125th anniversary of Dracula to be celebrated in Cruden Bay

Several events will be held in Cruden Bay to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the publication of Dracula on the 26th May, 1897.

By Dawn Renton
Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 8:51 am
Updated Wednesday, 18th May 2022, 8:51 am
Slains Castle, the inspiration for Dracula, looms over Cruden Bay. (Photo: Mike Shepherd)
Slains Castle, the inspiration for Dracula, looms over Cruden Bay. (Photo: Mike Shepherd)

Returning to the village for the occasion is Dacre Stoker, who has picked Cruden Bay by preference to celebrate the occasion, on account that part if not most of the novel was written by his great-grand uncle here.

On Wednesday May 25, Dacre Stoker and local author Mike Shepherd will give a talk at the village hall on Bram Stoker, Cruden Bay and Dracula. Starting at 7.30 pm, tickets are £5 with all proceeds to go to the Port Erroll Heritage Group. Tickets are available from Cruden Bay Post Office.

On the day itself, at 6.30pm, Dacre will unveil an information board to be installed on the wall of the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel. This will provide information about localities around the village associated with Bram Stoker.

Dacre will also be running an organised tour of the village and the surrounding area in conjunction with the tour company Experience Transylvania, a joint Swedish / Romanian venture. Cruden Bay will be one of the legs on a tour that will also visit places in London and Whitby linked with Bram Stoker and Dracula. It is anticipated that this will be the first of regular tours to Cruden Bay. VisitScotland, the national tourism organisation, are helping to promote both the tour and the region’s links to Bram Stoker, particularly as their theme for this year is ‘Scotland’s Year of Stories’.

Bram Stoker probably started writing Dracula in 1895 on one of his regular monthly visits to Cruden Bay. Bram’s son Noel, who was in the village with his father that year, told Bram’s biographer that the early chapters were written while the family was in residence in the Kilmarnock Arms Hotel. Bram Stoker returned to Aberdeenshire in 1896 and completed the novel. It is not recorded that he was in Cruden Bay that year – he probably was - although it is known that in the Summer of 1896 he toured the northern coast, staying in the Garden Arms Hotel in Gardenstown and a hotel in Banff.

There is only a few bits and pieces written in Dracula which can be linked to Aberdeenshire. There are hints that part of the floor plan of Slains Castle has been used for Castle Dracula, in particular the octagonal hall at the centre of Slains Castle. And a phrase in the Doric dialect accidently appears in the Whitby chapters of the novel as mouthed by a local fisherman, ‘ I wouldn’t fash masel’ ’ he says. This easily makes Dracula the most famous novel to use Doric! Incidentally, Bram Stoker wrote two Cruden-Bay-based novels with much of the dialogue in the Doric dialect.

Bram Stoker’s other novels contain knowing references to Dracula. For example, in his 1902 novel The Mystery of the Sea the curving shore of Cruden Bay beach is likened to a mouth with the headlands at either end forming its teeth. And should there be any doubts, the rocks rising out of the deep water along the coast are described as ‘fangs’.

This is appropriate, because Florence Stoker his wife told a reporter that Bram would march up and down Cruden Bay beach thinking the novel out, or would be seen sitting on the rocks of the shore perched like a giant bat.