There are, confusingly, two Slains Castles on this stretch of coast. The original lay a mile north east of Collieston (good whale viewing post and lovely old fishing village,) and about six miles south west of its successor. This was built in the 1200s as a fortress. But in 1594 the owner, the Earl of Erroll backed a plot by the Earl of Huntly against King James VI, James responded by blowing up Old Slains Castle, and not much remains today.
The Earl of Erroll returned from exile in 1597 and made his peace with James. Rather than try to rebuild Slains, he instead used a tower house at Bowness as the basis for a new Slains Castle. The tower was extended and ranges of buildings were added around a courtyard.
In 1664 the castle was again expanded and altered, and a corridor was built across the courtyard. The final major change came in 1836 when further wings were added and the underlying castle was given a granite facing and generally Disneyfied.
Building costs and high living did little for the family finances and in 1916 death duties forced the 20th Earl of Erroll to sell Slains Castle. The new owner allowed the castle to fall into disrepair, and in 1925 its roof was removed.
Slains Castle today is a slightly unsettling place. It comes as little surprise to discover that Bram Stoker, who stayed at the Kilmarnock Arms in Cruden Bay, used it as inspiration for his story of Dracula. Despite the claims re Whitby Abbey, nyaa.
Earlier distinguished visitors included Samuel Johnson and James Boswell on their tour of the Highlands and Islands.
An illustration from one of my most prized possessions, a first edition of Buchan by the Rev. John B Pratt, M.A. published 1853. How Slains looked before it became a ruin.
Regrettably Slains was bought by a development company who were planning on turning it into holiday apartments. Ye gods. Fortunately the recession and the odd criminal conviction of certain of the parties involved it has gone on the back burner. Aberdeenshire Council or somesuch should really get their act together over this. It should stay as it is, the locals want that and so do those involved in tourism. Just needs a bit of maintenance.
Currently the owners have fenced it off - elf and safety - but we managed some years back to walk around and within.
And when we ran our b&b we had a lovely couple from Liverpool who stayed with us. The chap, with our assistance, and that of the Kilmarnock Arms, took his girlfriend to the castle and proposed. Down on bended knee in the mud. She accepted.
They had a lovely celebratory meal at the Kilmarnock Arms, champagne gratis and returned to us for the night, with more champagne, red roses and chocolates in their room. So Slains has a special meaning for us and them.
May it continue .