Book brings Crathes Castle ceilings to life

The book takes the reader on a tour of the castle's rooms. Picture: Go View Media
The book takes the reader on a tour of the castle's rooms. Picture: Go View Media

A book has been launched examining both the history of Crathes Castle and the painted ceilings which bring its history to life.

‘People and Painting – The Story of Crathes Castle’ has been written by James Burnett of Leys and castle guide Kirsty Haslam, with a foreword by historian Dan Snow.

The Green Lady's room ceiling. Picture: Go View Media

The Green Lady's room ceiling. Picture: Go View Media

It uncovers the people who have shaped the historic castle through analysing its painted ceilings, which are recognised as some of the finest surviving in Scotland.

The book also documents the history of the Burnett family, who lived in the castle for more than 350 years.

The castle, initially a tower house, was thought to have been initially developed by Alexander Burnett, the 9th Laird of Leys, in the 16th century with it evolving through the centuries to the magnificent building now managed by the National Trust for Scotland.

Having lived in the castle both as a child visiting his grandparents and as his home until 1966, James Burnett of Leys is passionate about sharing the story of the historic ceilings with visitors to the North-east and historians throughout the world.

Kirsty Haslam has worked as a guide at Crathes Castle since 2010.

She has also worked for the National Trust in England and is currently at the University of Aberdeen.

Balancing both family and local history with the changing face of Crathes Castle, the book goes on a tour of the rooms, giving an understanding of the history of each area of the castle with photographs and illustrations of the artwork and inscriptions throughout.

It also documents the influence the family on the castle and surrounding estate including the development of the celebrated walled gardens.

James Burnett of Leys explains: “In the 16th Century, Alexander Burnett of Leys carried out as extensive a programme of painted decoration as to be found anywhere in the country.

“Consequently, the painted ceilings at Crathes are amongst the most important in Scotland. This is not only because of their decorative appearance, but because they tell us so much more.

“For anyone planning to visit Crathes Castle, this book should add much to the experience of their visit.”

‘People & Painting – The Story of Crathes Castle’ is available at Crathes Castle, Milton Art Gallery, Yeadons Bookshop, Raemoir Garden Centre and Banchory Museum. It can also be bought online at, priced £9.99.