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Drum Castle might not be number one on your list of castles to visit in Scotland but here's why you should consider paying it a visit. It is one of the three oldest surviving tower houses in Scotland and perhaps even more interestingly it remains unaltered, meaning that this tower has just existed for 700-800 years. You usually hear of some pretty old castles in Scotland but usually they've gone through some major restoration work or alternations that they look completely different to what they would've looked like in days gone past. However, with Drum Castle the tower you see in front of you is the same tower that existed back in the 13th-14th century. That being said, Drum Castle has had some additions to the original tower over the centuries. You can see the contrast in designs from the stone entrance archway and tower house on one side of the castle in comparison to the newer looking mansion house on the other side. It's quite interesting to see the differences in architecture!

Continue reading to find out where Drum Castle is, how to get there, some history of the castle and opening times!

This blog post covers:

Where is Drum castle and how can I get there?

Drum Castle is located near Drumoak in Aberdeenshire; 3 miles west of Peterculter, 8 miles east of Banchory and only 10 miles west of Aberdeen. The easiest way to get to the castle is by driving. I would highly suggest renting a car if you don't already have one, especially if you want to do the North East 250 or do more sightseeing around the area.

  • By car - From Aberdeen city centre, it takes just over 25 minutes to get to the castle by following the A93. From Inverness, it takes around 2 hours and 20 minutes on the A96. From Glasgow or Edinburgh, it takes around 2.5 hours via the M90/A90.
  • By bus - You can take the 201 Stagecoach bus direct from Union Sqaure in Aberdeen to Drum Castle Road End. The bus takes about 40 minutes, then it's a 20 minute from the bus stop to the castle. The bus schedule can be found on the Stagecoach bus website. An adult single ticket on the bus is £5.70 or £10.50 for a period return.

There's no option to go by train as there's no train station near the castle.

Drum Castle in relation to Aberdeen and the NE250 route.

A brief history of the castle

  • The Tower of Drum was built around 1280 by Alexander the Third.
  • In 1323, the castle was given to William de Irwyn by famous King Robert the Bruce for defeating his rivals, the Comyn’s.
  • The castle remained within the Irvine Family for 650 years and 24 generations of this family.
  • A large Jacobean mansion was added to the original house in 1619 by the 9th Laird and further extensions were added during the reign of Queen Victoria.
  • During the religious struggles of the 17th century, the castle fell to the army of Convenanters and was ransacked twice by the Marquis of Montrose.
  • During the Jacobite rising of 1715 and 1745, the Irvine family supported the Stuarts. Following the Battle of Culloden in 1745, the 17th Laird hid from Government troops in a secret chamber within the castle. His family tried hiding the family silver from the troops by burying it in the garden but the troops spotted the freshly dug ground, found the silver and seized it all. The Irvines were allowed to keep their castle and estate but their glory days on the national stage were essentially over.
  • In 1876, the courtyard was restored and an arched entrance way added.
  • In 1975, the 24th Laird handed over Drum Castle to the National Trust of Scotland in his will.
View from the chapel to the castle.

Some fun facts

  • The Tower of Drum is one of the oldest surviving tower houses in Scotland. It was built in the 13th-14th century and remains unaltered. It's an impressive 70ft high and the walls are 12ft thick. It was originally built as a hunting lodge by Alexander the Third.
  • It wouldn't be a real Scottish castle without some sort of dark history. Within the Tower of Drum's walls, there is a secret chamber home to the castle well. It's within this location in the early 16th century, that the 5th Laird of Drum killed and dismembered his chaplain in the well. Claiming that this was the result of finding his wife in bed with the chaplain. He was let off with the crime with the fine of 100 marks.
  • The Garden of Historic Roses is divided into 4 sections, each planted in the style of a different century (17th to the 20th) of garden design and rose-growing. There are over 400 types of roses in the gardens. Interestingly, older roses from earlier centuries have a more fragrant smell. However, they don't grow as often as their more modern relatives.
  • The adjoining Old Wood of Drum contains oak trees that date all the way back to the 18th century. You'll also find some really cool species in this forest including Jays, Red Kites, Buff-tip Moth, Gold Dust Lichen, Badgers, Red Squirrels and Roe Deer.
  • There's a lovely little chapel nestled within the woods next to the castle. It was originally built in the 1500s and a restoration of the chapel happened in the 1800s. Inside the chapel is a beautiful stained glass window.
The chapel.

