Drumlanrig Castle is not exactly a hidden gem; it is the Dumfriesshire seat of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and sits in the Queensberry Estate which covers over 90,000 acres of southern Scotland after all! However, you could easily travel around this scenic part of Dumfries and Galloway completely unaware of its existence.
Although I have been to Dumfries and Galloway many times, I had never actually visited Drumlanrig Castle until I was recently invited to go on a tour. It was already on my radar for visiting this summer as it was used as an Outlander filming location, however the invite brought forward my visit and I was lucky enough to get a private tour of the castle before it opened to the public for the summer. I also had one of the best afternoons in a long time going on a Land Rover tour of the estate and soon discovered that the castle and surrounding area have so much to offer that I wanted to share 5 reasons why I think you should visit Drumlanrig Castle for yourself.
1. Take the Drumlanrig Castle tour
120 rooms, 17 turrets and 4 towers - Drumlanrig Castle is seriously impressive inside and out. The best way to learn about its colourful history and to admire its lavish interior is on a guided tour. Unfortunately the castle tour season is a pretty short one, only running through July and August with a few other select days through the year, but it is worth timing your visit to coincide with the opening dates in my opinion.
Drumlanrig Castle is considered one of the finest examples of 17th Century Renaissance architecture in Scotland and has been the seat of the Douglas Family for generations. In 1684, William 3rd Earl of Queensberry, was made 1st Duke of Queensberry in recognition for his loyalty to Charles II. The castle which stands today was built to reflect his new status, incorporating some of the 14th century castle which had previously occupied the site. However, after spending only 1 night, the Duke decided he didn't like his new abode and moved back to Sanquhar Castle, he was obviously hard to please!
During the guided tour you can view Drumlanrig Castle's renowned art, furniture and silver collections and learn about life at the castle through the centuries. You will also discover more about some of the colourful characters that have visited Drumlanrig Castle over the years and view the bed that Bonnie Prince Charlie and Neil Armstrong slept in, not at the same time obviously!
My guide was hugely knowledgeable and although the tour only covers a fraction of the castle, it gave me a real insight into one of Scotland's most powerful families.
2. Go on a Land Rover safari
I am really not exaggerating when I say that the Land Rover tour from Drumlanrig Castle is seriously one of the best things I've done in ages. I'll be honest and say that I was a little apprehensive that 3 hours might be a bit too long. 'What if I get bored?', 'What if it's too shoogly and I feel sick?' or worst of all 'What if I'm in the middle of nowhere and need to visit the little girl's room?!' Thankfully none of these worries transpired as I was having way too much fun and by the time my 3 hours was up and we arrived back at the castle I was pretty sad it was all over, time really did fly by.
My guide, Brian, has worked on the estate for 50 years and what he doesn't know is very likely not worth knowing. In fact, I'm pretty sure that there is nothing that he doesn't know about Queensberry Estate. For the entire tour he had me engrossed with stories from history, facts about land management and wildlife, all punctuated with some humorous anecdotes.
We rumbled through woods, across fields (literally!), stopped at points of interest and took to the hills, thanks to our off road mode of transport, normally inaccessible areas were no longer off limits. The hilltop drive really was a highlight and the views were just superb. Travelling by Land Rover really does mean anyone can access the stunning scenery, even those who wouldn't normally have the ability or time to reach the hill tops.
We saw so much wildlife, covered diverse landscapes and stopped at historical sites. This really was a unique experience and one that I'll not forget, it definitely ranks as one of my favourite things that I've done in Scotland.
3. It was an Outlander filming location
One of the reasons that I had already planned to visit Drumlanrig Castle this summer was due to it being used as an Outlander filming location. As you may know, I do like to write about the more notable Scottish locations used in the Starz TV series and you can't miss Drumlanrig Castle in S2 Episode 11.
Both the exterior and interior were featured as the Duke of Sandringham's Belmont Estate. I don't want to include any spoilers for those that haven't seen it yet but it features quite heavily in episode 11 and if you take a tour of the castle you will be able to view some of the rooms that were featured. Luckily, the guide I had was an Outlander fan herself and was able to point out where certain scenes were filmed and even shared a few behind the scenes stories.
If you are interested in Jacobite history then look out for Bonnie Prince Charlie's bedroom on the Drumlanrig Castle tour to see the bed that he slept in on his retreat from Derby in 1745 - his stay was uninvited I might add! A few possessions he left behind are also on display.
4. Explore the gardens and grounds
As you would expect at such an impressive location, the gardens at Drumlanrig Castle are beautiful and the grounds extensive.
Although the castle has a short opening season, the grounds are open from April until the end of September and with 40 acres of gardens alone, there is plenty to explore. From formal gardens to woodland walks, the diverse scenery and abundant wildlife will keep you occupied for hours.
My favourite discoveries were the gnarly old Drumlanrig Sycamore tree which is over 300 years old and the biggest in Britain, the unusual Heather Houses dotted around the grounds which are over 100 years old and the viewpoint overlooking Drumlanrig Castle nestled among the trees in the distance.
If you fancy more than a stroll, there are a number of marked walking and hiking routes or head out on 2 wheels along some world-class mountain bike trails.
5. Go to an event
Drumlanrig Castle has regular events throughout the year for all the family and you can choose from a range of fun activities such as pond dipping, yoga, group cycles, treasure hunts or even a Smurf themed walk!
It is also home to some bigger annual events in the region with The Galloway Country Fair held here in August which has grown to be one of Scotland's biggest and most popular country fairs. In July you could spectate at a 2 day motocross event or open air theatre show. In September the Electric Fields Festival takes place with a weekend of live music and in June Drumlanrig attracts thousands of people wanting to enjoy a dirty weekend (not what you're thinking!) by competing in Tough Mudder.
There really is an eclectic mix of activities to pick from so be sure to check out the Drumlanrig Castle events page to find out what is on each month.
Although I've listed 5 reasons why you should visit Drumlanrig Castle, there is also another pleasant surprise if you are travelling south to get there which also makes the trip worthwhile.
Dalveen Pass is as beautiful as many Highland glens that I've driven through and aside from the hills not quite reaching mountain status, you could easily believe you have been transported much further north. A winding river, rushing waterfall and picturesque farm cottages all add to the romantic scene and I couldn't resist stopping on the way to the castle and again on the way back! This is a place I would actually take a detour just to visit as it is so pretty and if you're passing this way make sure to factor in some extra time to take in the views.
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Disclaimer - I was invited on a tour of Drumlanrig Castle and on a Land Rover safari, however, as always all views and experiences are my own.
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