Yes, No, Maybe the Duke Will Know: A Timely Visit to Drumlanrig Castle

by Keith Savage · 5 comments

The 'Pink Palace' of Drumlanrig Castle

My time in Moniaive was filled with pleasant surprises, not least the Three Glens Luxury Eco House, which turned out to be one of my favorite accommodations anywhere. Neil and Mary proved to be excellent and friendly hosts, spending their evenings with me and inviting me into their home. One evening before dinner, Neil posed a question I’m likely to hear only once in my lifetime.

“Would you like to meet the Duke?” he asked, a big grin on his face.

I paused, the glass of Bailie Nicol Jarvie halfway to my mouth. “Um, yes.” I believe those were my words.

I’d never had a royal audience before, and the Queen knows I didn’t pack any clothes suitable for such an occasion, but I’d be damned if I let slip this opportunity. The Duke in question was the 10th Duke of Buccleuch and Queensberry, Richard Scott, chief of Clan Scott and Europe’s largest private landowner. This wasn’t Tom Wopat Neil was talking about, but a noble who it was customary to address as “Your Grace.”

Neil’s aunt, one Mrs. Graham, works at the Duke’s local seat of power, Drumlanrig Castle, restoring the castle’s textiles among other duties (like being a tour guide). I was to pick her up and together we would visit Drumlanrig, which, being April, was not yet open to the public, meet the duke, and tour the castle. My visit would turn out to be relevant to the Scottish Independence Referendum happening this week.

Mrs. Graham reminded me a bit of my own Scottish grandmother. As I helped her into my rental car I quickly found that she was self-assured and sharp of mind. She led me on backroads through Penponts toward Thornhill and ultimately down a long avenue to the ‘Pink Palace.’ The Drumlanrig Castle we see today was completed in 1697, though it is believed that the earlier Earls of Douglas had a castle here as early as 1430 to control routes into southern Nithsdale. As I stepped from the car, the morning sun backlighting the castle, I couldn’t help but marvel at the impressiveness of the facade with its grand, curving stairs.

I followed Mrs. Graham through a private door and soon we were pushing through the white-washed bowels of the castle. We stopped in a drawing room with an enormous billiards table where the castle’s shooting parties take their lunch. My guide kindly ordered me to wait here as she tottered off to corral the Duke.

I was nervous – you try pronouncing ‘Buccleuch’ – and decided to rely on ‘Your Grace’ even if it was overly formal (which I’m not sure it is). A few minutes later the Duke bustled in behind Mrs. Graham, a slight man with gray hair and bright eyes. We shook hands, I called him ‘Your Grace,’ and he struck me as an eminently affable and friendly lord. All told, we chatted for the better part of 10 minutes about tourism, Scotland, and Wisconsin, and then exchanged business cards. He then hurried off to continue preparing for an important Better Together dinner that night.

Following the ducal episode, Mrs. Graham led me on a private tour of the castle, which hadn’t yet reached a presentable state – according to her. To my eyes Drumlanrig was reminiscent of Glamis Castle in Angus, decked in priceless paintings, fortunes of rare furniture, and the faded air of the early twentieth century. A beautiful, great oak staircase climbs to the upper level in the center of the castle where Renaissance paintings look down upon visitors. I even got a chance to peek into several rooms that really were unfinished, more ruin than royalty. Unfortunately, photos were prohibited within the castle. The exterior buildings surrounding Drumlanrig are home to shops and exhibits, and there’s a huge country park nearby that local families enjoy.

I write this post on the eve of one of the most important moments in Scottish history. Tomorrow, the people of Scotland will vote to determine whether they as a people reject or embrace independence. The Duke’s dinner party that night at Drumlanrig Castle was host to many important MPs and aimed to further the cause of keeping Scotland within the United Kingdom. I’m no economist, politician, or historian, nor even a citizen of Scotland, but I can’t think of a single country that has rejected a chance at independence.

I’m sure there are very good reasons to remain “better together,” just as there are clearly good reasons to become an independent nation, not least of which the various sordid historical atrocities inflicted upon the Scots. I am keeping my leanings private, as this blog is anything but political, but it seems that no matter the outcome of the vote, Scotland will be a different place with new old wounds to heal.

I hope the process is as quick as can be expected, and that the people of Scotland make the right choice, whatever that may be.

AvrupaNo Gravatar September 22, 2014 at 6:51 PM

Absolutely stunning place! perfect for black & white photography. I bet the morning light brings an amazing effect on that gorgeous architecture.
And I love the word ‘Buccleuch’ 🙂

WanderNWayneNo Gravatar September 20, 2014 at 4:38 PM

You must be a Prince of Serendipity to have had an audience with the Duke.

De'JavNo Gravatar September 18, 2014 at 8:47 AM

Sounds like a great experience and opportunity at hand you had. It’s a big day for the country but I think whatever happens it will make some happy and others not so much.

KenNo Gravatar September 18, 2014 at 6:52 AM

What a great experience. I’m sure it was interesting to talk to the Duke, as you did. As regards the referendum, my heart knows what it wants but my head isn’t so sure. Either way, my heart will be in Scotland today.

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