Ballindalloch Castle, Morayshire

Ballindalloch Castle opened for the season on Good Friday, and I really wasn’t familiar with this historic attraction in Morayshire, until I came across it on the new Aberdeen Angus Trail. This trail links numerous locations with strong links to the globally renowned sleek black cattle that originate from these parts. Delighted to find a castle I hadn’t visited before we set off to discover more.

When you’ve finished driving up the extensive driveway and parked, the first thing you see is a fantastic playground. With a range of vehicles Jamiroquai and Jeremy Clarkson would be proud of, including John Deer tractors with wagons full of toy logs, a train, swings, climbing frames and slides, a wooden kinder-gym and (my personal highlight) two-seated go-karts for whizzing round a tennis court of tyres. I loved peddling Mr Boy about, despite my legs being way too gangly and my knees up to my ears as I pedalled.

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Approaching Ballindalloch Castle

Walking through the daffodils and arbor to reach the castle was an elegant approach. The castle itself is privately owned by the Macpherson-Grants, dating back to the mid 16th century. The rooms are sumptuous yet homely and warm. Not a drafty, austere building but welcoming. The Drawing Room looks elegant yet lived in. Apparently the owners do use the rooms in the evening, after closing, and you can sense this. The grandest room was the Dining Room, but even this wooden panelled, tartan carpeted space wasn’t overwhelming. My tots favoured the nursery, naturally, which looked about as tidy and busy as our nursery at home. It was at the top of the narrowest, steepest staircase, a case of survival of the fittest if ever I saw one.

Throughout the house were peppered images of the family with royalty, invites to royal events and the royal wedding of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, so it’s quite clear this is a family with friends in high places. Equally there are plenty of family photos on the walls, which again gives the property a lived in quality. It’s easy to forget when visiting castles owned by large organisations that they were originally designed for one key purpose – to be a home. A defensive or impressive home perhaps, but still a home.

Back outside the children climbed the rockery, with little waterfalls tinkling in the background. It was like a climbing frame for green fingered tots, and reaching the top left them desperately pleased with themselves.

Even the public loos are worth noting as they won the ‘Best Loos’ category of the 2015 Hudson’s Heritage Awards, and the family accepted an award from Dan Snow! Random factoid alert there.

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Descending the Rock Garden

Lunch, in the tearoom, was quick and friendly.  With a range of soups, sandwiches, cakes and drinks, the food is simple but filling and tasty. The staff were notably helpful and happily brought us extra bowls so we could share bowls of soups and icecream between out boys as they rarely require a whole portion to themselves. The shop sells a variety of gifts, but what stands out is the estate’s own whisky which first ran from the stills in September 2014.

20170414_132411_resized-1Lastly we visited the Walled Garden, passing the donkey, ponies and llamas en route. We didn’t see any Aberdeen Angus cattle which was the only wee anti-climax but I believe they’ll be out over the summer months. Then it was time to return to the car, but not without passing the play park again and spending another 90 minutes in it! Ballindalloch has been off my radar for too long, I’m glad we discovered it.

The Lowdown – We drove from Aberdeen to Ballindalloch which took 1.5 hours. Private transport is required. Children under five are free (bonus!), and it’s possible visit the grounds only if you’d prefer – find prices and opening hours here.

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15 Comments

  1. Reply

    joylovestravel

    April 21, 2017

    I love castles like this that are clearly lived in and proper homes. It looks gorgeous in the grounds too.

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 25, 2017

      It felt so down to earth, yet grand at the same time. Quite a feat to pull off!

  2. Reply

    Anabel Marsh

    April 25, 2017

    I love visiting old castles but haven’t heard of this one – though I admit I don’t know that part of the country all that well. One for future reference!

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      April 27, 2017

      I’m hugely ashamed to say I wasn’t familiar with it either. Best way to resolve that is to visit!

  3. Reply

    Lauren @ youneedtovisit.co.uk

    May 5, 2017

    This looks a fab place to visit. I will try to take a visit in August when we are back in Scotland

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      May 5, 2017

      A good Scottish castle isn’t a cheap option but you can usually spend hours there, have fun, learn something and the grounds are always a delight. Hope you make it up here.

  4. Reply

    Nell (Pigeon Pair and Me)

    May 5, 2017

    The Aberdeen Angus Trail sounds like my kind of road trip! Great vision of you, on the tiny vehicle. And thank goodness for things like the vehicles, and the play parks. Otherwise we adults would find it very difficult indeed to visit fascinating places like Ballindalloch! #CulturedKIds

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      May 5, 2017

      Usually the play parks at the Scottish castles are fantastic. People often pay to visit the grounds, which are usually stunning, and also include the playgrounds. Assuming it’s the same in England.

  5. Reply

    Catherine's Cultural Wednesdays

    May 6, 2017

    I want to go on those go-karts, bravo to the tea room people for providing extra bowls and plates it makes such a difference when all the food gets eaten #CulturedKids

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      May 7, 2017

      I agree. If parents pay to enter an establishment then choose to dine in its cafe nobody should grudge a few plates for a wee tot! At Ballindalloch they were lovely, approachable and accommodating.

  6. Reply

    Tanja

    May 7, 2017

    what an interesting castle

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      May 7, 2017

      It was. Beautifully done.

  7. Reply

    catherine hooper

    May 9, 2017

    What a cool stately home! i love that it’s still lived in. Alnwick castle near us has a wide flat screen TV in their library! i think that’s fab!

    • Reply

      tots2travel

      May 10, 2017

      Now that’s relaxed yet grand living!

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