Rhynie, Huntly, Aberdeenshire AB54
Closing date set - noon on Tuesday 5th November 2019
Extending to about 1,558 acres in total, the subjects of sale represent the core of the original Craig Estate – a farming and sporting estate extending to several thousand acres.
As a result of a previous division of ownership between different members of the family, the subjects offered for sale are described as the
Craig Castle Estate comprising a range of land and property assets which are offered for sale in 5 lots
providing purchasing opportunities at several different levels of the rural property market.
Lot 1 – Craig Castle (about 63 acres)
The focal point of the original estate and lying at its heart, this lot combines a 16th Century fortified
castle with gardens, policies and mature woodland in the glen of the Burn of Craig.
Dating back to 1510, and grade a-listed by Historic Environment Scotland on account of its historic merit, the castle is made up of four segments constructed sensitively across different periods of history.
It has been described as: ‘specially fortunate in passing through four centuries of more or less continuous occupation with so little obliteration of its original character’.
The castle is best described relative to the various stages in which it was built.
The 16th Century
On approach to the castle you leave the public road through traditional gated pillars and proceed down one of two drives both of which terminate at a gravelled roundel in front of the house.
A grand arched ornamental gateway, constructed in 1726 marks the entrance to the castle, complete
with a timber arched door and weighty iron knocker. The sixth and eighth laird and lady of Gordon’s arms together with their initials, feature within decorative panels above the door.
To the right of the archway are the remnants of the original ‘doorbell’, once wrung by the tug of a substantial rope and giving off the impression of momentous occasion.
Beyond the gateway is an external paved courtyard with the original entrance hidden around the corner, the door to the 1832 wing directly ahead, or a gateway to the walled garden discretely positioned on the left hand side.
The oldest part of the castle was constructed in 1510 and is set out across an l-shaped plan, typical of its era. Built of stone, the exterior is harled and features gun ports, crow-stepped gabling, a turret to the south east and a corbelled parapet on the east side.
Above its door are the Royal Arms of Scotland, to the left are the arms of the first laird Patrick Gordon and lady Rachel Barclay. Their initials appear above together with their son William Gordon’s (the second laird) and his wife Elizabeth
Stewart’s below. On the right panel are the arms of the third and fourth lairds and ladies, their initials similarly displayed.
This section is entered through a large oak door of great antiquity, thought to be an original and complete with handle and knocker, showcasing the work of early Scottish blacksmiths. Above the door is a gun loop and behind is a heavy iron yett defence protecting the castle.
The majority of the ground floor lies beneath a barrel vaulted ceiling together with a groin-vaulted
vestibule. The groin work is i tricate, and displays the Royal Arms of Scotland in the centre with a religious cherub on the left and the arms of the Menzies of Pitfodels on the right, a nod to the sixth lady of Gordon, Elizabeth Menzies, and a tell-tale sign that this work was a later addition.
On the left of the entrance is a small Guards Room and cell, ‘the dungeon’. Opposite the entrance is
a cellar which may have been used as a grain store and to the right a passage with a stair to the next floor.
The passage has a small loophole with a centre pillar, designed to deflect arrows. It leads to both a larder and servery which features a small service stair leading to the dining hall above; and the original kitchen, complete with a large fireplace, priest hole and what is believed to be an escape tunnel, now blocked up. Under the floor and centre to the room is evidence of what was once the castle well.
Continuing up the spiral stairs the first landing on the right leads to the Dining Hall/Barons Hall.
This was originally a chapel but it has been much altered over the years and cupboards have been
incorporated reducing the length of the hall considerably, which subject to necessary consents could be removed and the hall returned to its original footprint. The arms of the fourth and seventh laird and lady are prominently displayed within the room.
At the far end of the hall are steps to the most recent wing, the door to which was once a window with gun loop below. To the left of the hall a door leads to a hallway with a vaulted mural closet on the right, housing a small WC, a bedroom cubbyhole which services the Withdrawing Room on the left.
The Withdrawing Room with panel walls benefits from an individual access to the spiral stair, its own praying area and a closet with gun loops which have been blocked up. This room has been altered, and a trap door in the ceiling allows for storage and also access to the original vaulted ceiling.
Continuing up the stairs next you reach the Minstrels Gallery, which once would have overlooked the Baron’s Hall, giving those below a
view of the priest celebrating, but has since been blocked off and its original ceiling hidden.
One floor up you reach a vaulted passage which leads to what would have been the Upper Hall, now divided into two rooms featuring modern fireplaces. In the north wall is a large vaulted mural closet. Opposite the Upper Hall is the
Laird’s Bedroom also featuring a modern fireplace. At the end of the hallway is a vaulted chamber, most likely designed as a Strong Room or upper dungeon but in more recent times used as a bathroom.
