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New Slains Castle
New Slains Castle
Built in 1597 by Francis Hay [9th Earl of Erroll], the ruin of New Slains Castle stands firmly atop the cliffs
overlooking the Bay of Cruden and Port Erroll.
New Slains Castle was built on the site of the former Bowness Castle [a square tower house] which was
enlarged and built around a courtyard. The castle was extended over many years resulting in a truly
magnificent family seat.
New Slains was rebuilt and faced with granite in 1838 by William George Hay [18th Earl of Erroll].
The family was seen to prosper after William married Lady Elizabeth FitzClarence [illegitimate daughter of
King William IV] in 1848.
Prosperity was not to last though as misfortune quickly befell the Earls of Erroll once again.
Early in the 20th century, the castle and contents were put up for sale following more than 300 years of
continuous occupation by the Earls of Erroll.
The castle was sold in 1916 by Charles Gore Hay [20th Earl of Erroll] and bought by Sir John Ellerman the
New Slains was offered for sale in 1922 by Sir John Ellerman together with over 7000 acres of land.
It was described by the selling agent as having seven main reception rooms, fourteen principal bed and
dressing rooms, ample domestic offices, the garden and grounds, sporting facilities and several farms.
A flight of marble steps led up to and through the front entrance into an entrance hall which in turn led into
an octagonal hall from which the main rooms could be accessed.
At one time there was an architectural carriage court, tennis and croquet lawns and a walled garden which
was listed as being of historic interest until as recently as 1975.
A 12 foot wall surrounded the garden and divided the vegetable garden from the flower beds.
The stables were built around a courtyard and the series of small spaces and doorways would have been the
staff rooms, kitchen, larders, cellars and store rooms.
In 1925 its roof was removed to avoid paying taxes and money was made from the sale of the lead.
In 2007 outline planning permission was granted to convert the building into 35 holiday flats.
To date no work has been carried out, due in part to the opposition from residents of Cruden and the economic
“Delighted with everything and everybody and hope to come again.”
[an entry from the visitors book - Kilmarnock Arms, Cruden Bay 1894]
In Cruden Bay, he had found the haven of tranquillity he had been seeking.
Stoker spent many hours, day and night, exploring the locality after which he would take tea with the coastguard in his lookout.
He wrote a novel “The Mystery of the sea”, whose hero, Archie Hunter, had a vision of a grisly procession of wraiths from wrecks on the treacherous
Scaurs coming ashore at Cruden Bay.
In the summer of 1894, he wrote “The Watter’s Mou”.
A strange melodrama about Cruden Bay in the heyday of smuggling in the first half of the nineteenth century, Stoker refers to the proprietor of the
Kilmarnock Arms [at that time] James Cruickshank ,whose picture still hangs in the hotel reception area today.
“Just then two persons entered the room, one of them, James Cruickshank of the Kilmarnock Arms, who was showing the way to the other,
an elderly man with a bald head, keen eyes, a ragged grey beard, a hooked nose and an evil smile.”
On Stoker’s return to Cruden Bay in the summer of 1895, ‘the’ book was written.
It is said that when the winds blow into Cruden Bay, the sea is churned into such violence that it fills the onlooker with fear.
It was on such a day that Stoker sat near Slains Castle in the wind and rain like some sea bird perched on a rock and slowly, his creation, Count
Dracula began to emerge in his mind’s eye...
“...I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and began to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down, with
his clock spreading around him like great wings...”
As he pieced together the character in his mind, he looked around for some realism to connect with his creation. After some thought, he grafted
the Count’s character on to the story of the 15th century ruler of Walachia in Rumania, called Voivode Drakula, a dabbler in witchcraft and a lover
of torture and bestial cruelty. (Interestingly, Sir Iain Moncrieff, the first husband of Diana, Countess of Erroll, has an ancestor who married into the
Rumanian family of the same Drakula).
Some say that the fangs of the vampire’s teeth were inspired by the jagged Scaurs - the hazardous rock range surfacing out of the sea at the end of
Cruden Bay beach.
In early transcripts Stoker had Dracula landing at Cruden Bay after his voyage from Transylvania.
This was later changed to the North Yorkshire town of Whitby for the final published work.
In 1897 the book was published. It has not been out of print since.
And come again he did, year after year, acquiring a feu and building a house in the hamlet of Whinnyfold, [a second home for him and his
family], situated on the cliff tops at the South end of Cruden Bay.
The house is known locally as “The crooked Lum” (The crooked chimney).
Other literary connections:
Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell were guests at Slains Castle in 1773. Johnson said that "no man can see with indifference" the sea chasm
known as the Bullers of Buchan, which is near the village.Dunbuy, or Yellow Rock is also near the Bullers of Buchan, and is associated with Walter
Scott's ‘The Antiquary’.
James Macpherson's poem ‘The Highlander’ (1758) takes the battle of Cruden as its model.
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