Drumlanrig Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Drumlanrig Castle, a seat of the Duke of Buccleuch in Durisdeer parish, Upper Nithsdale, Dumfriesshire, 17 miles NW of Dumfries, and 3½ NNW of Thornhill. It crowns the last spur of a drum or long ridge of hill, on the right bank of the Nith; and, visible from afar, stately, embowered in trees, itself has a view down all the Nith's rich valley, away to the heights of Criffel. It forms a hollow square, four stories high, surmounted with corner turrets, and presenting such an array of windows, that, say the dalesfolk, there are as many as the year has days. From the inner quadrangle staircases ascend at the angles in semicircular towers; without, the architraves of windows and doors are profusely adorned with hearts and stars, the armorial bearings of the Douglases. The castle fronts N, but has also a noble façade to the E, combining on either side aspects of strength and beauty, the lineaments of a mansion and a fortress; herein, too, that it is nightly secured, not only by a thick door of oak, but by a ponderous gate of iron. Falsely ascribed to Inigo Jones, like Heriot's Hospital, which it no little resembles, the present castle took ten years in building, and was finished in 1689, the year after the Revolution. William, first Duke of Queensberry-celebrated in civil history as a statesman, and in the annals of the Covenanters as an abettor of persecution-planned and completed it; and he expended upon it such enormous sums of money, and during the only night that he passed within its walls, was so 'exacerbated by the inaccessibility of medical advice to relieve him from a temporary fit of illness,' that he quitted it in disgust, and afterwards wrote on the bills for its erection, 'The Deil pike out his een wha looks herein !' Among seventeen portraits, by Lely and Kneller mostly, one of William III. bears marks of claymore wounds-a memorial of the Highlanders' brief sojourn in the castle on their retreat from Derby (1745). The barony of Drumlanrig belonged to the Douglases as early at least as 1356, and for four centuries passed from father to son with only a single break (1578), and then from grandsire to grandson. In 1388 James, second Earl of Douglas, conferred it on the elder of his two natural sons, Sir William de Douglas, first Baron of Drumlanrig, whose namesake and ninth descendant was created Viscount of Drumlanrig in 1628 and Earl of Queensberry in 1633. William, third Earl (1637-95) was created Duke of Queensberry and Earl of Drumlanrig in 1684; and Charles, third Duke (16981778), was succeeded by his first cousin, William, third Earl- of March and Ruglen (1725-1810). 'Old Q,' that spoiler of woods and patron of the turf, the ` degenerate Douglas ' of Wordsworth's indignant sonnet, was in turn succeeded by Henry, third Duke of Buccleuch, gr-eat-grandson of the second Duke of Queensberry; and his grandson, the fifth and present Duke, is seventeenth in descent from Sir William, the first baron, and owns in Dumfriesshire 253,514 acres, valued at £97,530 per annum. (See Dalkeith.) Among the episodes in Drumlanrig's history are its pillage by the English under Lord Wharton (1549), an entertainment given at it to James VI. (1 Aug. 1617), its capture by the Parliamentarians (1650), and Burns's frequent visits to its chamberlain, John M 'Murdo (1788-96). From 1795 till his death 'Old Q.' wrought hideous havoc in the woods, here as at Neidpath; so that the hills which Burns had known clad with forest, Wordsworth in 1803 found bleak and naked. The castle, too, unoccupied by its lords for upwards of forty years, fell into disrepair, but the present Duke, on attaining his majority in 1827, at once took in hand the work of restoration and replanting, so that the castle, woods, and gardens of Drumlanrig are now once more the glory of Upper Nithsdale -the woods, which retain a few survivors from the past (finest among these, two oaks, two beeches, a sycamore, and the limetree avenue of 1754); and the gardens and policies, which were thus described by Pennant (1772): 'The beauties of Drumlanrig are not confined to the highest part of the grounds; the walks, for a very considerable way by the sides of the Nith, abound with most picturesque and various scenery. Below the bridge the sides are prettily wooded, but not remarkably lofty; above, the views become wildly magnificent. The river runs through a deep and rocky channel, bounded by vast wooded cliffs that rise suddenly from its margin; and the prospect down from the summit is of a terrific depth, increased by the rolling of the black waters beneath. Two views are particularly fine-one of quick repeated but extensive meanders amidst broken sharp-pointed rocks, which often divide the river into several channels, interrupted by a short and foaming rapids coloured with a moory taint; the other is of a long strait, narrowed by the sides, precipitous and wooded, approaching each other equidistant, horrible from the blackness and fury of the river, and the fiery-red and black colours of the rocks, that have all the appearance of having sustained a change by the rage of another element.' The Glasgow and South-Western railway, a little N of Carronbridge station, traverses a stupendous tunnel on the Drumlanrig grounds, 4200 feet in length, and nearly 200 feet beneath the surface, with an archway measuring 27 feet by 29.—Ord. Sur-, shs. 15,9,1864-63- See Dr Craufurd Tait Ramage's Drumlanrig Castle and the Douglases (Dumf- 1876).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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