Ellon and the surrounding settlements and estates paint a rich picture of nature, history and art. Our story begins before the Picts and the natural environment is always close at hand. Take a look below.
Right in the heart of Ellon, the tranquil Castle Gardens were first set out by Baillie Gordon and completed in 1715. The original castle dates back to the 15th century and, after a long and sometimes bloody history, the gardens and the castle ruins are cared for by a trust which holds open days and events showcasing the progress of this sympathetic restoration.
Forvie nature reserve covers over 2000 acres of internationally important coastal habitats between the North Sea and the Ythan estuary and has great walking and cycling routes. Home to a variety of wildlife, Forvie is particularly known for its birds, including the largest breeding colony of eiders in Britain, four species of breeding terns plus wildfowl and waders.
This 800 year old fortress houses an impressive portrait collection, including works by Raeburn, Batoni, Romney, Gainsborough, Opie, Lawrence and Hoppner, and is home to a host of architectural treasures including the racquets court, bowling alley, ice house, bird hide and even a restored earth closet. Photo courtesy of NTS.
Regular tours share the 400 year history of the Gordon family at this magnificent Scottish, Palladian-style stately home, featuring a large art collection including 85 James Giles paintings of Aberdeenshire castles. Enjoy the terrace garden or join park rangers for wildlife tours around the extensive grounds. There are visitor centres for the house and park, picnic areas, cafes and a dog park. Photo courtesy of NTS.
Home to both horticultural and artistic delights, the peaceful gardens house colourful parterres with over 30,000 plants, the Museum of Farming Life, waymarked woodland trails, seasonal events celebrating the crops and flowers produced there and outdoor theatre and music through the summer. Photo courtesy of NTS.
Slains Castle today is an unsettling place. It comes as no surprise that this imposing ruin, fronting directly onto cliffs east of Cruden Bay was one of the locations which inspired Bram Stoker in his creation of Dracula. Other distinguished visitors included Samuel Johnson and James Boswell on their tour of the Highlands and Islands. Johnson's description is here, and Boswell's here.
Tarves Tomb was constructed for Sir William Forbes, laird of the newly-built Tolquhon Castle, in 1589. It was part of an aisle added to the medieval Tarves Kirk. The church and much of the aisle are now long gone, but the tomb still stands largely complete. Of particular interest are the portrait statuettes of Sir William and his wife, Lady Elizabeth. These remarkably lifelike images are as close as you’ll come to meeting a lord and lady of the time.
Built in the 1580s for William Forbes around the 15th century Preston’s Tower, it still bears traces of the harling that once covered much of the castle. The drum tower sports a newly restored cap house (you’ll need a head for heights) and the courtyard is still used occasionally for military re-enactments. You might even spot the initials of Thomas Leiper, the master mason who built the castle.