History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
The tower remains remarkably unaltetred until the late 16th or early 17th century, when the upper two storeys were remodelled to create a more comfortable residence. Further rebuilding took place from 1653-1686.
High drama ensued in 1650. When Oliver Cromwell invaded Scotland he sent a force under General Lambert to take Neidpath. Acounts of what happened next are confused; some say that the castle surrendered without a fight, others that Neidpath held out against the English forces longer than any othe castle south of the Forth.
The 8th Lord Hay was created Earl of Tweeddale by Charles II. The 2nd Earl made improvements to Neidpath but fell upon financial hard times and was forced to sell the castle to the Duke of Queensberry in 1686. In a curious twist of fate William Douglas, the second son of the Duke, married Lady Jean Hay, who had been partly raised at Neidpath, and she was able to return to her childhood home.
Douglas and Lady Jean had three daughters, and one of the daughters, also named Jean, may have been the 'Maid of Neidpath' whose woeful tale prompted both Sir Walter Scott and Thomas Campbell to write a tale of love lost. Though the poetry is tearful, the true life tale is less so; Lady Jean and her lover, son of the Lord of Tushielaw, had a son who became the 2nd Earl March. The 3rd Earl let out Neidpath to tenants, including the Scottish historian Adam Ferguson. Sir Walter Scot visited Ferguson at Neidpath and must have learned the tale of Lady Jean from him. William Wordsworth also visited in 1803.
The 4th Duke became a successful landlord, and spent no time at Neidpath. He moved to London, where he lived a fashionable life, and his only memorable connection with Neidpath came in 1795 when he had all the trees and gsrdens on the slope below the castle cut down. A furious Wordsworth wrote a sonnet that castigated the Duke for this destructive act. The castle eventually passed to the Earls of Wemyss, who remain owners to this day.
The original 14th century tower was built of two wings, each three storeys high, though laster these were subdividd into five floors. The entire first floor is occcupied by the great hall, with the kitchen filling the first-floor wing. Other service rooms were cleverly crammed into the thickness of the walls. The cellar of the main block housed storage vaults, but the basememnt of the wing was used for a pit prison. The access hatch of this prison is a lattice grill set in the floor of a chamber off the hall. It provides a rather grim reminder that life in medieval times was not always pleasant!
Note ... Note ... Note ... when we visited Neidpath it was regularly open to visitors. In the meantime the owners have decided to discontinue regular opening hours and now cater to events like weddings and private parties. You can still arrange a private tour - and it will be an enjoyable experience - but unfortunately you'll have to arrange a pre-booked tour ahead of time (see the castle website for details). I do hope they reconsider in future and make Neidpath easier to visit; it truly is a very enjoyable historic site and its a shame that more people, especially families, won't easily be able to experience it.
About Neidpath Castle
Address: A72, Peebles, Borders, Scotland, EH45 8NW
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: On the A72, 1 mile west of Peebles. On site parking. Open by pre-booking arrangement only.
Website: Neidpath Castle
Phone: 01875 870 201
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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14th century (Time Period) - 17th century (Time Period) - castle (Architecture) - Charles II (Person) - Cromwell (Person) - Mary, Queen of Scots (Person) - Medieval (Time Period) - Oliver Cromwell (Person) - Queen Mary (Person) - Restoration (Historical Reference) - tower house (Architecture) - William Wordsworth (Person) -
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