At the top of the spiral staircase and above the Upper Hall is a large loft area, lit by small roof lights. Adjacent is a further bedroom with a large chimney breast and small high windows. On the right of the door jamb are the initials fg and the date 1722. Francis Gordon, the second son of the eighth laird, who lived at Craig between 1716 and 1727, indicating that this was once his bedchamber.
The battlements carry around the building and positioned on the south sides inner wall is a dovecote, with a turret thought to be a later alteration.
The staircase ends on this floor, but is believed to have once continued to a lookout post above.
The 18th Century
In the early 18th Century a new three-storey wing, or new castle, was constructed to provide additional accommodation. It was built almost completely detached from the original castle, adjoined only by a connecting passage, this
decision assisted in preserving the harm of the original section.
Thought to have been designed by the renowned architect, William Adam, the front façade which
overlooks the walled garden is characterised by three windows on each floor, ashlar masonry and a moulded eaves course. A doorway from the garden leads to a small porch with adjoining WC and steps to the ground floor.
On the ground floor the extension incorporated a grand hallway with a curved cantilevered staircase and two main rooms. Additions have seen one of these rooms evolve into a library and the other remodelled to contain a small galley kitchen, the breakfast room and a wet room.
The impressive wide stone cantilevered staircase leads to the first and second floors. The original layout of the first floor included a large drawing room with windows on all three sides and an Adam-style fireplace. In around 1832, when the next extension was added, this room was transformed into a bedroom with dressing room and en-suite bathroom. Across the landing is a further bedroom with en-suite and a small laundry.
On the floor above, the landing leads to a bedroom with an en-suite, a further bedroom with a connecting dressing room (currently used as a single bedroom) and a family bathroom.
The roof of this wing was destroyed in a fire and during reconstruction the opportunity was taken to
increase the height of the top floor, achieved through incorporating an additional stone course and enlarged windows.
The 19th Century
In the mid 19th Century (1832), a single storey, double height, Georgian wing was constructed
designed by an Aberdonian architect, Archibald Simpson. It joined the two castles and incorporated a new main entrance which externally exhibits the coats of arms of the eleventh laird and lady.
This wing incorporates two large reception rooms: A drawing room with a large bay window and
external doors and a large dining room; and a pantry.
Following a fire in 1942, this wing was re-built in 1951 by Colonel Alexander Barlas and lady Gertrude Craik. The arms of the Barlas family are positioned externally to the right of the entrance to this wing.
The 20th Century
The most recent two-storey addition to the castle which squared off the space between the original
castle and the 1832 extension was added in 1908. On the ground floor it replaced the former kitchen
and included a domestic office. The floor above includes three bedrooms and two bathrooms with
a link to the Baron’s Hall. The roof is flat and there is access from the central staircase.
Craig Castle has served as a family home for several generations of the Barlas family and has played host to countless guests for shoots, balls,
dinner parties, and all manner of other occasions.
In its present condition, the 18th, 19th and 20th Century parts of the house are in variable but habitable condition with the 18th Century wing in particular being used on a regular basis by the current owners for weekends and holidays.
The castle is served by a private water supply, oil-fired central heating and has private drainage to a septic tank. There are a number of adjoining outbuildings on the west facade of the castle used for storage.
The arrangement and proportions of the accommodation are as shown on the floor plans contained within this brochure.
Gardens, Grounds and Woodland
The walled garden includes walls dating back to the 16th Century. It is situated to the east of the
18th Century wing and is mainly laid to lawn with borders along the walls and featuring impressive
mature specimen trees and a summer house.
The sundial to the far side of the garden is category B listed. It was made by John Montgomery, a mason at Craig and engraved by
Peter Hill of Edinburgh with the date 1821.
From west to east a gravel path leads through a gate in the hedge to a former kitchen garden, now
enclosed as a grass paddock but which originally provided mixed produce for the castle and could
be reinstated as such in future, if desired.
Forming the boundary to the garden and contributing to the dramatic setting of the castle is a steep wooded embankment which descends to the Burn of Craig. There are a number of paths and walks through the den, and a wishing well south of the garden wall which local legend has it holds healing powers.
Within the castle demesne is a large garage/workshop with an inspection pit, which is used to house vehicles, garden machinery and tools. Providing privacy, protection from the elements and considerable amenity, this lot includes circa
50 acres of mature mainly deciduous woodland known as ‘the den’ lying on either side of the Burn of Craig.
Vehicular access is via the B9002 minor public road forming the northeastern boundary together with the two drives to Craig Castle. There is also access via the track leading through lot 2 at the south eastern end.
Lot 2 – Mill Cottage and the Old Mill (about 13 acres)
Accessed down a sheltered track off the B9002, Mill Cottage and the Old Mill lie on the eastern edge of the estate in the valley of Water of Bogie
at its confluence with the Burn of Craig both of which drain into the River Deveron.
