Inventory Garden & Designed Landscape


Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Local Authority
NJ 79440 768
379440, 800768

An impressive 18th century landscape setting for the category A-listed Drum Castle, containing an oak wood dating back to the 1500s.

Artistic Interest

Level of interest

The designed landscape of Drum Castle has a little value as a Work of Art in its present form.


Level of interest

Drum Castle has outstanding Historical value due to its association with the Irvine family since 1323.


Level of interest

The interesting conifers in the garden and arboretum have some Horticultural/Arboricultural value.


Level of interest

The designed landscape provides the setting for a category A listed building and this has outstanding Architectural value.


Level of interest
Not Assessed


Level of interest

The woodlands of Drum Castle have a little Scenic value.

Nature Conservation

Level of interest

The Old Forest of Drum has outstanding Nature Conservation value since it is known to have been an established oak wood since the 16th century and is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest.

Location and Setting

Drum Castle is situated on a ridge to the north of the valley of the River Dee approximately 2 miles (3km) to the west of Peterculter and some 10 miles (16km) west of Aberdeen. The A93 lies to the south, beyond the farm, and minor roads enclose the policies to the north, west and east. The Hill of Fare 1,320' (433m) lies to the west, the foothills of which provide the setting for Drum Castle. The surrounding land is used largely for agriculture and forestry. There are glimpses of the hills to the north from the area around the Castle through the park trees whilst magnificent panoramic views are gained from the top of the Castle tower. The canopy of the enclosing woodland contributes to the surrounding scenery but there are few views into the policies from the surrounding roads.

Drum Castle is situated today amid some 393 acres (159ha) of policies. They extend north and west to the edge of the Old Forest of Drum, south to the access road to the Home Farm, and east to the lodge on the A93. Documentary evidence, provided by Roy's map of c.1750, the 1st edition OS of c.1860 and the 2nd edition OS of c.1900 indicates that the designed landscape was extended in the latter half of the 18th century. An avenue once ran through Robbie Rossie's Wood and Avenue Plantation from the Castle to the East Lodge, a distance of approximately 1 mile (2km). Robbie Rossie's Loch is incorporated within Robbie Rossie's Wood which lies to the north of this old east drive. The designed landscape to the east of the minor road between the A93 and Milton of Drum to the north is considered by the National Trust for Scotland to be outwith the policies today, since this area is beyond their ownership boundary. It is, nonetheless, still a significant part of the overall designed landscape.

Site History

The existing structure of the designed landscape of Drum Castle was established at the end of the 18th century and incorporated the earlier features of the Church and Old Forest of Drum. The landscape appears to have been subject to alteration around 1850 and again in 1875.

The original Tower of Drum is thought to have been built in 1286 by Richard Cementarius, who became the 1st Provost of Aberdeen. In 1323 Robert the Bruce granted his secretary William de Irwin of Woodhouse the land and Royal Forest of Drum in return for his loyalty. William died in 1332 and was succeeded by his son, Thomas. The twelve subsequent lairds were all named Alexander Irwin, or, as the name was adapted to, Irvine.

The 9th Laird added the Jacobean extension to the original tower in 1619 by which time the family were the largest landowners in Aberdeen, Kincardine and Angus. Their loyalty to King Charles I and that of the Stuart cause, however, caused their prosperity to decline. Drum Castle was plundered by the Earl of Argyll's troops who, according to the historian Spalding, destroyed the 'pleasant garden planting' which existed at this time. The Irvines' support of the Stuart cause in the 1715 and 1745 Rebellions resulted in the forfeiture of parts of the estate. There was little improvement to the designed landscape until the latter years of the 18th century, when the 18th Laird was known to have subscribed to the Botanic Garden in Edinburgh. Records kept from his succession in 1775 until about 1796 suggest a considerable amount of activity in the garden. Alterations were also made to the house at this time and further work was carried out in 1850 and again in 1875.

In 1964 Mr H.Q. Forbes Irvine, the 24th Laird, made an agreement with the National Trust for Scotland that, on his death, the Castle, policies, Home Farm and 170 acres of woodland, including the Old Forest of Drum, would pass into its care. In 1976, this agreement came into force and Drum Castle, which had been held by the Irvine Lairds for over 650 years, passed into the care of the NTS.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Drum Castle, listed category A, was built around a tower dated 1280-1300. The Jacobean Wing was added in 1619 and alterations were made c.1800, 1840 and, finally, in 1875 to the designs of David Bryce and his nephew John Bryce. The earlier architects are unknown. The Chapel, listed category B, dates from the 16th/17th centuries but was restored in 1857. Other ornamentation has subsequently been added. The Walled Garden, listed category B, is thought to date from the late 18th century. The Laundry adjoins the south wall. The East Lodge is 19th century and stands at the end of the east drive on the A93 and is listed category B.


