Drum Castle, Scotland

 While staying in Stonehaven, Scotland, we visited Drum Castle in Aberdeenshire. This castle is a combination of a medieval tower, a Jacobean mansion house and a Victorian extension. For seven centuries it was home to twenty-four generations of one family, the Irvines.

While waiting for the castle to open, we explored some of the gardens and I enjoyed experimenting with taking photos of flowers in the morning sunlight.

Drum is named from the Gaelic Drom or Druim, meaning a ridge or knoll. The tower, on the east, is the oldest part of this castle and is believed to have been built in the mid to late 1200s, perhaps as a stronghold for Alexander III who died in 1286. King Robert the Bruce brought the Irvine family to Drum. The king appointed William de Irwyn as one of his representatives in the Royal Forest of Drum, an extensive hunting reserve where kings of Scotland hunted deer and wild boar.

View of the castle from the west. The Jacobean portion is to the right.

 In 1323 William de Irwyn was granted the charter of the Barony of Drum giving him power ‘of pit and gallows’ to drown or hang local wrongdoers. Also the Tower of Drum was given to him.

 A few years later a feud arose between the Irwyns/Irvines and their neighbors, the Keiths, hereditary Marshals of Scotland. The legend says that the Keiths burned one of the Irvine children to death in the fields. The Irvines took revenge by burning down Halforest Castle, stronghold of the Keiths. Later, a battle took place at Keiths’ Muir, near the River Dee, and several Keiths drowned at a place called Keiths’ Pot.

The Tower, the oldest part of Drum
Most of the Irvine lairds were named Alexander. One of these Alexanders, the fourth (or IVA because there were two 4th lairds, brothers) laird, and his brother were involved in the Battle of Red Harlaw, in 1411, in which Donald MacDonald, Lord of the Isles, and his large army challenged royal authority. The Lord of the Isles destroyed Inverness, then headed toward Aberdeen to do the same. The Earl of Mar, the Steward General, was in charge of defending the city with a small local force. Sir Alexander Irvine was one of his prominent officers.

Part of the 19th century addition designed by David Bryce. This runs behind the original 17th century Jacobean Wing to provide corridors, privacy, and easier movement through the house. It also created an entrance hall at courtyard level.
The Battle of Red Harlaw took place twenty miles north of Drum Castle and is considered one of Scotland’s bloodiest acts of civil war. Maclean of Duart, Red Hector of the Battles, was one of the prominent chiefs under MacDonald, Lord of the Isles. He and Sir Alexander Irvine came into conflict during the battle, a single combat in which neither would relent. They both died fighting each other. His brother Robert Irvine survived the battle, changed his name to Alexander, becoming another forth laird of Drum, or IVB. He married a daughter of the Keiths, Elizabeth, and ended the feud. He is believed to have exchanged swords with Red Hector’s son (Maclean), a symbolic act of peace between their families/clans. I found this especially fascinating because I visited both Drum Castle and Duart Castle on Isle of Mull (stronghold of the Macleans) during this trip.

The courtyard
The ninth Irvine laird, Alexander, was nicknamed “Little Breeches” because he took up the Continental fashion of wearing short trousers. He had the Jacobean mansion portion of Drum built in 1619. He was also sheriff of Aberdeen. He and his wife were philanthropists and were rich enough to lend money to King James VI. I didn't get a good photo of the whole southern, Jacobean mansion portion because people were setting up for a wedding, but you can see it by clicking here.

The eighteenth laird, Alexander, is said to have been Master of Drum for eighty-three years, and lived to be 91. His son, Hugh Irvine, painted the Archangel Gabriel painting which hangs in the library. It is supposedly a self-portrait. Click here to see a pic of the library and painting.

 The Irvine coat-of-arms with holly leaves, savage supporters wreathed round the head and loins with holly and carrying clubs.

The above Victorian archway faces the north drive and adjoins the former 16th century brewhouse. This building also contained the laundry and woman house (a traditional Scottish service room where household linen was spun and woven by women.) Two Buchan cheese presses stand in front of what was once the dairy (left in the above photo.)

No photos were allowed inside the Jacobean and Victorian parts of the castle. It is elegantly furnished with lots of beautiful antique furniture, artwork, china, etc.

 A massive rope moulding carved from local granite decorates the front door.

The beautiful double entrance doors.
I hope you enjoyed this visit to part of Drum Castle. Next time we'll tour the Tower, one of my favorite parts!

19 Responses
  1. Loved your photos, tweeted, liked, shared. I will have to make sure and visit this one next trip. I've seen Duart on Mull. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Angelyn Says:

    Fabulous pictures. I've always been interested in the Keiths, particularly during the MQS period. Wonderful post.

  3. Sherrie, thanks so much!! I truly enjoyed Drum Castle and I think you will too.

  4. Thanks, Angelyn!! The way these families interacted is fascinating.

  5. Beautiful pictures. It's so nice to see it kept up and still lived in.

  6. Thanks, Ella!! I should've added that the castle is now owned by The National Trust of Scotland. But members of the Irvine family live not too far away from it.

  7. Vanessa Holland Says:

    Great pictures and fascinating history. Thanks, Vonda!

  8. Thanks so much, Vanessa!!

  9. Wonderful pictures, Vonda! Love the flowers almost as much as the castle.
    Keira from www.keiraskeepers.com

  10. Gerri Bowen Says:

    Very interesting post and great photos, Vonda!

  11. Thanks so much, Keira and Gerri!! I'm glad you liked them!

  12. I'm ready to pack my bags, Vonda. Beautiful - those daisies should be framed and on a wall some place. You definitely have a natural eye for taking photos. Loved them all. And, yes, you've made me homesick for the motherland again. :)

  13. Vonda, fabulous post & photos!! I loved all the historical info you included. Great job & thank you!


  14. Thanks, Paisley! I'd like to pack my bags too. LOL I'm glad you like the daisy photo. This virtual visit to Drum made me homesick too. Something about the place sticks with me.

  15. Thanks, Margaret!! I'm so glad you enjoyed it!

  16. Wow! Such a cool history. Especially since I am a direct descendant of the branch of the family that emigrated to the States prior to the revolutionary war. My great, great, great, great, great, great (I think that's what it is) served directly under George Washington.

  17. Thank you so much for checking it out, Barbara! You must have a fascinating history.

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