Opening hours and prices (for 2023)

The grounds are open:

  • 365 days of the year from dawn to dusk.

For the Garden of Historic Roses, it is open from:

  • 1st April to 31st October, daily from 10am-4pm. Outwith this date range, the gardens are shut.

For the Castle, Shop and Tearoom, they are open from:

  • 14th January to the 31st March, Saturdays and Sundays only, from 10.30am-4pm.
  • 1st April to the 31st May, Thursdays to Mondays only, from 10.30am-4pm. They are open daily during the Easter holidays.
  • 1st June to the 31st August, open every day of the week, from 10.30am-4pm.
  • 1st September to the 31st October, Thursdays to Mondays only, from 10.30am-4pm. They are open daily during the October holidays.
  • 31st October to the 31st December, Saturdays and Sundays only, from 10.30am-4pm.

Prices as of February 2023:

If you have a National Trust for Scotland membership, then the castle, walled gardens and parking are all free. The National Trust for Scotland card is £5.25 per month for an adult, £4.65 for senior (60+) and £3.00 for young adults (16-24) but it will get you access to over 100 historic places all over Scotland. Definitely a worth while investment if you are going to be a lot of exploring around Scotland.

However, if you do not have a National Trust for Scotland card, then to visit the castle it costs £14.50 for an adult ticket, £11.00 for a concession and £1.00 for a young scot ticket or £33.00 for a family ticket or £27.50 for an adult family ticket. The tickets to the castle involve a guided tour. Entry into the walled gardens cost £5.00 for an adult ticket.

When is a good time to visit?

Spring and Autumn are good times to visit. It will be relatively quiet, which is good if you want to do the North East 250 or a bit more sightseeing than just Drum Castle. I visited in April and we only saw a handful of other people. However, it's still quite chilly in Scotland during these months so you'll need to wrap up warm. The castle and walled gardens are open between Thursday to Monday during April, May, September and October so if you are travelling from further afield, it means you could visit during a long weekend. If you want to see the gardens in bloom then you will need to visit in the Summer months and it's more likely to be warmer during these months too, making for a more enjoyable visit but more crowded.

Should I visit as a day trip or as part of the North East 250 route?

If you live in or close to Aberdeenshire, then you could visit Drum Castle as part of a day trip. However, if you are going to be travelling from further afield, then you will probably want to stay over and spend a couple of days here exploring the area as it's a long way to come to just visit Drum Castle for the day. There's so much to see up here, you could spend 2 days visiting Aberdeen city and Drum Castle, and perhaps, Dunnottar Castle too.

If you have 3-4+ days, you could also consider doing the North East 250. The North East 250 is similar to the North Coast 500 but as the name suggest it's half the number of miles. The North East 250 is a 250-mile circular route, typically starting and ending just outside Aberdeen. However, you can start and end wherever suits you best. There is loads more to see on the route from hundreds of castles (you'll actually be sick of the sight of them after this trip), whisky distilleries and lovely little seaside towns.

The route highlights the best of what Scotland has to offer. I will do a comprehensive blog post series in the future detailing this route in great detail so stay tuned!

North East 250 route.

Where to stay around this area

  • Budget (£0-£75 per night)

This is where we stayed for doing the NE250 and I'd highly recommend. It's so cheap! We went in April and paid £40 per night with breakfast included. Also, the beds are super comfy!

★★★★ Holiday Inn Aberdeen West, an IHG Hotel, Westhill , UK
A 10-minute drive from Aberdeen city centre and Aberdeen International Airport, this modern and stylish hotel offers the best and latest in Holiday Inn...
  • Mid-range (£75-£150 per night)
★★★★ Residence Inn by Marriott Aberdeen, Aberdeen, UK
Residence Inn by Marriott Aberdeen is set within a 20-minute walk from the beach in Aberdeen. Free WiFi is available.
  • High end (£150+ per night)
★★★★ Macdonald Norwood Hall Hotel, Aberdeen, UK
A country house hotel 10 minutes’ drive from Aberdeen city centre, Macdonald Norwood Hall features log fires, wooded grounds and secluded gardens.

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Kirsty x