The parkland laid out around Drum Castle in the early 19th century appears to have encircled the castle with the exception of an area of planting around the chapel to the south-west.

Reference to the 1st edition OS map of c.1860 shows the west drive emerging from the woodland through the park to the Castle and the east drive sweeping up to the south side of the Castle. A grander east drive was added in the late 19th century, designed to arrive at the north side of the Castle. The parkland trees generally date from c.1870 and include specimens of ash and sycamore. Some beech trees remain on the drive dating from the time of the original layout of the late 18th century. Two sweet chestnuts dating from c.1820-30 stand close to the Castle.

At one time, a nine-hole golf course was laid out in the park, probably to the north of the Castle. To the east and south of the Castle, beyond the formal lawn, an arboretum was established in the late 19th century, and between 1910- 1950 a small water garden was created between the Castle and the walled garden. Since 1976, a car park has been sited to the west of the Castle, and birch trees have been planted along the eastern boundary. The remaining parkland is grazed.


The oldest woodlands are those of the Old Forest of Drum which extends over 117 acres to the north-west of the Castle and was indicated on General Roy's map of c.1750. It is unique in being the only block of mature oak woodland in lower Deeside. Oaks are known to have been well-established there in the 16th century; a ship launched in 1609 was built from timber of the 'Old Woods of Drum'. It is uncertain whether the oaks are indigenous. Within the oak canopy, species rhododendron were planted by the 24th Laird and consideration is being given to their propagation for use elsewhere in the garden and other National Trust for Scotland properties. Outwith the boundary of the Old Forest of Drum are coniferous plantations which have been planted mainly since World War II.

The Gardens

The 17th century historian, John Spalding, described 'pleasant garden planting' which had been destroyed by the Argyll troops c.1640 but it is uncertain where this planting was located and what form it took. The documented gardening activity of between 1775-1788 was largely confined to the walled garden but expenditure of 1779 referred to 'levelling the ground around the house'; this may have been the lawn which remains to the south of the house. No distinctive area of garden except the walled garden is shown on the 1st edition OS map of c.1850.

The arboretum was established to the south and east of the lawn in the early 1900s and has been added to since. It includes some interesting conifers, among them the Japanese umbrella pine (Sciadopitys verticillata), Picea smithiana, Pinus radiata, Abies firma and A. normandii, and a fine Abies delavayi. There are several interesting holly hybrids including Ilex aquifolium 'Ferox Golden King'. Under the shelter of the conifers are some large-leaved Rhododendrons of the Grandis series, amongst others.

Between the castle and the walled garden, a small garden enclosed by fencing was created; its main feature is a pond which is recorded on the 2nd edition OS map of c.1910. The paths wind around the water and several small beds of shrubs. The area was densely planted by the 24th Laird who included a fine Fitzroya cupressoides and many other dwarf conifers including Juniperus hibernica, Picea brewerana and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Stewartii'. Further additions of shrubs and waterside plants have been made by the NTS.

Walled Gardens

The walled garden is thought to date from 1796 according to an account of that year paid for building a new garden wall. Earlier accounts show that a garden existed in 1775 and that improvements were made to its walls between 1778-87. It is not known, however, where this garden was actually located, if indeed it was on a different site from the present one, but produce was being sold from it in 1780. The 1st edition OS map of c.1860 indicates two cross paths within the garden walls, forming four equal compartments, and a fountain is shown as a central feature. When the National Trust for Scotland acquired the property in 1976, the garden was kept up in a similar form to the plan. Shortage of available labour resulted in an alternative use being sought, the last of which was a leased market garden. The garden is now derelict although some of the glasshouses remain and a few old fruit trees line the inner walls. To the south, potatoes and Christmas Trees have been planted in an outer enclosure.




Printed Sources

NTS, The Old Forest of Drum

NTS, Cuthbert Graham, Guidebook

NTS, Historical Notes

HHC & G, 1984

S. Forman, SCHC, 1967

CL, May 28th 1964

CL, Jan 29th 1976

John Cornforth & Gervase Jackson - Stops, CL, April 14th 1977

The Castellated Architecture of Aberdeenshire,1849

A. Mitchell, Tree Survey 1981


NMRS, Photographs

About the Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

The inventory is a list of Scotland's most important gardens and designed landscapes. We maintain the inventory under the terms of the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

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Printed: 02/12/2022 13:47