Highlands for Families no. 3, Haddo House
Back in August E, A, Stella and I visited Haddo House in Aberdeenshire. Disclaimer, if we're being pedantic Haddo House is outside the Highlands. The surrounding countryside is rolling, green and hilly, but not especially mountainous, despite being in the north of Scotland. In any case it's well worth a look around; quite possibly the finest building in the possession of the National Trust for Scotland, certainly in the region.
It was a little difficult finding the entrance to the site. Our sat-nav kept directing us to entrances that were only for use by staff. After driving around the estate in a circle for another ten minutes we eventually found the access road for the general public and entered. The length of time it takes to reach Haddo House once on the driveway really gives you a sense of the scale of the estate. The car park is run by Aberdeenshire Council rather than National Trust for Scotland, meaning that even trust members need a special pass in their window (it can be obtained for free for trust members in the ticket office). Otherwise you pay the parking fee and entry fee as standard, which can add up to a lot for a family. I would recommend that anyone planning to visit more than one historical site become a member for financial reasons as much as anything else, it's much better value.
Haddo House is a sumptuous Georgian mansion with a grand, maze-like interior. The grounds are equally impressive, formal gardens giving way to the enormous estate, including a deer park and lake. A lot of people come just to walk or cycle the grounds, but with Stella very pregnant at the time with our third child, L, we were limited to the house and garden.
As ever, the National Trust staff were helpful and incredibly knowledgeable about the building and its former occupants, the Gordon family. There is a one way system in place because of covid, but even so we got a bit lost and ended up looking around the house back to front. We got away with this as it was a quiet time, but I recommend seeking out a staff member if you are unsure. The building spins you around several times and you're never quite sure where you are in relation to the entrance.
You could probably spend a few hours looking about the place. Each room reveals something about the lives of the people who called this home. There's a real upstairs downstairs vibe, quite literally in fact as much of the ground floor was for the use of servants, while the first and second floors were the preserve of the aristocratic family and their guests. Some of the most interesting features of Haddo House include a room with an array of stuffed animals, beautiful and quite enormous portraits of the Gordon family and the extremely well stocked library. Some of the books in there have been sitting on the shelves for two hundred years and never even been read!
They had a painting of Lickleyhead Castle! One room in Haddo House is devoted to pictures of the castles of Aberdeenshire.
We spent a good twenty minutes in the library being given a fascinating talk on the Gordon family by a scholarly young lady. She told us she was studying history at degree level and was working at the house part-time. It makes you realise how much time and effort people put into caring for these places and sharing their knowledge with others for love of history.
The garden around the back of the house was filled with fragrant flowers and buzzing bees. I could quite happily have spent more time here but E and A had begun to grow restless. Instead therefore we ran around some of the paths leading towards the deer park before cutting short our trip due to tiredness as explained above. We quite definitely plan to return at some point in the future and I will update this blog when we have further explored the estate.