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The History of Drum Castle

Situated near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire, Scotland there is a gorgeous castle known as Drum Castle. For centuries upon centuries, it was the seat of the chief of Clan Irvine.  It is one of Scotland’s oldest tower houses and it is also packed with a strong 700-year history. Attached to the castle is an ancient oak forest that provides an intense sense of continuity throughout the centuries as a reliable home for badgers, red squirrels, red kites, and roe deer.

The history of Drum Castle

This castle is strongly rooted in Scotland’s history and is said to have something for everyone to see. From the medieval High Hall to the amazing modern art exhibitions, there is certainly a lot to see and do at the castle. You can go on Drum Castle walks through the lovely grounds and breathe in the perfume radiating from the Garden of Historic Roses.

The beautiful Garden of Historic Roses has been separated into quadrants to show just how the roses have been cultivated from the 17th to the 20th century. With roses, halls, and exhibitions taking the main attention from the castle, just wait until you read about the history.

Drum Castle on a summers day
The castle was home to 24 generations of Irvine’s. Source: Flickr

The early history

Around the year 1280, the Tower of Drum was built to be a hunting lodge by Alexander III. He called upon Richard Cementarius, Provost of Aberdeen, to oversee the building of his lodge and soon after, Cementarius created a huge, sturdy tower reaching over 70 feet high.

The oldest part of the castle is said to be the High Hall which was one of the earliest tower houses in Scotland. Part of the tower was later on absorbed into the Jacobean expansion to the house, however, you can still climb to the roof of it for a breathtaking view over the castle grounds. Within the 12 feet thick walls of the castle was a well, located in a secret chamber.

Little did they know at the time that the well would soon play out the scene of the darkest moment in the history of Drum Castle.

A dark time

Many believe that the well was always destined to become what it did, but others believe that what happened was simply because the well was there at the time which made it convenient. In the very early 16th century, the 5th laird of Drum murdered and dismembered his chaplain in that very well. It was a brutal act, but the laird continued to defend himself over and over.

He claimed that he only killed his chaplain because he caught him in bed with his wife. These days, he would be in a large amount of trouble. However, the 16th century was a far different time, and he was let off with only a fine of 100 marks.

Changing hands

File:Irvine of Drum arms.svg
Coat of arms for the Irvine Clan. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Robert the Bruce gave Drum Castle to his close friend and armour-bearer, William de Irwyn when he defeated his great rivals, the Comyn’s. Then, the castle passed in an unbroken line throughout 24 generations of Irvine’s. It then fell to an army of Covenanter’s during the religious struggles of the 17th century. During the same time, it was ransacked not just once, but twice by the Marquis of Montrose.

During the Jacobite Rising of 1715 and 1745, the Irvine’s heavily supported the Stuarts. Following on from the Battle of Culloden in the year 1745, the 17th laird hid from the government troops in a hidden/secret chamber within the castle. At the time, his family were fearing the very worst and they buried all of the family silver.

The government soldiers noticed the freshly dug earth and seized all of the money. This meant that the Irvine’s kept the money, but their days of glory were over.

The 19th century

Once the 19th century came around, the castle was playing home to Alexander Forbes Irvine. He inherited the estate in the year 1860 after his father passed away. Then, in 1875/1876, he arranged a full restoration of the courtyard as well as the construction of an arched entrance and angle tower. He was also part of the reason the chapel was restored. There was also an old church on the estate and in 1857, the west window was enlarged, and the cross was added.

On top of that, a new roof was also installed, and the interior was also partially restored. The castle was then listed as a Category-A listed property in the year 1987.

Alexander Forbes Irvine. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The current day

It is fairly obvious that Drum Castle isn’t a popular choice of castle to visit compared to others in Scotland. However, just because it doesn’t sit atop a spectacular island or rocky promontory, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have anything to give. If you are looking for a castle that shows the significant change in Scottish castles over thousands of years, this castle is perfect. Plan your visit to the castle today and dive into the amazing 700-year history of this castle.

You may also be interesting in other Scottish Castles such as Guthrie Castle.

Drum Castle Timeline

  • 1280- The castle is built
  • 16th century- The well is used to commit a sinister crime
  • 1745- The 17th laird hides from the government troops in a hidden/secret chamber within the castle
  • 1860- The castle plays home to Alexander Forbes Irvine who inherited the estate after his father died
  • 1857- The west window of the church is enlarged, and the cross was added
  • 1987- The castle is listed as a Category-A listed property

Drum Castle Facts

  • The walls at the castle are 12 feet thick
  • The estate that the castle sits on is 411 acres
  • Drum Castle comprises the work of two very distinct eras which join together back-to-back.
  • The Garden of Historic Roses has over 200 varieties of roses
  • Part of the castle is home to a contemporary art gallery, and art exhibitions
  • The castle gets its name from the fact that the castle sits on a ridge known as a ‘druim’ in Gaelic

Books on Drum Castle

  • Drum Castle: Aberdeenshire by Cuthbert Graham (1977)
  • Drum Castle by Oliver Thompson Jim Proudfoot, and Joe Rock (1989)

Who owns Drum Castle?

The castle was listed as a Category-A listed property in the year 1987 and passed to the National Trust for Scotland and had remained in its care up until the present day. It is open to the public and the National Trust for Scotland deals with all upkeep, repairs, and the general outlook of the property.


When visiting Drum Castle, you are able to enjoy the history during a guided tour. All of the tours include a visit to the medieval High Hall as well as the chance to view the original charter granted by Robert the Bruce. You can also climb the 700-year-old Drum Tower. For those who would prefer not to tour the castle, you can pay for admission to the walled gardens only. Ticket prices are £14.50 for Adults, £33.00 for families, and £11.00 for concession.

The castle is situated roughly 10 miles West of Aberdeen. Bus services also depart from Aberdeen and stop at Drum Castle Road end which is roughly 20-30 manures on foot from the castle. A café and shop are located at the castle and only the ground floor is accessible for prams and wheelchairs.

More Images

  • Rose garden at Drum Castle

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