Relative of Dracula author Bram Stoker co-writes new book on Slains Castle's history

A new book on the history of Slains Castle has been written by Cruden Bay historian Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker, the great-grand nephew of Dracula author Bram Stoker.

By Mike Shepherd
Monday, 20th September 2021, 7:00 am
Fascinating and little-known stories of the history of New Slains Castle are captured in the new book by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker.
Fascinating and little-known stories of the history of New Slains Castle are captured in the new book by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker.

New Slains Castle has often been described as Bram Stoker’s castle or Dracula’s castle, so it is appropriate that author Dacre Stoker confirms the links between his famous ancestor and the castle in Slains Castle’s Secret History. Given that Bram investigated the local history of the Cruden Bay area to provide material for two novels set locally, his observations and comments have been used to provide a running theme throughout the book.

The events detailed in this book are extraordinary. They also justify the word ‘Secret’ in the title because not many will be aware about what has happened in Slains Castle, or to be exact, the two Slains Castles, both old and new. Here are just some of the eye-catching stories.

At the time of the Spanish Armada in 1588, Francis Hay, 9th Earl of Erroll and resident of the old Slains Castle took part in a Catholic rebellion in the north of Scotland, aided by cannons sent from Spain. Should the rebellion have succeeded, the Spanish intended to land an army in Scotland and then invade England. When this plan failed, King James VI personally supervised the destruction of old Slains Castle, which was blown up using gunpowder.

Dacre Stoker with Bram's copy of Dracula.

In 1705, a French secret agent was sent by Louis XIV to New Slains Castle to foment a Jacobite Rebellion in Scotland ahead of the Acts of the Union that led to the formation of the United Kingdom. The agent, an Irishman named Nathaniel Hooke, inadvertently helped to nudge the Union into being. Hooke returned to Slains Castle in 1707 to gather intelligence for a French invasion of Scotland with the help of the Jacobites. Launched in 1708, the invasion fleet reached the Firth of Forth before being chased away by the newly-formed British navy. Had the combined French / Jacobite invasion succeeded, the United Kingdom would have only lasted nine months.

Dr Johnson and James Boswell visited Slains Castle in 1773 at the invitation of the Earl of Erroll and his brother. Both brothers had fought at the Battle of Culloden in 1746, on opposite sides.

Other events mentioned in the book include the tale of a customs official who suppressed smuggling along the coast between Cruden Bay and Collieston, the mysterious black rain of Slains, the visits of Bram Stoker (as covered by the Buchan Observer at the time), and the long hushed-up details of Winston Churchill’s 1908 journey to Slains Castle to see the Prime Minister’s daughter Violet Asquith shortly before his wedding to Clementine.

The remote location of Slains Castle, old and new, evidently made them perfect locations for international intrigue. It is no surprise that their secrets have been kept hidden down the centuries, that is, up until now.

• Slains Castle’s Secret History: Warlords, Winston Churchill & Dracula by Mike Shepherd and Dacre Stoker is published in paperback by Wild Wolf Publishing at £12.99. It is available online, and can also be bought at Cruden Bay Post Office and the village shop.