The Prop of Ythsie: A Towering Tribute to the 4th Earl of Aberdeen

Written by Chris Thornton | 18th of April 2023
The Prop of Ythsie

Standing tall amidst the serene Scottish countryside, the Prop of Ythsie is an imposing square tower erected in 1861 to memorialise George Hamilton Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen. Featuring 91 steps that lead to the top parapet, this architectural marvel offers breathtaking panoramic views of the surrounding landscape.

The tower's austere design, with a curving profile and an oversized parapet, gives it a distinctive appearance reminiscent of a rook on a chessboard. This characteristic sets it apart even among other Victorian-era Scottish structures. The tower is 25 metres tall and built from granite and clay.

The Haddo Estate, which owns the Prop, suggests that Ythsie is pronounced as "icy" or "eye-see".

The Prop of Ythsie profile shot. A striking square tower built in 1861.
Profile of the the Prop of Ythsie.

George Hamilton Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen

A marble plaque adorning the entrance pays homage to the Earl, stating:

"To George Hamilton Gordon, Fourth Earl of Aberdeen, By his attached and Grateful Tenantry. He was born at Edinburgh 28 Jan 1784 and died at London 14 Dec 1860."

Prop of Ythsie Plaque.
The plaque is fairly hard to read in this picture.

Gordon, who served as Prime Minister during the Crimean War and owned Haddo House (visible from the top of the Prop), also persuaded Queen Victoria to acquire Balmoral Castle during her visit to Haddo House.

Other achievements included:

  • Helped with the defeat of Napoleon.

  • Played a pivotal role in the opium wars against China.

  • Gained control of Hong Kong for the British.

The monument was erected through public subscription as a token of gratitude from his tenants, who appreciated the improvements Gordon made to the Haddo Estate to benefit the local community. The tower also gained significance as the site where a flag was traditionally hoisted to mark the annual opening of the Haddo House Curling Club.

1992 Restoration

Gordon District Council restored the tower in 1992, and then in 2012, Aberdeenshire Council appointed the North East Preservation Trust to manage the general ongoing maintenance of the tower. Laing Traditional Masonry repointed the stonework, completing the works in September 2012.

Lead up to the Ythsie Prop.
Walking to the Prop of Ythsie.

How to get to the Prop of Ythsie

The journey to the Prop is an adventure in itself. Though visible from the surrounding roads, there is no direct vehicular access to the site. The Prop is signposted off the B999 south of Tarves. Follow the signed turnoff onto a minor road, and after several hundred yards, you will find a small parking area to your left. There are no fees to park here.

Google Maps Link

A footpath sign leads from the parking area, and although there is no direct indication that it leads to the Prop (rest assured, it does), follow the path as it winds around the base of the hill before ascending alongside a farm field. Depending on the weather, the terrain can be wet and muddy.

The Prop remains in sight throughout the gentle, 15-minute climb. At the tower's base, a small information sign, albeit in need of some care, provides additional details. Upon entering the tower, be prepared for the sound of alarmed birds flapping their wings; the interior is a popular spot for local avian residents.

A spiral staircase with a metal chain for support leads to the parapet, secured by iron bars for safety. Although the interior of the stairwell is dimly lit, a torch might be helpful but not entirely necessary. Please exercise caution on the stairs, as bird droppings can create slippery conditions.

Interior spiral staircase within the Prop of Ythsie.
Internal staircase with chain hand rail.

While the Haddo Estate still owns the Prop of Ythsie, it is leased to the Gordon District Council. The Council emphasises that the tower can be dangerous, and visitors who climb it do so at their own risk. Nonetheless, the stunning views of Haddo House and Tarves make the journey to the Prop of Ythsie a memorable experience for those who undertake it.

The Surrounding Area

Prop of Ythsie is located near the town of Tarves, which is a charming and historic town in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. The town is known for its picturesque countryside, friendly locals, and rich history. Visitors can take a stroll through the town and admire the beautiful architecture, including the Tarves Heritage Centre, which is housed in a former church and showcases the town's fascinating history.

The surrounding area is also home to a number of other attractions that are worth visiting. Just a short drive away is the Haddo House, a stunning Georgian mansion surrounded by beautiful gardens and parkland. Visitors can take a tour of the house and learn about its fascinating history oy enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens.

For those who enjoy outdoor activities, there are plenty of options in the surrounding area. The nearby River Ythan is a popular spot for fishing, and there are a number of walking and cycling trails in the area that offer stunning countryside views.

Some distance south of the Prop of Ythsie is South Ythsie Stone Circle dating from around 2000BC. This is a small stone circle (but made with fairly large stones). A detour to the circle is worthwhile if you have time. In addition to this stone circle, Aberdeenshire is packed with ancient stone circles.

Views from Prop of Ythsie.
Panoramic views from the top of Prop of Ythsie.
Prop of Ythsie views.
Spectacular countryside views.
View from the top of Prop of Ythsie.
Rolling hills as far as the eye can see.

FAQs on Prop of Ythsie

Here are a few frequently asked questions on the Prop of Ythsie.

Can you climb to the top of the Prop of Ythsie?

Yes, there is a stiff metal door to gain access via steps to the top of the tower.

Are there any fees to visit Prop of Ythsie?

No, it is free and open all year round to visitors.

Does public transport go near Prop of Ythsie?

Yes, there is a bus stop on the B999, a short distance from the start of the walk.

Is the Prop of Ythsie suitable for disabled visitors?

Sadly not. The paths can be quite muddy and uneven - unsuitable for wheelchairs. The tower itself has many stairs; there is no way to the top for disabled visitors.

Key information on the Prop of Ythsie

  • It was constructed in 1861 as a memorial to George Hamilton Gordon, the 4th Earl of Aberdeen.

  • The square tower is reminiscent of a rook in chess.

  • The tower is 25 metres tall and built primarily from granite.

  • It is a category C building restored by Gordon District Council in 1992.

  • There are 91 steps to the top!

  • Haddo Estate owns the tower.

  • Repair work was carried out in 1992 and 2012.

  • Ythsie is pronounced "icy" / "eye-see".

  • It takes about 45 minutes from the car park to complete the walk of 2.5 km / 1.5 miles.


The Prop of Ythsie is a beautiful and historic landmark in Aberdeenshire, Scotland. It offers visitors a chance to explore the countryside and take in stunning views of the surrounding area. The tower itself is an impressive structure; make sure to bring your camera and capture the stunning views from the top of the monument of the surrounding countryside and the hamlet of Tarves.

Photos by Luweewu.

All information was correct at the time of writing, please check things like entry costs and opening times before you arrive.

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