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staircase at Drumlanrig Castle
Drumlanrig Castle,Douglas crest, Drumlanrig castle garden

Drumlanrig Castle

Its cost nearly ruined the first Duke of Queensberry, but with eye-popping interiors,
internationally acclaimed art and 40 acres of gardens, many would say it was well worth it


I approached Drumlanrig Castle through hills wreathed in morning mist, their rounded slopes touched by benign sunlight giving no hint of earlier days when Covenanters and government troops tangled in their corries. It was a magical way to arrive.

An hour's drive south of Glasgow in Dumfriesshire, the castle stands at the end of a tree-lined avenue, almost a clichè in its perfection and, literally, I gasped with delight when I saw it. I had anticipated yet another grim old fortress, grey and gloomy: Drum-lan-rig, "hill on a long ridge." In fact, palace might be a more fitting description than castle, and perhaps its creator, William, 1st Duke of Queensberry, would have preferred to call it that; it is said that he was so appalled by the cost of building it in the late 1600s, that he sealed up the accounts with a note saying: "The Deil pike oot his een who lookes herein." (Let the Devil blind you, if you dare to read these.) Built of local pink sandstone, it isn't my idea of pink at all, which conjures a frivolous, frothy image, but rather the palest of warm terra cotta. It stands on the ruins of two previous strongholds, which no doubt had been grim, gloomy and grey, but the designer of the present Drumlanrig was inspired. Nothing is overdone: a symmetrical design of perpendicular and horizontal lines offset by balustrades, turrets, domes and restrained carvings. Horseshoe-shaped steps lead up to a front terrace and an imposing entrance, and here I could see in my mind visiting carriages arriving to deposit the local gentry.

The full text of this article is available in the Spring 2010 issue of Scottish Life.

Click here to preview our feature article on Scotland's Ancient Registry of Heraldry by Jim Gilchrist.

Click here to preview our feature article on A Year In The Highlands by Jack Maloney.

Click here to preview our Bagpiping Column by Robert Wallace.

Photo of castle and crest ©Allan Devlin/Scottish Viewpoint; Photo of garden ©Buccleuch Estates; Photo of staircase (upper right) ©P. Tomkins/VisitScotland/Scottish Viewpoint.