Druminnor Castle Excavations, 2021.
The ongoing excavations at Druminnor continued after last year’s hiatus. This was the ninth season of work as part of the community-driven Bennachie Landscapes Project, organised by the Bailies of Bennachie and the University of Aberdeen. As has become usual at Druminnor, a limited excavation plan to answer a few outstanding questions rapidly suffered ‘project-creep’ as hitherto unguessed remains surfaced! Trench 13 investigated the remains, discovered by GPR, of the outer garden enclosure wall, visible on an 18th-century estate plan but destroyed soon after. The footings - buried by almost 2 metres of landscaping soil - indicate the wall was quite substantial. The 18th-century plan also showed the entrance roadway to the castle at this time running a number of metres north of the wall. This anomalous position was considered to suggest the former existence of some feature, perhaps a ditch. This was indeed shown to have been the case, with the enclosure wall running hard against its southern edge. The two features together would have made a formidable defensive structure.
Trench 14 sought to define the platform believed to have underlain the original tower, thought to have been the earliest stone-built fortification on the site. GPR suggested where the southern edge of the platform might lie and this was duly proven during excavation. Quite unexpectedly, the remains of the stone-flagged entrance to the 16th-century castle were also found to have survived intact after the removal of most of the upper courtyard in 1800. Remarkably, these survived beneath the later Victorian mansion that was built on the site in the 1840s. Geological investigations are slowly teasing out the interfaces between the site’s geology, re-deposited geology and archaeology - an arduous but essential task on this site. As a consequence of this careful examination, a wall foundation, formerly believed to have been associated with a later 16th-century remodelling phase, is now tentatively assigned to an earlier - perhaps late 12th/13th century - phase.
Trench 15 was intended as a small intervention to confirm the geology of this part of the site and to try to find the termination of the early 15th-century defensive circuit. In reality, this turned out to be a much bigger task as unexpected walls and a cobbled surface attested the survival of a completely unknown late 18th-century phase of re-organisation to the castle’s outbuildings and garden in this area. At time of writing, this work is still progressing with the original aims of the trench not even begun. Maybe next year! As ever, grateful thanks to Alex Forbes for permitting us to ravage his grounds and for his bottomless vat of insightful historical and architectural advice and to the volunteers who, against all the odds, keep coming back year on year
Volunteers wishing to help with the excavations are welcome to find out more by contacting: firstname.lastname@example.org.