History of castles in the UK
For such a small island, the United Kingdom has a lot of castles. Estimates vary, but between England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, there are probably in excess of 4,000 castles of some description, ranging in date from the Norman Conquest in 1066 right up to the late 1800s. Some leave little or no trace of their presence. Others stand as romantic ruins, shadows of the violent past with its tides of political and religious change, invasion, and Civil Wars. Each different design highlights advances in the technology of warfare, and some even reflect changes in fashion in later, more peaceful times when castles were more a sign of wealth and status, rather than a strategic, defendable home.
In modern times, we can look back on these troubled, turbulent periods, learning how our ancestors lived – and died. We can view them today from the luxury of a (mostly) safe environment, enjoying the heritage, the architecture, the atmosphere. They have become part of our leisure-time pursuits.
Things to do at Drumlanrig Castle
Being places that inspire our imagination, encourage us to engage in physical activity, and to treat ourselves to a souvenir from the gift shop or indulge in a ‘cream tea’.
And if you were looking for such a place in Scotland, then Drumlanrig Castle fits these criteria perfectly.
Why is The Drumlanrig castle known as the ‘Pink Palace’ ?
Drumlanrig Castle earned this unusual nickname due to its construction of pink sandstone. This ‘pinkness’ isn’t always apparent, but when the light hits it at certain angles you can really understand how the name came to be. In fact. when the rain falls it could even be said to appear more purple than pink! Most of the pink sandstone used to build the exterior Drumlanrig was excavated on the estate to try to reduce building costs – which would have been enormous; materials such as white lead and oil (to paint the windows) were imported from Holland and marble was transported from Edinburgh. It was even considered to possibly be cheaper to import pine from Norway rather than buy it from Leith, the nearest source.
What buildings were erected in the Glorious Revolution?
At the time of construction (between 1879 and 1689) Scotland and England were going through the upheaval of the Glorious Revolution. Thankfully, this was to become referred to as a ‘bloodless revolution’, unlike the savage battles that had plagued times past. People had feared a repeat of the Wars of the Three Kingdoms, as they had seen between 1638 and 1651. When James VII (James II in England) converted to catholicism, he sparked a growing resentment and fear that Protestantism would be suppressed. This grew further when he produced a male heir. Until then, his daughter, Mary, had been presumed to take the throne. Suffice to say, the reign of William and Mary began in 1689 without too much upheaval.
It could be said that this saved Drumlanrig Castle from possible damage, or even destruction. Another bloody civil war would have forced people to take sides. The 1st Duke of Queensberry, William Douglas, was a firm supporter of William and Mary. This would no doubt have set him up as a target for Catholic dissenters.
However, as we have learned, the ‘revolution’ passed off relatively quietly, and the Pink Palace was spared a violent fate. Which is just as well, because it was not designed for war, but to look grand and show the world just how wealthy the owner was.
Heritage and Tourism – a delicate balancing act
It is a sad irony that many of these grand castles, in which lords and ladies once lived in relative luxury, showing off their wealth and status, now soak up money like a sponge in order to keep them running. We want our heritage sites to be looked after, but the owners often can’t afford the upkeep. Which is how the heritage industry was started. We ensure their continued survival by our patronage. This sometimes leads to compromise in what is involved or allowed at some sites. Many are in danger of becoming theme parks rather than places of historical importance. Their past is overlooked in favor of more modern pursuits and pastimes – it’s all about having fun. And there is a school of thought that says ‘if it’s making money, what’s the problem?’. And that is a matter of opinion.
Drumlanrig Castle Events
At Drumlanrig Castle, they have achieved a commendable balance of marrying the old and new. You can enjoy a guided tour around the spectacular castle itself, admire the impressive exterior with its late 17th century Renaissance style, or head off to explore the 88,000 acres of grounds.
Within the 120 or so rooms, you can marvel at the world-renowned collection of priceless works of art. The tea room will provide you with refreshments, where the ingredients (as far as is possible) are either locally sourced or grown within the kitchen gardens. And then you’re ready to set off again, perhaps to amble around the Victorian formal gardens.
Drumlanrig Castle Walks
For the more physically active, there are a number of options; hiking, walking, cycling, mountain biking, and even an adventure playground. If country sports or more your thing, then the castle has a program of shooting and fishing. Or if you prefer, simply take a quiet stroll and enjoy watching the wildlife within the spectacular grounds.
William Douglas links
When William Douglas first stood upon the site where the old Douglas stronghold imposed its silent presence over the Nith valley. little could he have imagined how his vision of a grand castle would affect future generations.
How old is Drumlanrig Castle?
While the castle itself is only a part of the 600 years of Douglas family history, the quality of its craftsmanship, along with exemplary, sensible, and sensitive management of the site has ensured that it has survived to be enjoyed and admired by generations to come.
Drumlanrig Castle, the ‘Pink Palace’, is a gem in Scotland’s rich history and stunning natural environment, seamlessly connecting the worlds of heritage, wildlife, entertainment, and art. And it sets a template that other sites would be wise to follow.