Slains castle is an impressive ruin built on the precipice of Cruden Bay’s dramatic cliff edge. The ruin itself is a maze of corridors, rooms, halls and towers. A spectacular imprint of the grand castle that once was.
Slains castle (Or new Slains castle) has been reconstructed many times since its construction in 1597 by the Earl of Erroll. The ruin you see today is the inevitable result of the roofless castle’s location . It doesn’t take long for Scotland’s harsh weather to destroy the integrity of a building. No matter how magnificent.
Slains Castle History
The Earls of Errol were a long-time influential family in the Cruden Bay are. The family really grew in stature after William Hay (the 18th Earl of Errol) married the daughter of King William IV. Slains Castle was their crowning glory. Overtime the Hays fell upon hard times and in 1919 the castle and contents were sold to Sir John Ellerman. He soon gave up on the castle and within a few years the roof had been removed and the castle was left to the elements.
The castle is famous for many reasons. It was well known in the 19th century as being a place where celebrities partied alongside the Earl of Errol. As I stood at what would have once been a giant window looking out across Cruden Bay, I lamented how breath-taking a spot it would have been for a party. It is a real shame what has become of the castle. One of the most notable guests to Slains Castle was the author Bram Stoker. It is believed the castle is the inspiration for the setting of the tale in Count Dracula (1897).
You may also recognise the castle as the setting for the Castle of Mey in The Crown. The series used it as a representation of the Queen Mother’s Scottish castle. It was probably chosen due to its spectacular but secluded setting, that would have made filming possible.
Old Slains Castle
Just around the coast from Slains Castle lies the lessor know Old Slains Castle. This ruin sits on a thin peninsula that stretches into the North Sea. Old Slains Castle was built in the fourteenth century by the Hays family. They occupied the castle until it was blown up by James IV as revenge for their support of a Catholic rebellion. Francis Hay (Earl of Erroll) eventually made peace with the King and returned to the area replacing the destroyed Old Slains Castle with the larger (new) Slains Castle six miles away.
We parked in a parking area a short walk away from the castle. There are bollards to prevent cars driving all the way down to Slains Castle, but the walk is on a clear path and takes less than twenty minutes.
When you reach Slains Castle the first thing you notice is the dramatic cliff edge it sits on. Your eyes are drawn out across the rugged coast and into the North Sea. It is a truly spectacular setting that makes you want to photograph the castle from every possible angle.
The walls of Slains Castle are fairly well intact and some of the towers still rise high into the sky. Unfortunately, due to the absence of a roof all of the interior timbers and décor have been destroyed, including almost all of the second floor of the castle. All that remains is the hard shell of what once was. Although to be fair even that is fairly spectacular.
My favourite part of exploring the castle was climbing a spiral staricase to the top of one of the towers. There is nothing that says castle more than peering out from the top of a turret! You have to be careful when climbing as the tower windows have become somewhat of a hazard.
Watch our short video of our visit to Slains Castle.
It’s important when visiting Slains to be mindful of the many hazards, from the deteriorating building, to the gaping holes, to the steep and sheer cliff edge at the front of the building. Don’t venture too close to the cliff edge and try to be sensible when exploring the ruin. It is a great experience, but not one without its dangers!
We really enjoyed visiting and learning more about both Slains Castles. We hope you have too!