This lot consists of a traditional cottage, a former threshing mill, two small fields of permanent
pasture, some woodland shelter and garden ground. The Water of Bogie makes for a peaceful
Mill Cottage is an attractive one-and-a-half-storey cottage of stone construction under a pitched slate
roof. Facing southeast the front façade appears almost symmetrical and includes a single storey extension housing the kitchen. Adjoining the cottage is a range of outbuildings consisting of a garage, and a former stable/byre used for storage. Solar panels on the roof of the outbuildings assist in reducing the energy consumption of the cottage.
Internally the accommodation on ground floor comprises a kitchen and two reception rooms, with two bedrooms and a family bathroom on first floor.
Externally the cottage has a small area of garden laid mainly to lawn with trees and shrubs bound by a picket fence. The driveway passes to the north and a designated parking area is situated in front of the garage.
The cottage is vacant having been occupied until recently under a Short Assured Tenancy.
The Old Mill
The b-listed former mill dating back to the late 18th or early 19th century is of stone construction, the gables are still standing, however the once
slate roof is no longer in place.
The mill has potential for development into a residential dwelling, subject to the necessary planning consents.
Included with this lot are two fields of enclosed pasture. Classed as grade 3.2 by the James Hutton Institute and therefore capable of producing good
grazing for horses or livestock, these have been let on a seasonal basis for grazing of sheep but are available with vacant possession.
Lot 3 – Tamduff (About 58 acres)
This lot combines a 19th century cottage with a block of coniferous forestry, some smaller areas of woodland and undulating open heather hill and scrub woodland.
Occupying a sheltered position at the foot of the Hill of Towanreef, Tamduff is a traditional one-and-a-half-storey stone-built cottage, with a slate roof. The cottage faces east and is surrounded by an open area of garden ground laid to lawn with
ample space for parking vehicles. Further south there is an additional area of land which has the potential to form part of the garden or be used to create a paddock.
The accommodation includes a dining kitchen, bathroom, lounge, conservatory, 1 bedroom and 2 attic bedrooms.. Until February 2019 the cottage was let under a Short Assured Tenancy. It is now vacant and vacant possession will be provided to the purchaser.
Adjoining the cottage are outbuildings of similar construction and a smaller lean to shed, which provide four individual stores/ workshops. The roof of this building is clad with solar panels assisting to
reduce electricity costs relating to the cottage.
Land and Woods
Included with this lot are two compartments of coniferous woodland, the smaller of which is situated to the west of Tamduff Cottage on the roadside and extends to approximately 4 acres of mixed conifers and broadleaves. The larger compartment, Tamduff Wood is a conifer wood including Scots pine, larch and Norway spruce, extending to about 35 acres.
The land within this lot measures about 14 acres, is undulating and rough in nature, with heather, gorse and scrub woodland and has varied potential for enclosed grazing, additional woodland or garden landscaping to complement the site of the cottage and buildings. The land is classified as grade 4.1 and 5.1 by the James Hutton Institute and lies at an elevation of around 300m (1,000 feet) above sea level.
Lot 4 – Hill of Towanreef (About 1,053 acres)
This lot comprises a saddle of heather moorland which is bounded to the north by the B9002 minor public road. Incorporating a pair of hill summits, the land sits between 300m (1,000 feet) and 440m (1,467 feet) above sea level.
The Hill of Towanreef from which the lot takes its name, lies towards the eastern end of the ground, with its summit at 432m (1,440 feet) above sea level. The second summit Peddie’s Hill lies at the western end.
From a land use perspective, the hill was traditionally managed as a grouse moor. The ordnance survey map shows the position of the historic butt lines but in recent memory, the hill has been managed on a low key basis to provide
Whilst there are no recent game records, the Barlas family’s game books show that bags of up to 20 brace of grouse for teams of 4 to 6 guns were consistently achieved on the hill at Craig Estate during the 1980s and 1990s.
Whilst the current population of grouse on this hill is not sufficient to support any shooting, a programme of renewed management would provide the opportunity for grouse shooting in future. There are actively managed grouse moors adjoining the estate and others in the area which demonstrate that grouse populations can respond well to improved habitat management.
In addition, there are both red and roe deer on the hill providing the opportunity for stalking. From an agricultural perspective, there has been no grazing of the hill for a number of years. Traditionally, the hill was grazed by a hefted flock of Scottish Blackface sheep but following the retirement of a farm tenant, many years ago, the sheep were taken off the hill and have not been replaced.
As classified by the James Hutton Institute, the land varies from grade 4.1 on the road side edge,
to grade 6.1 on the hill saddle with a relatively large area of grade 5.2 land also included.
Whilst there are remnant vehicular tracks through the hill, there is no principal hill road. With over a
mile of roadside access, vehicular access can be created (with the appropriate consent). Access is also provided via the track following the eastern boundary through Tamduff. This track leads to a former gravel quarry which can provide useful materials for the existing tracks and any potential new roads in future.
