Last year, just before I went home in late October, Lindsay and I had driven out to one more National Trust for Scotland site – Haddo House – only to be told it was closed because they were getting ready for their very popular annual event, a Haunted House! This past Monday, 24 July 2017, Lindsay and I started out our week with a follow-up visit.
The location of Haddo House is shown above on the map with the white circle around the blue splat. Notice also that along the A96 highway, there are also quite a few other blue splats. They signify the locations of various ancient Pictish stones, a stone circle and a very old and ancient church. I found these interesting places to visit on the Historic Scotland website.
So we decided to first visit Haddo House and then go on a scavenger hunt trying to find the various stones, the circle, and the ancient church. Since these sites are usually in very obscure places, like out in a middle of a farmer’s field, it can be quite challenging sometimes.
We started out with the easy to find location. It looks like we’re in for a real treat! First, we enter what used to be the stables to gain entry…
We begin by walking up to the house up the old driveway.
This is another grand house which belonged to some “Gordons” and their crest is proudly and prominently displayed. Along the way, we also pass Haddo Hall which houses a theater which one of the Gordons had built, with rehearsal rooms, known as the Peatyards. Haddo House Choral & Operatic Society, a large and vibrant choral society was formed in 1945 and has its operations base here. For over sixty years it has been noted for its annual musical operatic productions.
As you might imagine, this house is steeped in history. The Gordons, who later became the Earls of Aberdeen and Marquesses of Aberdeen, have lived on this site for over 500 years. George Gordon, born in 1732 became the 1st Earl of Aberdeen, and eventually Lord Chancellor Scotland.
The 4th Earl, George Hamilton-Gordon, was Haddo House’s most notable former resident; he was the British Prime Minister from 1852-1855. A picture of him is shown below.
Another notable period in the history of this house was during World War II. The house became a maternity hospital for evacuated mothers of Glasgow. About 1,200 babies were born here and many of them still come back to visit and are affectionately referred to as the “Haddo Babies.”
Haddo House sits near the site of the old Kellie Castle (see photo below). It was the family’s previous dwelling dating back to 1732. It was burnt down by the Covenanters and a new house was built – Haddo House – designed by William Adam in the Georgian Palladian style. The style interior of the house, however, is late Victorian and was refurbished in the 1880’s by the same interior designers that worked at Culzean Castle in Ayrshire. It also contains a very nice art collection, including a series of 85 castles hand-drawn by a very talented artist, James Giles, and a Madonna believed to be painted by Raphael, scattered amongst the various family member portraits.We were met by a really friendly, kilt-wearing guide named Alan.
Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take any photographs once inside. The interior was quite fascinating and we were taken through room after room, upstairs and down, looking at all kinds of wonderful things including the room where Queen Victoria stayed! I highly recommend taking the time to tour this house if you’re in the area. The guides were very knowledgeable and friendly. It wasn’t busy at all which meant Lindsay and I got an individualized tour all by ourselves.
There is even a chapel attached to the house so they could go to church without even stepping outside. Still to this day Ecumenical public services are held with the current Lady in attendance.
After the wonderful tour, we headed through the gate near the chapel to go out to the gardens at the back of the house.
We headed back to the car park, grabbed our picnic lunch and sat out on the grounds to enjoy the view of the obelisk in the distance.
Afterward, we drove about 7 miles south toward the town of Inverurie to find the Aquhorthies Stone Circle.
We walked up the short path and before we knew it; there it was! Yeah!
These places are so cool and just fascinate me to no end; let’s see what the sign has to say.
Now let’s get a closer look, shall we?
It just amazes me that these ancient people somehow got this big rock on the right hauled down from the mountain top in the background to this point. The mountain, by the way, is called Bennachie (pronounced Ben-a-hee) and is 1,732 feet high and there is an ancient iron age fort at its summit. The summit is called Mither Tap (see photo below.)
We then headed back down the path back to the car and started to scout out our next destination, the Maiden Stone, up near the town of Pitcaple a little ways north up the A96 highway.
Luckily, there was a Historic Scotland sign just north of Pitcaple pointing the way and about 1 mile up the road there it was literally right next to the road!
What a fascinating stone! Next stop, we headed back south to Inverurie to the Brandsbutt Stone. Again, the signs pointed the way and we found ourselves in the middle of a neighborhood with a little park nestled in amongst the houses.
This grassy lawn area of the park is where the stone circle was. Even though there is little left of the stones, you can easily see exactly where the circle was in the grass. See that circular line in the lower foreground of the photo above? I walked around the indentation the whole circumference of the circle. I’m sure there are still stones underneath the grass like the Aquhorthies circle we were at earlier.
Over in the corner of the neighborhood park was also this little interesting feature:
Okay, one more place to try to find on our ancient scavenger hunt, Kinkell Church. We drove through the village of Inverurie heading south and out of town again following an obscure farm road. This time no Historic Scotland signposts guided the way. We did pass a beautiful patch of wildflowers some people had planted, however.
Although the route wasn’t sign posted like the others, Lindsay was able to find it on his phone using Maps and he navigated me through the winding roads until at last, we came to a dead end at a farm and the ancient monument was just across the road sitting in the middle of his fields!
It had very little remaining of the church, but what did remain was quite interesting.
On the north wall is an elaborate sacrament house, dated 1524, designed to hold the consecrated Host. Also, a bronze replica of a Calvary of 1525. Both the sacrament and the Calvary bear the initials of Alexander Galloway, Parson of Kenkell.
Nearby is the reused grave slab of Gilbert de Greenlaw, slain at the battle of Harlaw in 1411 on one side and on the other side: “Here lies bright with honor, and adorned with saintly piety of character, John Forbes of Ardmurdo, 4th successor of his name, who died 8th July, 1592 in the 66th year of his age.” So they were ‘re-purposing’ grave stones even then!
It was a fun day visiting grand manor houses and gardens and then scouting out ancient Stone Circles, Stones, and churches in the countryside. Quite the unique adventure on the menu for today. Hope you enjoyed our finds as much as we did!