My main mission on this trip was to go to the Steam Fayre at Castle Fraser, some pictures of which are on the right. However, un/fortunately, it was the journey there and back that proved the real highlight. My first trip to Aberdeenshire has made me want to return again and again - it's a big old county! On the way back, I also stopped at Tomintoul and Grantown on Spey in historic Banffshire and Moray respectively.


In addition to Castle Fraser, I stopped at another couple of castles, namely Glenbuchat and Corgaff:
As you can see, Glenbuchat is roofless. This means that it is free to view, and explore, with plenty of spiral stairs and rooms to investigate. Corgaff, meanwhile, has a roof, so an entrance fee is charged to go inside. However, I suspect that the real interest of Corgaff Castle is the setting on a beautiful hillside in upper Strathdon, and the intriguing walls around the base of the tower. These form an 8- or 10- pointed star, generously provided with cannon and gun ports. A real defensive stronghold in appearance, although I wonder how long they could have survived under siege...


Just this side of Castle Fraser lies the pretty little village of Monymusk. It is a planned estate village for nearby Monymusk House. The village centre is a square, surrounded by buildings dating from c1880-1910, all bearing datestones amongst the decorative red bargeboards and fascia boards. On the eastern side of the square, opposite the shop and hotel, a narrow driveway leads back to the church, whose stubby tower rises above the houses in front.


The road from the Castles to Tomintoul passes over the Lechdt summit, one of the most dramatic and exhilerating roads I have ever driven, fast, empty and surrounded by stunning scenery it is also one of the highest roads in Scotland, climbing to 600-odd metres above sea level.
Like Monymusk, Tomintoul is centered on a square in the middle of the village. It is also one of the highest villages in Scotland (only Dalwhinnie beats it in the north). Either side of the grassy square (below), the long main street stretches into the distance, with the shops and hotels all clustered in the middle here. To the south, the parish church was originally a standard Telford church, but in the early years of the 20th century, it was renovated and altered so that the street elevation bears little resemblance to Telford's design.

Grantown on Spey

Grantown is another Victorian watering hole in the Highlands, and has the ranks of elegant hotels to prove it. Again, the centre of the town opens out into a broad square, with grassy swathes between the main road and the buildings. This is the civic centre as well as where a number of hotels stand, and the Town Hall (below) appears to be one of the older buildings in the town.
Behind the main road, there are plenty more interesting streets and buildings before you reach the more modern sprawl of housing estates, including some interesting churches. Grantown, like Tomintoul, is still a popular holiday destination for coach tours and those wishing to explore the Cairngorms, whilst not venturing too far off the beaten track. This means that it is obviously very busy in the summer months, even on a sunday evening as when I was there!