Stately Homes and Castles - Scotland, Grampian and the North

Drum Castle, Aberdeenshire

The oldest tower house in Scotland, with a later white harled wing

Just north of the A93 Banchory to Peterculter road, Drum Castle  is reached by a long and very bumpy drive down an unclassified road with a lot of potholes.

In 1323 the castle was granted to William de Irwyn by King Robert the Bruce. The castle remained within the Irvine family until 1975, when it was handed over to the National Trust of Scotland. Unfortunately NTS do not allow photographs inside the castle.

The late C13th tower house is thought to be the oldest in Scotland but was unfortunately shut for renovation when we visited in September 2013. There had been problems with leaking roofs. Much of it was covered in polythene while work is ongoing. The large wing to the south was added in 1619 by the ninth Laird. There were further alterations in the Victorian period.  The front and side of the castle are harled. The back is stone.

Drum Castle

The front is rather plain, but a typically Scottish building with crow step gables, dark slate slab roof with dormer windows and a corner tower with a pointed roof.  Steps lead up to the front door.
Drum Castle

Visitors enter round the back of the castle off the courtyard. A doorway still with its iron yett leads into a small entrance hall with the ticket desk. A service passage way leads to the shop and very good tea room on the ground floor. This is in the old kitchens still with a cast iron range and copper kettles and frying pans.

A stone staircase leads up to the DRAWING ROOM on the first floor of the C17th wing.  This was originally the great hall but was subdivided to form two rooms in the early C18th. The large windows were added then. The alcoves mark the position of the original Jacobean windows and are now used to display china. The room has a lovely golden oak panelled ceiling and a splendid carved wood fireplace which was a wedding gift from the tenants. The walls are covered with family portraits. Off in a corner is a small DOCUMENT ROOM with a copy of the family tree on the wall. There are family photos, medals and other family belongings like the paint box belonging to Anna Forbes, an accomplished artist. Many of her water colours are displayed round the castle.

A door leads through into the DINING ROOM with an oval dining table laid with flowered china and glassware. Above is a chandelier. Beside the dining table is a small table with an inset blue and white china tray which was used for serving tea. On a chest is a silver tea set and a spirit kettle. There is a huge sideboard with a wine cooler beneath it. On another wall is a huge wooden Crathes chest with large brass handles and brass corner decoration; another wedding present.

Off the dining room is the BUSINESS ROOM. A small wooden doorway was used by tenants coming to pay their rents so they didnít need to come into the castle. It is a cosy room with a round wooden table in the centre and two easy chairs by the fire. The walls have tall bookcases. There is a bureau inlaid with mother of pearl, a bible box and scales for weighing letters, complete with prices for postage.

A spiral staircase leads to the bedrooms. The Chintz room was shut as part of the tower renovations. The first BEDROOM has a small fireplace, sage green carpet and half tester bed with flowered drapes. There is a lovely bedside table with a marquetry design with a candlestick holder and snuffer on it. Furnished with chest of drawers and bureau, there is a small dressing room off one wall.

A doorway leads through into a small SITTING ROOM with fireplace and easy chair. A large wall cabinet has a blue and white china horse with attitude displaced on the top. There are some of Anna Forbesís water colours on the walls.

The spiral staircase continues up to the day and night NURSERIES, both with fireplaces. The day nursery has a selection of C19th toys including rocking horse, dolls house, train and bagatelle board. A large cupboard with glass doors has more small toys. There is an upright piano and samplers on the walls. The night nursery beyond has a brass bed with paisley bedspread and two smaller cots. There is a large screen with pictures pasted onto it, and a washstand with bowl and jug. On the wall are worthy religious texts.

The tour would normally continue into the tower and library, but these were closed off until the renovation work is finished. We returned down the spiral staircase to the late C19th GALLERY which was added along the length of the C17th range, This gave access to the different rooms without having to go through all the rooms to get from one end of the house to the other. It was very quiet apart from the grandfather clock ticking. At one end is a stone fireplace. At the other,  a small cast iron stove.  There are some lovely C16th carved wood cupboards. This leads back to the stone stairs down to the reception area.

Because of the restoration work, there weren't many rooms to see, but this is a very satisfying castle to visit. It gets fewer visitors than its close neighbour Crathes Castle which is popular with coach tours.

In the grounds is a tiny chapel, built in the C16th and restored in the C19th. On the walls are C19th brass memorials to the Irving family.

Drum Castle

There are extensive grounds with grass, specimen trees, pond garden and a walled rose garden.

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