Tuesday, the 25th of July, Lindsay and I decided to drive south from Aberdeen a couple of hours to visit one of Scotland’s best example of formal terraced gardens, according to Historic Scotland.
We had a lovely drive down and stopped in the village of Crieff for a bite to eat before heading out to tour the gardens.
We found a nice little spot right on the square at 3 High Street that had recently just opened, The Crieff Food Hall & Company, where they serve organic meals that were extremely tasty and very reasonable. They also have a store where one can buy fresh products and a lovely gift shop. We found a sweet little table outside and enjoyed a tasty smoked salmon sandwich with dill and pickled cucumber on Miche bread. It was delicious. (So delicious I was too busy eating it and forgot to take a picture!)
We drove a bit further out of town and soon we were arriving at the gates to Drummond Castle.
It was such a gorgeous drive along this tree-lined lane below flanked by Beech trees. It went on for about a mile, and as you continue down it climbs up on a natural ridge of rock. (The castle is set on part of a prominent spine of rock known as the Gask Ridge, a geographical feature that stretches several kilometers across Perthshire, but is particularly prominent and steep-sided at the site of the castle.)
Lindsay made a short video (below) as I drove for your viewing pleasure.
Then the castle began to appear on the left and the car park appeared just beyond. We parked, and were excited about what we were about the see!
Heading through the castle gates the views began to unfold!
Right before our eyes was the old castle Keep with yet another set of gates to enter.
Once we paid our admission at the Guard House, we could continue through the rest of the entrance tunnel to the courtyard.
As usual, I was in awe. Each castle is so unique and beautiful in its own right – this was no exception! I really liked the way the cobbled stones were laid out in a circular motion around the post in the courtyard near the mansion.
Looking back the way we came in to see what the other side of the Keep looks like. Evidently, there is a time in the early part of September that the Keep is open to visitors. If you happen to be visiting at the time, I would think it would be a great tour to see.
Before we turn the other direction to begin viewing the gardens, I’ll provide a bit of history about this castle. It’s of particular interest to me because once again, I have significant ancestral ties to this place.
The castle comprises a tower house (Keep) built in the late 15th century, and a 17th-century mansion, both of which were rebuilt in Victorian times. The lands were owned by the Drummond family from the 14th century and the tower house was built over several years by John Drummond, 1st Lord Drummond of Cargill in about 1490. He was my 17th great grandfather:
John Drummond (1438 – 1519)
Margaret Drummond (1472 – 1502)
daughter of John Drummond
Margaret Jane Stewart (1497 – 1510) & (wife of King James IV of Scotland)
daughter of Margaret Drummond
LORD GEORGE GORDON Earl of Huntly (1513 – 1562)
son of Margaret Jane Stewart
Lord George Gordon Earl of Huntly (1535 – 1576)
son of LORD GEORGE GORDON Earl of Huntly
George 6th Earl of Huntly, 1st Marquis of Huntly Gordon (1562 – 1636)
son of Lord George Gordon Earl of Huntly
Lady Mary Gordon (1610 – 1674)
daughter of George 6th Earl of Huntly,1st Marquis of Huntly Gordon
Lady Jean Douglas (1650 – 1678)
daughter of Lady Mary Gordon (daughter of George Gordon of Huntly)
Mary Drummond (1675 – 1729)
daughter of Lady Jean Douglas
James Francis Edward Keith (1696 – 1758)
son of Mary Drummond
Geo Alexander Keith (1715 – 1796)
son of James Francis Edward Keith
Daniel Keith (1739 – 1829)
son of Geo Alexander Keith
Nancy Keith (1766 – 1838)
daughter of Daniel Keith
Andrew S Scott (1786 – 1859)
son of Nancy Keith
Nancy Scott (1811 – )
daughter of Andrew S Scott
Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday (1842 – 1872)
daughter of Nancy Scott
Nancy Anne Brundage (1867 – 1948)
daughter of Elizabeth “Lizzie” Holiday
William Rose Frew II (1885 – 1976)
son of Nancy Anne Brundage
William Kenneth Frew (1917 – 1997)
son of William Rose Frew II
Claudia Louise Frew
You are the daughter of William Kenneth Frew
(Remember Huntly Castle that we visited just recently? Well, about 1/3 down the lineage you’ll see ‘Lady Mary Gordon (daughter of George Gordon of Huntly)’ who was from Huntly castle. Oh! the webs they weaved marrying within the aristocracy! Sometimes it is difficult at best to try to keep track of! Fun, none-the-less, and it spices it up with an added dimension!)
So back to some more history; John Drummond, the 2nd Earl of Perth, was the first to lay out the first terraced garden around the castle in the 1630s. James Drummond, the 4th Earl was Lord Chancellor of Scotland under King James VII. It was he who began building the mansion house in 1689 before he was imprisoned after the King was deposed by William of Orange.
James Drummond later fled to the exiled Jacobite court in France and the Drummonds continued to support the Jacobite cause in the uprisings of 1715 and 1745.
A rather interesting note here for fellow Outlander fans – in the series when Jamie & Claire went to France, it showed them hanging out in France in the fancy gardens of Versailles you may recall. In all reality, those scenes weren’t Versailles, but were filmed here in Drummond Castle Gardens! Perhaps you’ll recognize some of the scenery when we turn our attention to them in just a few short moments.
After the Battle of Culloden and their allegiance to Bonnie Prince Charles, the Drummond properties were declared seized by the British and managed until 1784 when it was then sold to Captain James Drummond. He made a bunch of improvements which were continued by his daughter Sarah and her husband, Peter Drummond-Burrell, 22nd Baron Willoughby de Eresby, including the formal gardens and terraces in the 1830s. Queen Victoria visited the gardens in 1842.
