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Castle Fraser is a Z-plan Tower House that has been extensively modified over the centuries and preserved in its final form by the National Trust for Scotland. The castle is set within landscaped grounds.
Extensive landscaped grounds surround the castle.
Constructed around an earlier Tower House, Castle Fraser (originally known as Muchall-in-Mar Castle) was an elaborate Z-plan structure. Although the estate was raided during the War of Three Kingdoms, the castle itself was never attacked and evolved into a stately home.
Castle Fraser was started in the mid-fourteenth century as a three storey rectangular Tower House. The surrounding lands, known as Muchall, were originally the property of Alexander Stewart, Earl of Mar. However, when he died in 1435 without a legitimate heir, the estates passed to the Crown. It was James II (1437-60) who granted both Muchall and Stoneywood to Thomas Fraser in the mid-fifteenth century. It was most probably Thomas who built the Tower House on the site which became known as Muchall-in-Mar Castle.
The castle was substantially upgraded in the sixteenth century by Michael Fraser, Sixth Laird of Fraser. He built two new towers on diagonally opposite corners of the existing Tower House to form a Z-plan castle. Work started on the project in 1575 but progress was slow and it was still incomplete when he died in 1588 leaving his son, Andrew Fraser, to complete the build in 1636. Andrew was elevated to Lord Fraser in 1633.
Andrew died in December 1636 and the castle, estate and title passed to his son, also called Andrew. He was an opponent of King Charles I's attempts to reform the Scottish church along Anglican lines and accordingly supported the Covenanter cause during the Wars of Three Kingdoms. In 1644 Muchall was attacked by the Royalist commander in Scotland - James Graham, Marquis of Montrose - who devastated the surrounding estate but, lacking time or siege equipment, left the castle untouched. In its long history this was the only time the castle came close to seeing military action.
In 1656 Andrew was succeeded by his son, another Andrew, who became the third Lord of Fraser. He died in May 1674 leaving extensive debts and the castle passed into the control of Charles Erskine, Earl of Mar and then to his wife, Jean Mackenzie. Andrew's son - Charles Fraser, Lord Fraser - reacquired control of the estate in 1703.
Charles Fraser supported John Erskine, Earl of Mar when he started the 1715 Jacobite rebellion. The uprising was short-lived and, following the Battle of Sheriffmuir, was ultimately defused. Mar fled to France leaving Charles a fugitive; he died in 1719 falling down a cliff whilst being pursued by Government forces. Charles was succeeded by his son, William, but he died just two years later and the castle passed to Charles Fraser, Lord of Inverallochy.
In the late eighteenth century the castle passed into the hands of Elyza Fraser. She had the castle stylised and the surrounding grounds were landscaped under the oversight of James Giles, an Aberdeenshire artist. The castle underwent further changes between 1820 and 1850 when the interior was rebuilt.
In 1897 Frederick Mackenzie Fraser died childless and his widow, faced with the extensive costs of maintaining the property, sold it in 1921 to Weetman Pearson, Viscount Cowdray. In the 1950s some work was undertaken to remove sections of the nineteenth century modifications. The castle was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1976.
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Castle Fraser is found near Craigearn off an unnamed road. It is well signposted and there is dedicated car parking.