Wednesday, 13 June 2012

The Ley Way at Crathes Castle

Friday 8th June,

Like most of the country this week, the weather has been, at best unpredictable and at worst, downright bad. It looked like we were going to miss yet another week but as things improved marginally into the afternoon we decided that a quick run down to Crathes Castle would give us the option of wandering around one of the waymarked walks in the grounds or, if the weather didn't behave, we could always retire to the cafe and drink coffee and eat stuff!
Crathes Castle
According to the font of all modern knowledge - Wikipedia - the castle was built on grounds gifted to the Burnett of Leys family in 1323, but the castle in its present form wasn't completed until 1596 by Alexander Burnett of Leys. Sounds a bit like me decorating the spare room! The castle was gifted to the National Trust in 1951 by the 13th Baronet of Leys, Sir James Burnett. The name seemed to ring a bell and checking back I found that it was also a Burnett that was commemorated on Scolty Hill, a different one, but a Burnett right enough. They must have owned a fair bit of Aberdeenshire in those days. Still I'm sure the locals were grateful for their patronage.

The Ley Way, (now I know where the name came from), starts in the gardens of the castle and follows what appears to be the perimeter of the grounds. There are exotic trees all over the estate and I very quickly got fed up photographing yet another South American pine or other so this is the only one I'm posting  - and I don't know what it is!
Big tree
After the last couple of weeks this was very easy walking on maintained paths and it turned into a pleasant afternoon stroll. Our first stop was in Caroline's Garden, named after one Caroline Crichton-Stuart for no reason mentioned other than she loved this place. The garden was restored, (mainly by getting rid of the rhododendrons apparently), in 1986 by Youth in Trust.

Steps leading up to Caroline's Garden

I'd tell you what this bush was if I knew
This looked like a location for Lord of the Rings!
From the garden the path headed out into more commercial woodland where a bit of tree felling had been going on and was probably the reason this part of the path was closed the last time we visited the castle. However clearing the trees did have the benefit of opening up some nice views to Banchory and beyond to Scolty.

Banchory with Scolty Hill on the left
The commercial woodland eventually gave way to more natural trees, mainly Birch, Rowan and Beech, at least that's the ones I recognised. Eventually the path turned back towards the castle, passing the car park, before heading south on another wide loop this time with more agricultural land bordering the trees. We passed under the tree top adventure area, (Go Ape), with its high walks and zip lines. I believe the facility is mainly used for management team building, stag parties and the like but is also available for individuals, if you're that way inclined. Mo and I decided that we weren't.

Adventures in the treetops.......

......but not for us!
Beyond the adventure area we picked up what I believe is the Bo Burn, (the O & S map seems a little vague about naming it). The paths and bridges were, as you might expect in a National Trust property, all in good condition complete with a couple of long boardwalks built by B.P of all people in 2000.

B.P. sponsored boardwalk
and Bridge
It was while we were walking along the second boardwalk that I saw a bird I didn't recognise. Now as I'm sure I've said in previous posts, I'm not a bird watcher but I do know when I see a bird I'm unfamiliar with, if that makes any sense. In this case it turned out to be a Jay, which is of course a fairly common member of the crow family. What made it unusual is that they are much less common this far north. Even better though was that he, (or she), stayed around long enough for me to get a photo.

Doing my twitcher bit
The path now made its way around and across a picturesque man-made fishing loch that gave some great reflections, before crossing the driveway and into a more manicured area. We caught a fleeting glimpse of a woodpecker and a red squirrel, (twice in two weeks, I thought they were supposed to be rare). We stopped off at a walled cemetery to read the stones but as ever with these things it's all too sad so we made our way back up to the castle.

Fishing Loch
Castle Cemetary
We considered stopping in for a coffee but time was getting on. We'd set off around one thirty and arrived back at the car at four o'clock although as ever with this type of walk we had taken it very slowly and I'm sure we could have rattled round in half the time. All in all pleasant and not at all demanding, so maybe it was what we needed before we set off on our West Coast holiday next week.

More photos


  1. That cheered me up, John. I do that “American Pine” thing as well, only with stones. And I think “what the hell have I taken all these pictures for?”
    I’ve never seen a Jay, so if they are rare up there because it’s too far north, where the hell do they live? They’re not down here.
    Alen McF

    1. Hi Alen, I know what you mean about photographing "stuff" just for the sake of it. I blame digital photography! As for Jays, I'm beginning to to doubt my own research about how far north they come as we spotted one on the Ardnamurchan peninsula last week! I feel an e mail to the RSPB website coming on..............J