“Delighted with everything and everybody and hope to come again.” - BRAM STOKER
In 1894 nobody paid much attention to the red-haired and bearded six footer who walked casually into the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel yet he was soon to thrill and terrify the world with his creation. His name was Bram Stoker and during what was to be a 17 year love affair with the surroundings of Cruden Bay, the story of the vampire, Count Dracula was to emerge.
Searching for a haven of tranquillity away from publicity, the writer fled to Scotland from his native Dublin and found it in Cruden Bay. After many hours day and night spent exploring, Stoker would have tea with the coastguard in his lookout. He wrote a novel “The Mystery of the sea”, whose hero, Archie Hunter, had a vision of a grisly procession of wraiths from wrecks on the treacherous Scaurs coming ashore at Cruden Bay.
In the summer of 1894, he wrote “The Watter’s Mou”. A strange melodrama about Cruden Bay in the heyday of smuggling in the first half of the nineteenth century. In this book he refers to the proprietor at the time James Cruickshank who’s picture hangs in reception today.
“Just then two persons entered the room, one of them, James Cruickshank of the Kilmarnock Arms, who was showing the way to the other, an elderly man with a bald head, keen eyes, a ragged grey beard, a hooked nose and an evil smile.”
On Stoker’s return in the summer of 1895, the book was written. It is said that when the winds blow into Cruden Bay, the sea is churned into such violence that it fills the onlooker with fear. On such a day Bram Stoker sat near Slains Castle in the wind and rain like some sea bird perched on a rock and slowly, his creation, Count Dracula began to emerge in his mind’s eye...
“...I saw the whole man slowly emerge from the window and began to crawl down the castle wall over that dreadful abyss, face down, with his clock spreading around him like great wings...”
As he pieced together the character in his mind, he looked around for some realism to connect with his creation. After some thought, he grafted the Count’s character on to the story of the 15th century ruler of Walachia in Rumania, called Voivode Drakula, a dabbler in witchcraft and a lover of torture and bestial cruelty. (Interestingly, Sir Iain Moncrieff, the first husband of Diana, Countess of Erroll, has an ancestor who married into the Rumanian family of the same Drakula.)
Some even say that the fangs of the vampire’s teeth were inspired by the jagged Scaurs - the hazardous rock range surfacing out of the sea at the end of Cruden Bay beach. In 1897 the book was published. It has not been out of print since.
Bram Stokers’ entry in the visitors book can still be seen today:
“Delighted with everything and everybody and hope to come again.”
And come again he did, year after year, until Cruden Bay and later, the little village of Whinnyfold became a second home for him and his family.