Pink castle which inspired Disney named 'Britain's best kept secret'

Scottish 16th century pink castle that is so beautiful it inspired Walt Disney is Britain’s best-kept secret, Lonely Planet travel guide says

  • Craigievar Castle, near Alford in Scotland, is named as Britain’s best kept secret
  • The attraction is said to have inspired the famous Cinderella Castle from Disney
  • Craigievar was built in 1576 and is one of country’s most famous tower houses
  • It topped Lonely Planet’s list of ten lesser known UK destinations to visit in 2021 

A pink Scottish castle – so beautiful that it inspired Walt Disney – has been named as Britain’s best-kept secret in a top travel guide.

Stunning Craigievar Castle, near Alford, Aberdeenshire, is believed to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle.

The fairy tale castle features as the centre point of the company’s logo and two of its world-famous theme parks. 

But the real 16th Century home has now been awarded another claim to fame, having recently topped Lonely Planet’s list of the ten lesser known UK destinations to visit in 2021. 

The stunning castle, which is run by the National Trust for Scotland (NTS), beat the likes of Benmore Botanic Garden in Strath Eachaig, Scotland, and the lesser known Rhyd Ddu path of Snowdon in Wales, to the top of the list.

General manager of NTS North East, Iain Hawkins, said: ‘We are delighted to hear of this recognition for Cragievar Castle.


Stunning Craigievar Castle (pictured left), near Alford, Aberdeenshire, is believed to be the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle (pictured right). Slide across to see both pictures

Why is Craigievar Castle castle pink? 

Construction on Craigievar Castle began in 1576 – but the stunning building wasn’t originally pink.

The seven-storey castle was completed in 1626 after being purchased by merchant William Forbes.

But it would have originally been a cream colour.

This is because it has a harled finish – consisting of lime and aggregate.

In 1824 the building was inherited by Sir John Forbes – who immediately commissioned a report into the state of the building.

The report concluded that the harling should be redone with a pigment to make it match more closely with the granite detailing of the castle.

The result was the stunning pink castle still seen today. 

‘Although, of course, it is no secret to National Trust for Scotland members and the people of Aberdeenshire.

‘It’s a favourite of mine because in changing light conditions, each day’s view seems to be different.’

Built in 1576 and completed in 1626, Craigievar is one of the country’s most famous tower houses.

The Castle’s stunning turrets, ornate corbels and carved stonework have attracted royalty – including Queen Victoria.

It was originally owned by the Forbes family in 1610 after William Forbes, who made his fortune as a merchant, trading goods between Scotland and the Baltics, purchased it.

He spent a massive chunk of his wealth renovating the castle which was completed in 1626.

The National Trust for Scotland (NTS) took over running the estate in the 1960s.

A survey found only 23 per cent of the country knew the iconic castle is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle. 

The castle, which attracts thousands of visitors every year, was once adjoined by a lower enclosing wall, known in Scots as a ‘barmkin’.

Last month, the lost walls and fortifications of the castle were revealed in a new project carried out by the National Trust for Scotland.

Built in 1576, Craigievar is one of the country’s most famous tower houses. The Castle’s stunning turrets, ornate corbels and carved stonework have attracted royalty – including Queen Victoria

It was originally owned by the Forbes family in 1610 after William Forbes, who made his fortune as a merchant, trading goods between Scotland and the Baltics, purchased it

A survey found only 23 per cent of the country knew the iconic castle is said to have been the inspiration for Walt Disney’s Cinderella Castle

Using 3D technology, past archaeological studies and plans and paintings of Craigievar Castle, the 16th-century ‘barmkin’ walls have been rediscovered and mapped out.

Visitors are now able to walk the defensive lines and discover another chapter of the castle’s history.

Tom Hall, at Lonely Planet, said: ‘London has always dominated tourism in the UK, and for good reason, but the entire country is overflowing with historic sites and natural wonders.

‘The pandemic caused us all to pause and re-evaluate how we travel, and I think now is the perfect time to update that bucket list with some of these under-the-radar places you might have overlooked in the past.’

The castle was selected as Lonely Planet’s top lesser known UK destinations as part of a photography competition run with Japanese firm Sony. 

The castle is currently closed but is due to reopen from May 27. 

Lonely Planet and Sony’s top 10 lesser known UK destinations to visit in 2021

1. Craigievar Castle, Alford, Scotland

2. Portmeirion, Wales 

3. Tresco Abbey Gardens, Isles of Scilly

4. Oundle, Northamptonshire, England

5. Benmore Botanic Garden, Strath Eachaig, Scotland

6. Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa) from the quieter Rhyd Ddu Path, Wales

7. Howtown & Martindale, Cumbria, England

8. Lincolnshire Wolds

9. Holkham Beach, Norfolk, England

10. Marshwood Vale, Dorset

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