A Living Home
Still home to the Cawdor family to this day, Cawdor Castle has evolved over 600 years. Later additions, mainly from the 17th century, were all built in a Scottish style with slated roofs over walls and crow-stepped gables of local stone. This style gives Cawdor a strong sense of unity, and the massive, severe exterior belies an intimate interior that gives the place a surprisingly personal, friendly atmosphere.
The Thorn Tree
The legendary tale says that the Thane of Cawdor, who had a small castle about a mile away, decided to build a new, stronger tower. Following instructions he received in a dream, the Thane loaded a coffer of gold onto the back of a donkey and let it roam the district for a day – wherever the donkey lay to rest for the evening would be where the new castle would be sited. The donkey chose a tree and it’s around this holly tree that Cawdor Castle was built.
The Drawing Room
This, the great hall of the castle, dates from the 16th century or before and has been frequently remodelled. In 1684, the last major alteration was the insertion of a fireplace embellished with the Calder family emblems of the stag’s head and buckle. The opposite end of the room holds a minstrel’s gallery.
The Drawing Room houses numerous family portraits by famous painters such as: Sir Joshua Reynolds, Francis Cotes, Sir William Beechey and Sir Thomas Lawrence.
The Tapestry Bedroom
The Tapestry Bedroom - the best bedroom above the great hall - forms part of the 17th century's additions to the castle.
The four-poster was the marriage-bed of Sir Hugh Campbell and Lady Henrietta Stuart who were married at Darnaway Castle [q.v.] in 1662. The gilded and silvered Venetian headboard is the original and, until recently, the bed was dressed in the bleached and tattered remnants of the old materials. During restoration, the style was guided by an inventory entered by Lady Henrietta in her personal housekeeping notebook, while spring-cleaning in April 1688:
“In the Crimson Chamber there is an Crimson velvet bed, with head and foot valances both [gilt-]laced alike, lined with white taffeta, with feathers on the top of the bed, an gilded head in the bed, an feather bed-bolster…”
The Dining Room
A stone fireplace was installed in the dining room on the 13th of April 1671 but encountered some difficulty, as recorded by the Brodie of Brodie in his diary:
“...This day there did fallout a remarkable accident, never to be forgotten. The drawbridge at Cawdor fell, carrying in a great stone, and with it 24 men, and the Laird himself. Some were hurt...”
The mantelpiece commemorates the marriage between Sir John Campbell of Argyll and Muriel Calder of Cawdor in 1510. The allegorical design and the inscription in dog Latin have never been satisfactorily explained or translated. The writing may mean 'In the morning, remember your creators'. Or it may mean something quite different, such as 'If you stay too long in the evening, you will remember it in the morning'.
The Old Kitchen
The old kitchen was in active use between 1640 and 1938. It features a well, dug straight into the old red sandstone rock on which the Castle is built. The rock strata dips towards the west, and through it, in both summer and winter, the water permeates and keeps the well charged within six feet of spring water.
The amazing cooking range is 19th century, and above it is the gearing for a spit. In 1760 it was the very latest thing and was, at least in theory, automatic because the hotter the fire became, the quicker the meat turned. There are many other contraptions in the old kitchen, including an old ice-box, flat-irons, smoothing-irons, a clothes peggie, a trivet, a warming-pan, a circular knife-grinder, butter-hands, a Lazy Susan, a pestle and mortar, a bucket - yoke, a butter-churn and a crusie lamp, earthenware jars, and many others intriguing objects.