New Slains Castle

New Slains Castle

Coordinates: 57°24′54″N 1°49′57″W / 57.4151°N 1.832575°W / 57.4151; -1.832575

Slains redirects here; note that the term can also be used to refer to the general area surrounding the castle
New Slains Castle is located in Scotland
Location of New Slains Castle

New Slains Castle is a ruined castle near Cruden Bay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland, overlooking the North Sea.

The remains stand perched atop tall, sea-facing cliffs, constructed around an existing tower house built in 1597 by the 9th Earl of Erroll. Significant reconstruction of the castle has been carried out a number of times, lastly in 1837. It was altered in 1664 when a corridor was inserted within the courtyard and again in 1836 it was rebuilt and faced with granite. At one time it had three extensive gardens.



New Slains Castle at sunset, February 2008.

The Earls of Erroll, chiefs of Clan Hay, were a powerful family in the area for generations. The family prospered after William Hay, 18th Earl of Erroll, married the daughter of King William IV. Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll, built New Slains Castle after James VI had destroyed his castle, known as Slains Castle near Collieston, after the Hays participated in the rebellion of 1594. But, over time, misfortunes befell the Hays - and in 1916, the castle and contents were put up for sale.

The castle was then sold in 1916 and fell into disrepair in the first quarter of the 20th century, after more than 300 years of occupation by the Errolls. The castle was bought by Sir John Ellerman of the shipping line. He in turn gave it up in 1925 and its roof was removed to avoid paying taxes. That led to the inevitable ruin seen today.

Once a major stronghold and occupying a large area, it consisted of a massive 15th century keep, a fragment of which survives, and a courtyard defended by ditches. The castle was originally a property of the Comyns but passed to the Hay Earls of Erroll early in the 14th century.

In the late 19th century, the 19th Earl of Erroll entertained many celebrities at the castle. Some believe it was Bram Stoker's inspiration for the castle of Count Dracula. In 1948, the Earl of Erroll accorded the title Slains Pursuivant to his newly revived private officer of arms and appointed Michael Maclagan to the position. The current holder of the office, Peter Drummond-Murray of Mastrick, is a retired banker and an authority on heraldry.

Bram Stoker was staying in a local hotel in Cruden Bay when he heard of Slains Castle - which he saw as 'the castle of the dead'. It may have helped to inspire his writing of the novel, Dracula.

The ruin of the 13th century Old Slains Castle[1] lie about 6 miles to the Southwest. The older castle, also a family seat of the Errolls, was blown up by James VI as a punishment for their part in the 1597 plot by the Earl of Huntly against him.


Current Slains Pursuivant, Peter Drummond-Murray of Mastrick, derives his title from New Slains Castle

At first inspection the ruin appears to be a blend of several different architectural styles and periods, due to diverse masonry including older mortared granite, mortared medieval red brick, mortared sandstone and newer well faced granite. In fact most of the architecture seems to derive from a rather cohesive interval 1597 to 1664, which construction is the most expansive and includes the mortared rough granite and medieval brick. The 1836 work adds smoother granite facing that contrasts with the older construction style.

The defensive works of the castle include use of the North Sea cliffs, an abyss to the west that functions as a deep impassable moat and a ruined rampart that would have been the main entrance on the south.[2] The ruins include reasonably well preserved elements of three and four story structural elements and a basement course over some of the range, especially at the eastern side. There are well preserved basement kitchen works with numerous firepits and masonry indented storage spaces.

The internal doorways are primarily of well preserved wooden lintel construction, with numerous examples of mortared sandstone archways and medieval brickwork archways. The interior of the ground level is a maze of passageways and smaller rooms, reflecting a high state of occupancy in 17th century times.

Conversion into holiday homes

In October 2007, it was announced that the ruins of New Slains Castle were to be converted into holiday homes by the Slains Partnership, but the development was subsequently delayed. [3]

In literature

The castle and its early inhabitants are the basis for a book by Susanna Kearsley entitled The Winter Sea (also known as Sophia's Secret in the UK). It is historical fiction and set in both the 18th century and the present day.

External links


  1. ^ Slains - Clan Hay Website
  2. ^ C.Michael Hogan, Architecture of New Slains Castle, Scotland, Lumina Technologies, August, 2005
  3. ^ "Slains Castle redevelopment halted". STV Group. 2009-02-08. Retrieved 2009-03-30. 

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