Living in Aberdeen I kinda take it for granted that there are a host of amazing castles on my doorstep all brimming with child friendly things to do and see. When I visit other cities and countries I can be a bit like, where are the castles???
Mr Husband was swanning around New York so I was home alone with two toddlers and had luckily arranged to meet some friends at the castle’s play park. In keeping with the natural surroundings and scenery this is a wooden park with eco friendly apparatus. No plastic or cement here. The simple Willow Maze is the perfect height for exploratory little ones. The Toddler ‘Tee Pee’ Camp is uber cute: Mr Toddler threw pine cones and feathers into the pot and declared he’d just rustled up some spaghetti hoops. Fine dining I’m sure. There’s a tiny slide for little ones and a flying fox for older kids. We had our obligatory snacks in a little wooden hut and played with the wooden animal masks. It was simple, earthy fun. A top tip is to bring waterproof clothes for your tots as this is a wonderful place to not keep your clothes clean! And in rainy weather wood is naturally slippy so a little extra supervision can be required on damp days.
We then headed down to the Walled Garden, passing the pond and examining the chestnuts on the way. The garden is beautifully kept with a viewing platform and lots of little alleys and planted avenues to investigate and explore. We took a picnic lunch in the shelter of a gazebo which felt remarkably civilised and a touch Downton.
I was exhausted and ready to call it a day when Mr Toddler declared he wanted to visit the castle itself, which surprised me as he’s only two. He was particularly drawn to the tower – 21m high and with walls that are 3.5m thick. It’s possible to climb onto its roof and then explore the dungeon below but I didn’t attempt this when I was outnumbered by children with no sense of danger. Next time.
Drum was the home of the Irvine family for over 650 years, from the 14th century onwards. The grand Dining Room caught Mr Toddler’s eye, the extensive old library would make Professor Inkling proud, climbing up the spiral stone staircase was another joy (for my energy bound children, not for me I might add), and the day and night nursery on the top floor (full of old toys and cots) was naturally a big hit. It was interesting the rooms that the little ones truly related to.
Whilst Aberdeen Art Gallery is being refurbished many of its works are being shown in the Northern Lights exhibition at Drum through till March 2017. My kids just raced through this section but it might appeal more to older children, children with an artistic interest and of course adults.
The National Trust staff were so good with the kids, engaged with them as much as their ‘I’m suddenly shy’ personalities would allow and encouraged us every step of the way.
There’s a tea room on site if the thought of preparing snacks and lunches in advance is unappealing, but I also recommend Mains of Drum nearby for great food, microwaves to heat milk and baby food and ample high chairs. It just goes above and beyond when catering for children, and after eating there’s the gardening and gift rooms to nose about.
Whilst many of the National Trust castles shut their doors over the winter months Drum is remaining open at weekends so you can still get your castle fix over the festive period.
I do hope I’ve drummed up some interest in Drum.
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