History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
HERITAGE HIGHLIGHTS: The oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland?
The origins of the first house at Traquair are lost in the mists of time, but it must have established before 1107, when King Alexander I signed a royal charter here. That early date makes Traquair arguably the oldest house in Scotland in continuous habitation.
Throughout these years the house continued to take shape, gradually transforming from a medieval tower house into a comfortable country residence, suitable for one of the most influential families in Scotland.Part of that transformation came in the early 17th century when the 7th Laird had the River Tweed moved further from the house, which must have been a major engineering project!
In 1695 James Smith of Edinburgh designed flanking wings and erected a fanciful wrought iron gate in front of the house to create a courtyard effect. To the rear of the house Smith built a double terrace with pavillions looking over formal gardens. One of these pavillions now houses a camera obscura, which casts an image of the exterior view on the interior wall of the pavillion (its quite an effect, I can tell you!). In the more than 3 centuries since Smith's work the house has undergone no major changes at all.
Traquair and the Jacobites
Charles, the 4th Earl of Traquair, was a staunch supporter of the Jacobite cause, working in secret for the return of James II to the throne. He was cast into Edinburgh Castle for suspected involvement in a Jacobite plot. He was implicated in the 1715 failed rising. His son, also named Charles, shared his father's Jacobite beliefs. In 1738 he built the Bear Gates, at the top of the long avenue that leads to the house. Bonnie Prince Charlie visited Traquair, passing through the new gates, and the Earl vowed that the gates would never again be opened until a Stewart king was crowned in London. Since the Second Jacobite Rebellion failed in 1745 the gates have remained firmly shut to this day.
Traquair was eventually restored and opened to the public during the 20th century, mostly through the efforts of the 19th Laird, Frank Maxwell Stuart and his son Peter, the 20th Laird.
Highlights of the interior included the vaulted cellars, High Drawing Room, and the Kings room (part of the original 12th century tower house). The state bed was used by Mary, Queen of Scots, and the cradle she used for her son James is at the foot of the bed. On the upper floor is a museum hosting more Mary mementos, including her rosary and crucifix. See the secret priest's room and hidden stairs, and a wonderful range of ornate state rooms.
There are a lovely mix of formal and woodland gardens behind the house, including a large hedge maze (its a challenge to navigate, as I can attest). In the woodland nearby is an ancient circle of yew trees, thought to be amongst the oldest trees in Scotland, originally part of Ettrick Forest which surrounded the house.
Traquair was one of the real highlights of our family tour of the Borders. The house is a gem, the gardens are endlessly fascinating, and history seems to ooze from every stone. Its no surprise that a house this old has such a fascinating array of stories to tell, and its those stories, half-remembered through the passage of time, that help make Traquair such a delight. Highly recommended.
About Traquair House
Address: Innerleithen, Borders, Scotland, EH44 6PW
Attraction Type: Historic House
Location: 6 m (10 km) SE Peebles, at junction of B709 and B7062
Website: Traquair House
Phone: 01896 830 323
Historic Houses Association
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
We've 'tagged' this attraction information to help you find related historic attractions and learn more about major time periods mentioned.
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Find other attractions tagged with:
12th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - 18th century (Time Period) - Bonnie Prince Charlie (Person) - castle (Architecture) - Celtic (Architecture) - Edward I (Person) - Jacobite (Historical Reference) - James II (Person) - Mary, Queen of Scots (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Robert the Bruce (Person) - Stuart (Time Period) - tower house (Architecture) -
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
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