One of Scotland’s oldest homes for sale, a 13th century castle

The Craig, near Montrose
The Craig, near Montrose
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Set high above the Montrose basin in the Angus countryside, Craig Castle, or The Craig as it is known, is one of Scotland’s oldest properties and could tell some tales if its walls could talk.

Records for the castle begin as far back as the 1200s and unusually, The Craig has been occupied continuously ever since.

The drawing room

The drawing room

Sir James Douglas spent his final night in Scotland here, protecting the heart of Robert Bruce before transporting it to the Holy Land in battle against the Saracens.

Visits by King James V are noted in 1535 and 1539, and Mary Queen of Scots is said to have stayed twice.

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The Old Pretender, James Edward Stuart, is also thought to have passed his final night at the castle before leaving for exile in France in 1688.

The castle's entrance

The castle's entrance

Visitors these days may not be as illustrious, but the house still casts a spell, according to The Craig’s owners Betsy Horn and her husband John Fraser Horn. Betsy says: “It is the most marvellous house for entertaining and we’ve welcomed guests from all over the world who have fallen in love with it.”

Their love story with the house started 12 years ago. The couple, who are from the United States, had spent over a decade renting a home nearby for the summers they liked to spend in Scotland.

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Betsy says: “I saw pictures of The Craig in a magazine and wanted to go and have a look. By the time we had driven up the drive I was smitten, while for my husband it was love at first sight of the gardens. The whole place has a magical aura about it.”

The library

The library

The approach is indeed impressive, as a tree-lined avenue sweeps past ivy-covered drum towers and through an arch in the 15th century curtain wall.

Inside the house is equally jaw-dropping with tunnel-vaulted rooms, flagged floors, Georgian staircases, Adam fireplaces and intricate painted friezes.

They bought the castle four days after seeing it, but while it was in good order, having been through a Historic Scotland-led restoration carried out by the previous owners, there was still work to be done.

Betsy says: “We knew that buying a property like this is a huge responsibility and over the years we’ve worked hard to retain the historical significance.”

The master bedroom

The master bedroom

A key example is found in the drawing room. A 16th century Renaissance painted ceiling bearing the date of 1529 was discovered in 1921 during restorative work, fragments of which are now on display in the Museum of Scotland.

Inspired by this, Betsy and John commissioned a friend, the well-known American architectural artist, Richard Jordan, to design and paint the drawing room ceiling at The Craig.

He included the historical detail in the original design which includes birds and beasts, human figures and initials from the period.

All seven reception rooms display a treasure trove of such original features, from the morning room with its fine stone fireplace to the drawing room with 18th century Palladian windows and Adam fireplace and the dining room’s own frieze painting depicting extinct Scottish wildlife.

Betsy has a past in interior design, as well as being a singer, author and health and wellness expert, so took charge of the decor, restoring sensitively throughout, while replacing some traditional features with 21st century comfort.

Older “thunderbox” loos have given way to modern bathrooms, one of the vaulted rooms is now a sauna and gym and the kitchen has two midnight blue Agas. For a castle approaching its ninth century, it is a warm and comfortable home.

The formal gardens surrounding the house

The formal gardens surrounding the house

Betsy says: “It is also a good size, spacious but not huge, so there aren’t any areas that aren’t used regularly when we have a houseful.”

John’s task was to take on the remarkable garden, which dates from the 17th century. Because the house is set centrally in the grounds, it affords every single window a lovely view of formal hedging, paved terraces, herbaceous borders, the summerhouse and an Alpine garden as well as woodlands and paddocks beyond.

The couple have spent their lives in many different countries and owned several homes, but Betsy recognises that this one is special.

“We know that this has been the most extraordinary house that we will ever live in, but having felt a strong obligation to its history we hope we have maintained and conserved in the best way possible.”

Offers over £1.57 million, contact Savills on 01356 628 628.