Visiting Scotland's spooky Slains Castle, Aberdeenshire: inspiration for Bram Stoker's 'Dracula'?
From Dracula to the tax collector
These castle ruins in north-east Scoltand look as if they tell a tale of dark deeds.
Well, actually, it's not what happened here that seems to count.
It's what a supposed visitor to this castle is reckoned to have thought of, and written about, for which Slains Castle, or should I say, New Slains Castle, near Cruden Bay, Aberdeenshire, is famous.
The visitor is supposed to have been Bram Stoker (1847-1912). His novel about the sinister Dracula is reckoned to have been inspired by the sight of the evocative, ruined Slains Castle. So goes the theory. (A foggy day at Slains only serves to help the power of illusion.)
In fact, scholars suggest that there is not necessarily any firm evidence that the writer Bram Stoker ever actually used impressions of Slains Castle for his novel. If Bram Stoker did go to Slains, he had already been writing his famous novel. (Indeed, Bran Castle in Romania has somewhat loose historical associations with Vlad Tepes, the character upon which Dracula is reckoned to be based.)
Oh well. But anyway, it makes for a good story. After all, why spoil a good story with facts?
The real history
But what about the castle's real history?
New Slains Castle was the seat of the Earls of Erroll for about 300 years; a previous, Medieval castle had been destroyed by King James VI of Scotland because of a dispute which he had with the Errolls. Far from being a sinister locale at the end of the 19th century, the castle was actually the scene of much fine entertaining by the 19th Earl of Erroll.
However, cash flow proved to be a problem, and it is at the all too prosaic origin of Slains's apparently sinister appearance. In 1916, the Erolls sold the castle, and the new owner, Sir John Ellerman, found he couldn't afford to pay property taxes on it, and fell upon an ingenious solution: remove the roof, so that the tax collector wouldn't be able to claim it was habitable. This was done in 1925 and the North Sea weather did the rest: hence its ruined look.
So, from Dracula to a tax collector. Sorry to have disappointed you.
Also worth seeing
Cruden Bay itself is a scenic fishing village.
Aberdeen (distance: 38 kilometers); the Flemish Gothic West Tower of the New Town House is a landmark; King's and St Salvator's Colleges within Aberdeen University attract many visitors.
Balmoral , Royal Deeside (distance: 134 kilometres) is a picturesque residence of The Queen.
How to get there: Continental Airlines flies from New York Newark to Glasgow and Edinburgh Airports, where car rental is available. There are air and rail services which connect Glasgow and Edinburgh with Aberdeen. Please note that some facilities mentioned may be withdrawn without notice. Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.
MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.
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