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I have read much about the Painted Ceilings at Crathes in books on Scottish Renaissance Art and, like many other people, find them fascinating. These books are mostly written by scholars for scholars and in them, the Crathes ceilings are considered in the context of the wider subject.

The painted ceilings of Crathes are not only amongst the finest in Scotland, but they are seen as one of the iconic feature of Crathes. They are integral to the building of the tower. I thought that they deserved their own booklet and written not for the scholar, but for the average visitor.

The Crathes ceilings were intended to be decorative, educational and inspirational. If the homilies which are written on the beams are to be followed, it is likely that the advice will be for the good of the soul.

I drafted what I thought a book warranted and then remembered that a young member of the nearby Farquharson of Finzean family, Kirsty Haslam, who is also a part-time guide in the Castle, had written a dissertation on the ceilings whilst at University. I asked her if I could send her my draft for comment. I soon realised that I could not produce a book of any accuracy and quality without her and she kindly agreed to be my assistant author.

In general, Kirsty contributed the passages about the ceilings and I provided the infrastructure in which they sit – but largely with her assistance. I have to say that I think that the result is good and it is entirely due to Kirsty. She corrected me on most of that which I wrote and so it would not be untrue to say that she did her bit and she did much of mine.

I must also add that I am deeply indebted to the National Trust for Scotland and others for assisting with the book.

People and Painting is essentially about the Painted Ceilings, but it is also a guide to the Castle. It has a large number of illustrations and is easy to read. It also explains the origins of the Burnetts, their arrival on Deeside, the earlier days and a brief history of the family. It explains the construction of the tower and takes you room by room through the building. For anyone who is to visit Crathes, I would like to think that it will greatly enrich both their tour and their memory of the Castle.

Hence I think the following.

For visitors to Scotland, Crathes Castle is a ‘must’.

For visitors to Crathes, People & Painting is a ‘must’.

For the Crathes memory, People & Painting is a ‘must’.

For a better soul for some, People & Painting is a ‘must’.

Crathes Castle – Heraldry Explained

With Charles Burnett, former Ross Herald




Charles Burnett, who is known to many readers, has been a very good friend over the past few decades, and also a great source of knowledge with which I may have been undeservedly credited when I pass it on.

The knowledge for which he is famed had been shared with many by lectures on the various aspects of Heraldry. He has delivered these in many parts of the world and the different applications of Heraldry. It has often been suggested that some of these should be filmed. I did investigate this about 3 years ago, but for me it was a step too far.

However, I did think that we should make a single short film with Charles describing the essentials of Heraldry and that it would be appropriate to take it at Crathes where he could use some of the Heraldry in the Castle as examples of what he was describing. The result is Crathes Castle Heraldry Explained

Whether or not readers are Burnetts, I think that all will enjoy this 30 minute description of two great subjects. Priced at a modest £4.99, it is available at the Castle and the Milton of Crathes, and can also be acquired from the website.