Drum Castle

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Just north of A93, Banorchy to Peterculter road, this 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.

The late 13thC tower house is thought to be the oldest in Scotland but was unfortunately shut for renovation when we visited, 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 9th Laird. There were further alterations in the Victorian period. The front and side of the castle are covered with harling. The back is stone. 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.

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 tea room on the ground floor.

A stone staircase leads up to the drawing room. on the first floor of the 17thC wing. This was originally the great hall but was subdivided to form two rooms in the early 18thC. 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 all. There are family photos, medals and other family belongings like the paint box belonging to Anna Forbes, an accomplished artists. 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.

This leads into the business room. A small wooden doorway was used by tenants coming to pay their rents so they didn’t 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.

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 Forbes’ 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 19thC 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 washstand with bowl and jug. On the wall are worthy religious texts.

The tower would normally continue into the tower and library, but these were closed off while until the renovation work is finished. We returned down the spiral staircase to the late 19thC gallery which was added along the length of the 17thC range to give 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 16thC carved wood cupboards. This leads back to the stone stairs back to the reception area.

There were two room stewards on duty, both extremely knowledgeable.

In the grounds is a tiny chapel. This is a small rectangular stone building with crow step gables and a small bell cot at the west end. It was built in the 16thC and restored in the 19thC.

Steps lead up to the small round topped door in the west wall. Inside there are plain stone walls with a low wooden beamed ceiling. O the nave floor are old stone grave slabs. On the walls are 19thC brass memorials to the Irving family. A 15thC stone canopy on the north wall was part of the alter tomb of Alexander Irving, the 4th Laird. The font is a copy of the Saxon font in Winchester Cathedral as some family members were educated at Winchester School. There is a modern stone altar with a 19thC stained glass window of the crucifixion above. To the right is the Ausberg silver Virgin, brought here in 1897 by Anna Forbes Irving.

There are extensive grounds with grass and specimen trees. We didn’t have time to visit the pond garden or the walled rose garden. This is quite a walk from the house, but there is disabled parking by it. There are three ay marked walks around the estate and there is a leaflet with a map available from reception. It would be easy to spend several hours here.

Entry to the castle is £6 or £5 for concessions, which we felt was reasonable. For those who do not have NTS or NT membership, there is a £2 charge for the car park.

Unfortunately NTS do not allow photography inside their properties.

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