Traquair House, Scotland

One of Scotland’s great country houses, Traquair House has a powerful, ethereal beauty, and exploring it is like time travel. Odd, sloping floors and a musty odour bestow a genuine feel, and parts of the building are believed to have been constructed long before the first official record of its existence in 1107. The massive tower house was gradually expanded but has remained virtually unchanged since the 17th century. Traquair is 1.5 miles south of Innerleithen, about 6 miles southeast of Peebles.

Since the 15th century, the house has belonged to various branches of the Stuart family, and the family’s unwavering Catholicism and loyalty to the Stuart cause led to famous visitors like Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, but also to numerous problems after the deposal of James II of England in 1688. The family’s estate, wealth and influence were gradually whittled away, as life as a Jacobite became a furtive, clandestine affair.

Traquair House, approximately 7 miles southeast of Peebles, is claimed to be the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland. While not strictly a castle, it is built in the style of a fortified mansion. It predates the Scottish Baronial style of architecture, and may have been one of the influences on this style. It contains a brewery which makes Jacobite Ale and House Ale.

It is built on the site of a hunting seat used by the Scottish kings from the 12th century, though no part of the present building can be dated with certainty before the 15th century. Alexander I was the first Scottish king to stay and hunt at Traquair. At that time it was a remote “castle”, surrounded by forest. Upon Alexander III’s death, in 1286, the peace of the Borders region was shattered and Traquair became a key link in the chain of defence that guarded the Tweed Valley against English invasion.

Over the next two centuries, Traquairs ownership changed often, at times coming under the control of the English, and at others, the Scottish throne. In the 1460s, James III conferred the estate on Dr. William Rogers, an eminent musician, and one of his favourites. After holding the lands for upwards of nine years, Dr. Rogers sold them for an insignificant sum, in 1478, to the Earl of Buchan. The Earl gifted the estate to his illegitimate son, James Stuart (1480-1513), 1st Laird of Traquair, in 1491. James Stuart obtained letters of legitimation, and married the heiress of the Rutherfords, with whom he received the estates of Rutherford and Wells in Roxburghshire. He was killed at the Battle of Flodden. His daughter, Lady Jane Stuart, became involved with the married Earl of Angus, by whom she had a daughter out of wedlock, Lady Janet Douglas (d.1552). Janet married Patrick Ruthven, 3rd Lord Ruthven and produced several children and the main Ruthven line. Traquair remained the family seat of the Earls of Traquair for the next four centuries.

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