'Dracula's ruin' comes back from the dead
Slains Castle, reputedly the inspiration for the vampire's fortress, is to become holiday flats
Paul Kelbie The Observer Sunday October 14 2007
Silhouetted against an expanse of fields that were once the scene of a bloody slaughter of the Danes by the Scots, the ruins of Slains Castle casts an eerie shadow over a rocky coastline where, legend has it, the ghosts of shipwrecked sailors emerge from their watery graves once a year.
Now the dramatic fortress, which fired the imagination of horror writer Bram Stoker and is credited with being the true inspiration for Dracula's castle, is itself about to rise from the dead - to become a holiday home for tourists.
Slains Castle, one of Scotland's most spectacular ruins, sits on the edge of cliffs overlooking the former Victorian holiday resort of Cruden Bay
Once home to the Earls of Errol, the 16th century castle, which has been in disrepair for more than 70 years, was in its heyday when Stoker began visiting the area in the 1890s and took it as his model for the vampire's home. Now roofless, the castle, about 45 minutes from Aberdeen airport, is to be restored and turned into 35 luxury holiday flats for tourists and vampire hunters alike.
Proposals to resurrect the ruin have been put forward before, but planning and administrative wrangles, together with some initial opposition from local people, threatened to scupper the plans. However, developers have now set a definite date of 2008 to start work.
'Building projects can take a long time to materialise. Planning for Slains Castle has been a very involved process and there's still further work to be done,' said Douglas Forrest, the architect behind the new scheme.
'A development project will certainly be under way next year. We aim to rebuild the shell of the castle to its original form, and when it's complete it will be almost exactly like the building that inspired Bram Stoker - he was inspired by a complete building, not a ruin.
Stoker, who for several years either stayed at Cruden Bay or rented a cottage at the nearby fishing hamlet of Whinnyfold overlooking the castle, is known to have written at least four other supernatural stories inspired by the ghostly legends of the area.
'Bram Stoker stayed at Cruden Bay every year from 1893 onwards and it has always been reputed that he drew his inspiration for Dracula's castle from Slains Castle,' said Forrest. 'The idea is to retain as much of the original facade as possible - 100 per cent. We see no reason why there should be any alteration externally in restoring the building and subdividing it.'
Using many original archive documents from the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland, hundreds of photographs from the late 19th century and early 20th century, and some original plans, the designers hope to reconstruct the outside of the castle almost exactly as it was when Bram Stoker first saw it.
For years the village of Whitby
in North Yorkshire has done well out of the Dracula legend because the book recounts that the count landed there after a shipwreck. However, supporters of Slains Castle claim early drafts of the novel had Dracula landing at Cruden Bay, and have accused Whitby of luring vampire fans under false pretences.
The renovation of the castle and the benefits it could bring to the local economy have not been lost on tourism officials, who are quick to point out the area has more to offer, including a proposed leisure complex backed by US tycoon Donald Trump. 'For the north-east of Scotland, having a project like Slains Castle and in all likelihood the Trump development quite nearby will be a spectacular development,' said Forrest.
SLAINS CASTLES RUINS CLOSED TO VISITORS
From the ABERDEEN EVENING EXPRESS
12 October 2007
A Historic North-east ruined castle has been closed to the public for the first time since the 1920s.
Slains Castle near Cruden Bay, the reputed inspiration for Bram Stoker's Dracula, has been fenced off ahead of controversial plans to convert it to holiday homes.
The move came after insurers advised new owners Slains Partnership it was no longer safe to allow visitors inside.
The partnership's architect, Huntly-based Douglas Forrest said: "Essentially it came down to the health and safety regulations.
"The ruin is due to become a development site and we can't have people running around inside it."
Thousands of families visit the site every year, with fans of the vampire classic travelling from throughout the world to see the castle.
Stoker was inspired to write his Dracula novel after seeing the fortress on a trip to Cruden Bay. He described as "the castle of the dead."