by transferring ownership of the castle to John Erskine, Earl of Mar, who would only allow him to remain living there if he agreed to be bound to him for life. Sadly for Fraser, this meant supporting Mar at every opportunity, including during the Act of the Union debates in 1707 and the Jacobite uprising of 1715. Defeat during the 1715 rising would eventually cost the Lord his life as he was forced to become a fugitive, passing away a year later when he fell over a cliff whilst on the run.
As the 4th Lord passed away without an heir, his titles would then pass to his wife’s heirs, eventually leading to the castle’s ownership being taken up by Miss Elyza Fraser in 1787. Beginning a further modernisation of the structure, Elyza would pass it to her nephew’s son, Charles Mackenzie Fraser, who would complete the renovation before the castle was abandoned in the subsequent years. It would eventually be purchased in 1921 by the 1st Viscount Cowdray, who would work to restore the Castle, as the job was eventually completed by his relatives in 1976. It would then be given to the National Trust for Scotland, who would turn the castle into a monument and attraction like the one we see today. It now dominates the Aberdeenshire countryside in the same way it did hundreds of years ago, finally restored to its former glory after so many failed attempts.