“The best example of formal terraced gardens in Scotland” is a somewhat lofty claim. But honestly, when I arrived at dawn on a very cold and frosty morning last week I was in total agreement as I quite literally almost wept for joy at seeing the expansive gardens and topiary laid out before me, as viewed from the top of the steps beside the castle.
Drummond Castle is closed for the winter but I was very lucky to be able to visit with my partner, photographer Clive Nichols who was photographing the frost laden topiary. It was a very cold morning, -7C and I must admit I had to go and sit in the car to warm up after an hour! The song “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire; Jack Frost nipping at your nose” sprang to mind and I lamented the lack of chestnuts – and indeed the lack of a roaring fire, which would have been more welcome than the car heater!
The castle is owned by Lady Willoughby who divides her time between Drummond Castle and her other ‘small’ residence, Grimsthorpe Hall in Lincolnshire. The castle has been in the same family since the 14th Century and has undergone several transformations, as has the garden which was originally laid out as terraces in the 1630s. I was not surprised to discover that the gardens were used for the recent filming of ‘Outlander’ where they were pretending to be in Versailles!
The Renaissance style formal gardens as they are today were designed and planted between 1830 and 1850. Set on a lower level than the castle and mansion, the 12 acre gardens afford terrific views from the upper courtyard and entrance. Parterres, topiary and statuary abound although tragically for me (and Clive) the statues had been ‘put to bed’ for the winter which meant Clive had to artfully try and dodge them with each capture.
In winter, the bones of the garden are more evident especially in frost and the remaining summer planting had been left for the birds and wildlife. Yellow roses, grey lavender and brown seed heads and stems drooped under a heavy dusting of frost although the remaining bright foliage of the acer trees was still managing to brighten and soften the starker shapes of the yew, box and conifer topiary and beech hedging.
One of the things I particularly liked were the groups of Arbutus unedo (Strawberry tree) which had been clipped into umbrellas at either end of the upper terrace. I’ve not seen them clipped before and their evergreen foliage gave very good structure when looking back up towards the castle.
Drummond Castle gardens are open daily from May 1st to October 31st, with special openings over the Easter weekend and for the arrival of Father Christmas in December (although the 2019 Father Christmas visits are sold out). See website for details: https://www.drummondcastlegardens.co.uk/visitor-information/