In terms of environmental designations, the entirety of this lot is subject to a Special Area of
Conservation (sac) and Site of Special Scientific Interest (sssi), on account of its alpine and sub-alpine heaths, blanket bog, dry heaths and grasslands on soils which are rich in heavy metals. This enables the preservation of fragile ecosystems
but restricts the potential for alternative land uses such as commercial forestry establishment.
At the northwestern edge of this lot, adjoining the public road on the north side is a copse of deciduous woodland providing shelter to small stone and slate bothy called Innesbrae. Originally built as a Shepherd’s dwelling, the bothy has been used in recent times as a picnic place and lunch hut. The building has two rooms and no formal services.
Lot 5 – Thief’s Craig and the North Buck (About 371 acres)
Lying at the west end of the subjects of sale and also bounded at the northern end by the minor public road, this is a broadly rectangular block of mainly heather hill ground extending to about 371 acres.
At the south western boundary of this ground is the summit of a locally well-known hill of distinct
appearance called the The Buck. Rising to 721m (1,782 feet) above sea-level, the appearance of the hill is striking due to the rocky outcrop (tor) or at its summit.
Comprising a former grouse moor, there has been very little recent management of the hill but a line of original grouse butts is still visible and this area of ground formed part of the productive walked-up forays that were enjoyed by the current owners in the latter years of the 20th century.
There is a track leading on to the hill for a short distance from the minor public road.
As with the adjoining land, this lot is subject to the Hill of Towanreef sac and sssi. It is therefore not considered suitable for afforestation.
Craig Castle Estate enjoys a spectacular setting in the foothills of the Grampian Mountains on the Highland fringe of Aberdeenshire. Situated a short distance to the north of Strathdon on the road to The Cabrach – an area sparsely populated and within the top thirty most remote zones of mainland Scotland – Craig Castle Estate is secluded yet accessible, being 40 miles from Aberdeen, the Granite City and oil capital of Europe.
The closest village to the estate is, by a margin, Lumsden which is 3 miles south, with the village of Rhynie lying 3½ miles to the north. The combination of these villages provides convenient local services including primary schooling, a petrol station, village shop and post office. Further afield and equidistant from Craig Castle are the larger village of Alford, home of Aberdeen Angus cattle, and the town of Huntly, situated at the edge of the popular Speyside whisky trail. These settlements provide secondary schooling, and a wider range of public services, amenities and transport links.
The nearest railway station is in Huntly (12 miles) which runs services both north to Inverness and south to Aberdeen and beyond. The closest airport with both domestic and international flights is at Aberdeen (33 miles) which can be reached in about 50 minutes by car under normal traffic conditions.
Comprehensive services are available in the city of Aberdeen which provides a range of administrative, retail, recreational, educational and cultural facilities. Private education in Aberdeen
includes Albyn School, Robert Gordon’s College and St Margaret’s School for Girls. In addition, the
well-known Gordonstoun School near Elgin is 40 miles to the north.
Aberdeenshire offers a wealth of activities, including fishing, sporting, whisky tasting, golf, winter sports, walking, climbing and cycling.
The River Dee is one of Scotland’s big four salmon rivers with picturesque and productive fishing
for salmon and sea trout. It is available to rent on either a weekly and/or daily basis on the majority of beats throughout the river’s course. Nearer to home, the River Don is also a well-established salmon river but is more celebrated for the quality of its wild brown trout fishing which is amongst the best and most productive in the UK.
In addition, the River Deveron is also known for its salmon and sea trout fishing. It rises a short distance away in The Cabrach and flows into the Moray Firth at Banff.
There are a number of renowned golf courses on the North Sea coast at Royal Aberdeen, Cruden Bay and the Trump International Golf Links. More locally, there are enjoyable courses at Huntly and Dufftown.
For winter sports enthusiasts, the Lecht Ski Centre is situated 28 miles west, Glenshee slightly further at 51 miles distant and Cairngorm Mountain Ski centre is 57 miles away.
The Cairngorm Mountains lie to the west and provide climbing, walking and cycling opportunities amongst some of the most spectacular terrain in the British Isles.
For many, the Grampian foothills of Aberdeenshire and Moray are synonymous with Whisky – and Malt Whisky in particular. The area surrounding Craig Castle is home to historic and famous distilleries, coopers, bottlers and retailers contributing to an industry which is said to be worth about £5.5 billion to the Scottish economy according to an April 2019 report by the Scotch Whisky Association. The Malt Whisky Trail is a collaboration of distilleries offering enthusiasts
the opportunity to visit nine local distilleries in order to meet those who play key roles in this
multinational industry. It is popular with tourists and adds significantly to the variety of activities available within striking range of the estate.