We headed down into the Borders today, with the weather forecast predicting heavy rain but delivering a bright blue sky interrupted by a couple of light showers. We were on our way to Traquair House, reputed to be the longest continuously-inhabited house in Scotland.
Dating back to the 12th century, Traquair House has been home to the same family for almost six centuries. It is approached by a pair of impressive gate posts topped with carved stone bears carrying the family arms.
Or it would be if the gates hadn’t been shut permanently 267 years ago! The Stewart Earls of Traquair were ardent supporters of the Jacobite cause, and following a visit by Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1744 the gates were shut, with the 5th Earl vowing not to open them until a Stuart monarch sat on the throne of Scotland once more.
So instead we drove down the side entrance, running parallel to the old, unused drive, and were met in the car park by a peacock.
Traquair House is an impressive house, and a fine example of 16th and 17th century castle architecture. Virtually no new building work has been carried out since the end of the 17th century, giving a fairly unique snapshot of the styles of the day.
Although it is principally a mansion, it has developed over the centuries from a castle, and still displays defensive details such as the gun loops on a cap house.
A new entrance and porch were built by the 1st Earl of Traquair in the middle of the 17th century, and towards the end of the century a pair of low wings were added, creating a courtyard in front of the house.
The house is packed full of history, including numerous artefacts relating to Mary Queen of Scots who spent her last night in Scotland here.
The 1st Earl was also responsible for landscaping the grounds around Traquair House, even going so far as to divert the River Tweed in order to extend his gardens. This had the effect of isolating some of the water and creating the Well Pool next to the house, where we saw a heron and a pair of swans resting.
The gardens are quite magnificent, and are laid out beyond a terrace extending from the back of the house.
Hopping across the grass was a solitary wagtail.
Within the gardens is a maze, and with closing time approaching we endured a race against time to find our way back out of it. We succeeded, and headed on our along the Tweed towards Peebles. Originally we had intended to take a walk along the river below Neidpath Castle, but with time marching on we decided to save that for another day, and instead we stopped at Horsbrugh Castle.
Not a great deal is known about Horsbrugh Castle. Probably built by the Horsbrugh family in the 15th century, on land they had occupied since the 13th century, it was an L-shaped tower house, although only one wing of the L now remains.
On the west side of the hill, where the land slopes away sharply, rabbits have taken advantage of the turf slipping down the hill, and have excavated a complex series of burrows in the exposed earth.
With heavy clouds threatening the predicted rain, we made our way back to the car and headed north for Edinburgh.