If Her Majesty the Queen ever finds her summer residence at Balmoral too roomy, she could always downsize to Craig Castle (or ‘The Craig’ as it is more often known), a magnificent house dating back to the 13th century which is positively dripping in history and royal connections. Tradition claims that Sir James Douglas spent his final night in Scotland here, protecting the heart of Robert Bruce before transporting it faithfully to the Holy Land in battle against the Saracens. Visits by King James V are noted in 1535 and 1539, and Mary Queen of Scots is said to have stayed twice overnight.
The Old Pretender, James Edward Stuart, is thought to have passed his final night at the castle before leaving for exile in France in 1688.
Set high above the Montrose basin in the Angus countryside, The Craig is regarded as one of Scotland’s oldest properties. The approach is dramatic and wildly romantic, as a tree lined avenue sweeps past ivy covered drum towers and through an arch in the 15th century curtain wall. Corbelled parapets, a carved loggia, tunnel vaulted rooms, stone flag floors, Georgian staircases, Adam fireplaces and intricate painted friezes all combine to create an atmospheric aura of centuries past. Layers of history continue to be uncovered: fragments of a 16th century Renaissance painted ceiling bearing the date of 1529 were discovered in 1921 during restorative work and these fragments are presently on display in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. More recently, the well-known American architectural and decorative artist, Richard Jordan, was commissioned to design and paint the drawing room ceiling at The Craig; he included the historical fragments in the design which includes birds and beasts, human figures and initials from the period.
Records for the castle begin as far back as the 1200s and unusually, The Craig has been occupied continuously ever since. Set in the centre of beautiful formal gardens, every single window offers a lovely view. All seven reception rooms display a treasure trove of original features, from the morning room with its fine stone fireplace to the drawing room standing out with its recreated painted ceiling, 18th century Palladian windows and Adam fireplace; and an exquisite dining room with another remarkable frieze painting – this one depicting extinct Scottish wildlife.
And yet this extraordinary house is not simply a showcase for Scottish history. It has steadfastly kept up with the times, and the castle kitchen is a good example of how modernisation has taken place but with great sensitivity. There are marble topped cabinets, Delft tiles, a hand painted floor and not one, but two, midnight blue Agas, all contributing to a farmhouse kitchen that sits perfectly in its historic setting yet is also a warm and welcoming hub for the home. A much more ancient former kitchen with vaulted ceiling has become a sauna room / gym; demonstrating how the current owners have breathed new life into this ever evolving building.
The six bedrooms at The Craig display wonderful period details, especially the master which boasts Tudor style panelling, an 18th century mantel, timber lined dressing room and even a window seat hiding an original ‘convenience’.
The linked walled gardens at The Craig originate from the 17th century with box hedging, paved terraces, herbaceous borders, an enchanting summerhouse with latticed windows and an alpine garden. There are woodlands and paddocks, and included in the sale is Gardener’s Cottage, a pretty two bedroom house with a woodburning stove and its own garden. There may also be a further two bedroom cottage available.
Ruaraidh Ogilvie for Savills comments: “Over the centuries, The Craig has mercifully been spared neglect and in fact has undergone significant restoration, improvements and modernization of the best kind. And so it is that this utterly unique castle, one of the oldest in the country, is now fit for 21st century living.”