It was massive. I wanted to be a little girl again and run excitedly through the castle. The wheel staircase and the myriad of rooms leading to rooms, each decorated more fancifully than the one before it, begged to be run through excitedly. I wanted my cousins to be there so we could play lost orphans who hid in the tiny, wood panelled room at the top of the stairs and sneaked around the armoured guards and stole food from the kitchen.
But we were on a guided tour and I had a baby strapped to my chest. Plus I’m not 3 ft tall anymore (which makes everything seem bigger and more mysterious). Ah well. It didn’t surprise me when the guide told us in one of the victorian bedrooms that he once found six kids giggling underneath the bed.
Fyvie Castle is thought to have been founded in 1211 as a open air fortress, all of which is now gone or was reused to construct the current castle. It never really stayed in the hands of one family, but was passed around and sold off here and there, different owners building different pieces. The center of the castle is a wide “wheel stair” — exactly how it sounds: huge stone steps in a round tower that wheels upward in a great circle. In the middle ages when the stairs were built, the men raced horses up them. I felt I could hear echos of that mad clatter whenever we reentered the stairs to circle up to another off-shooting room.
Alexander Leith, a scot rich from the industrial movement, bought the castle in 1885 and made it what it is today — a colossal estate well suited to luxurious entertainment. He built the wing with the largest rooms, including a dining room with a striking, life-size painting of his wife dressed in white and an breathtaking room on the top floor with panelled walls housing cut-up tapestries of brave men and beautiful women in pastoral landscapes.
We came to Fyvie with my parents, so it follows that we visited the tea room. (We did have 45 minutes to spend before the tour began. But we undoubtedly would have taken tea anyway.) Ambrose sat in a highchair and banged spoons and fingered Grannie’s bracelets.
Fyvie was what a little girl pictures when “castle” is said during story time. Something grand. Something fortressy looking. Something mysterious and made of stone. The knight and princess ideal rests in Fyvie’s walls.