Shall we turn attention to these drop-dead gorgeous gardens now? Alrighty then… Here’s what you get to see when you look away from the courtyard and down into the gardens.
It took my breath away! No wonder I love gardening so much – it’s in my blood!
Let’s look at this slowly again sweeping from left to right and try to take it all in…
Now let’s put our attention on some things immediately around us and bring the focus in closer, starting with the beautifully carved artwork right in front of us like this piece.
Okay, I can’t help but look past it again and take in another sweeping view…
Let’s head down the path to our left and make our way down into the garden from that direction… There are at least a dozen carved marble busts along the wall on either side separating the terrace from the first level of the garden that I hadn’t even noticed yet!
Here are a few stairs leading down to the next level, let’s take those…
Nice guard dog!
Walking down the path toward the left, we come to an archway in the yew hedge…
The view opens up and I can see a bridge over there off to the left. Seems the path we’re on will take us in that direction. It’s a nice gently sloping path taking us down to the next level. Looking back I get a nice glimpse of the back side of the mansion house.
A bit further down the path offers another view of the backside of the house with the lovely trees dotting the slope. See the arch in the big Yew hedge up there? That’s where we passed under to head in this direction to the arched bridge. Under the bridge is this lovely little pond with the Crest of the Drummond family lined out in white rock at its center.
Looking out over the other side of the bridge, the small pond opens out to a bit of a lake, although the level of the lake is quite low! That’s a shame, so many missed opportunities of reflections on its surface in such a beautiful setting.
We walked down to the small pond at the bridge in front of the Drummond Crest and began walking back toward the center of the garden once again.
As we get closer to the center, views of the castle return once again on the right and a lovely fountain with a statue appears encircled by rose beds straight ahead.
Along the soft grassy path, other marble statues appear at the end of the path nestled amongst the foliage drawing you ever nearer for closer inspection.
In the other direction, the center of the garden beckons us on for more exploration and more beautiful views of the castle above…
Now we get a close-up view of the beautifully trimmed boxed hedges and the flowers encased within; roses and lavender.
In its center, we come upon this ornately carved marble pedestal with some very interesting characters and carvings…
We find ourselves surrounded by these exquisitely maintained boxed hedges forming intriguing patterns in every direction.
Another archway in the distance beckons us to explore, but before we do there are a number of Romanesque statues encircled in circular yew hedges to explore.
Let’s go have a look at those first.
I think it’s interesting that originally these statues were carved as nudes, but in the Victorian period, metal fig leaves were created and attached to statues everywhere.
Flanking the back wall was this beautiful pond with more statues.
There were so many pretty trees planted in this part and so many interesting varieties.
Yet another archway further along the wall, teasing and beckoning us to go beyond and explore. There are more statues and trees to check out first.
Having worked our way back to the center of the garden again from the right we come upon a lovely twisted tree marking the spot where originally stood a very unique sun dial placed here centuries ago with 76 faces. Here’s a picture of the sun dial that I found online.
I wonder what happened to it. Perhaps it was becoming too eroded and needed to be taken indoors. Perhaps it is being restored, who knows? But I do like this tree just the same and notice how it stands in a cobbled stonework depicting the family crest.
Now it’s time to go back to that beckoning arch to see what lies beyond…
Oh look, it’s the vegetable garden. I wonder what it has in store for us!
My my, what a lot of yummy food growing right in front of us, and a greenhouse to explore.
First, let’s take a closer look at these veggies all protected from the birds in netted cages.Nice looking plump veggies ready for picking and eating fresh off the vines!
Next door in another raised bed are lettuces, onions, potatoes…
The greenhouse is jam packed with all kinds of delightful specimens!
Grapes trellised inside the greenhouse – great idea!
Outdoors again on the other end of the greenhouse, a whole other section of the vegetable garden is revealed to us. Wow!
Working our way around this part provides lots more flowers, herbs and baby boxwood specimens.
We rested here, sitting on the edge of the raised bed next to the baby boxwood, enjoying the woodland view beyond the borders of the garden.
Continuing on, we came across these fragrant honeysuckle blossoms and drank in their beauty through our nostrils.
Above them, flanking the walls as we headed back toward the greenhouse and gardeners storage area were the absolutely gorgeous array of roses!
The fruit trees and berry vines they have espaliered against the walls were also quite fruitful!
Even more flowers and herbs…
I couldn’t resist. I bought a little plant to put in Lindsay’s garden, a variety of heliopsis and then we headed back up the stairs, through the archway and back into the formal gardens slowly taking in the beauty as we made our way to the exit.
As we made our way back, I had the pleasure and the honor to meet one of the gardeners of this exquisite site. His name is Oliver. Curiously, I asked him how many gardeners are needed to keep this place in such impeccable condition. I was utterly amazed when he revealed that during the height of the season, there are only 7! I would have guessed at least a couple of dozen! During the off season, they maintain it with just 4! Incredible!
More carved busts and marble artwork caught my attention as we climbed the stairs to the castle courtyard above.
Posed with the cherubs is the heliopsis plant I bought to plant in Lindsay’s garden.
Just before reaching the final set of stairs, this area, which appeared to be a defunct fountain, appeared before our eyes. In its stead were all the pieces of what must have been a very pretty fountain with real giant clam shells and interesting rocks such as the geode of amethyst crystals.
Alas the sun dial below, confirmed it was time to go.
Once we got back to the car park and into our car, the exit drive took us past the gardener’s cottages, a beautiful pond and I day dreamed of how I would just love to be one of their crew tending these beautiful grounds with them and living in such a grand location.
As we made our way back to the main road via The Balloch, countryside views offered up a peaceful and serene backdrop to gaze at as we settled in with our thoughts and memories of a day well spent.