WE may not all be able to bag our very own Prince William, but that doesn’t mean living like a king or queen need be out of the question. Knight Frank has reported a spate of castles on the market in Scotland, with six currently for sale. (Scotland is castle central because of the warring clans – you needed a home to prevent your women and sheep from being pillaged.)
Common assumptions about castles include that they’re all huge, shabby and ruinously expensive, and that you have to be royalty or at least someone who is terribly important to own one. Not so: see right for a keep (a castle with one turret) costing under £600,000, near Aberdeen.
In any case, castles are as much about people’s imaginations than as they are reality. John Coleman, of Knight Frank’s Edinburgh office, who lived in a castle as a child, says: “Everyone has a different picture in their mind about what a castle is. Castles are very emotive for people – buyers are people who have always wanted one and now have enough money to buy one. They tend to be second homes and seen as trophies.”
There are three main types available. The most dramatic and solid are the 12th, 13th and 14th century specimens built to keep intruders out. “They’re very fortified,” says Coleman. Indeed: walls are between eight and 15 feet thick and are “really built to withstand being bombarded”. The downside to such thick walls is condensation – you might find water dripping down the walls inside, but a dehumidifier should help. It can also be hard to install pipes for heating and plumbing.
Next up in size are clan castles, which are fortified country houses. These are larger affairs with one or two keeps. And finally, there are Victorian renditions, with turrets, gables and other Gothic touches – a craze started by Queen Victoria building Balmoral in 1853.
“When you have a roaring fire in the living room, nothing beats it. Having a castle is about sharing the experience – nobody will ever turn down an invite to stay,” says Coleman. As for the kids: “It was child heaven,” recalls Coleman. “There were 92 steps to my bedroom. It was a wonderfully exciting place to live.”
Price: £595,000. A miniature Z-plan castle (1560s), wonderfully restored, with extensive lands. Once belonged to a branch of the Clan Gordon. Contact: Knight Frank on 0131 222 9600
KILLOCHAN CASTLE, SOUTH AYRSHIRE
A plainly stunning 16th century, A-listed castle by the Girvan Water with 2.8 of miles of fishing and a beautiful walled garden. Steward’s flat, gatehouse and cottage come too. Contact: Knight Frank on 0131 222 9600.
MIDMAR CASTLE, ABERDEENSHIRE
Price: £3.2m. The territorial chieftains of this restored 10 bedroom, 185-acre property were the Earls of Mar. Contact: Savills on 0131 247 3711.
CASTLE LIVING: UPS AND DOWNS
You have a totally unique trophy home.
Your friends will never refuse offers to visit.
You can lock and leave easily because they’re so secure and tend to keep a steady temperature.
You’ll either have adjoining land for shooting or fishing, or will be located near such land.
Walls prone to moisture.
Low doorways and small windows can make it hard or impossible to move furniture in whole.
Hard to install amenities like heat and plumbing.