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Tranquair House, Scottish Borders

Location: Innerleithen, Peebleshire, EH44 6PW (map and directions)

Traquair House is located 5 miles south of Peebles and though originally constructed in 1107 as a hunting lodge for kings and queens of Scotland, Traquair House is not technically a Scottish castle. However, its relevance in Scottish history and the fact that it dates back 900 years and has remained essentially unchanged for the last 300 makes Traquair an important Scottish structure and piece of living history.

Traquair House, Scottish Borders copyright Andy Stephenson
Traquair House © Andy Stephenson

History of Traquair House

In 1176 a charter was signed by William I at the Palace of Traquair (as it was then called), in which he founded a ‘burgh’ that had the right to hold a market every Thursday. This burgh became the city of Glasgow.

Both Edward I and II stayed at the house during the Wars of Independence of the 13th and 14th centuries. It was not until 1460 that Traquair left the hands of royalty. James III gifted the house to William Rogers, a court musician, who after only 9 years sold Traquair to the Earl of Buchan. The Earl of Buchan then gave Traquair to James Stewart and became the first Lord of Traquair in 1491 when James IV rose to the throne.

The house was used as a refuge for Catholic priests as the Stuarts of Traquair supported Mary Queen of Scots (her bed still located at the house) and the Jacobites, though did not suffer any negative effects of the outcome of the uprising.

Since this time, Traquair has remained in the same family. In the late 1500s the house was enlarged, and in the early 1600s the 7th Lord of Traquair (who became the Lord High Treasurer of Scotland) added a top story in addition to changing the course of the River Tweed. This was done to prevent damage to the house, as it stood just near a bend in the river.

An addition of two side wings, a courtyard, terraces to the rear and the railing at the front of the house in 1695 were the last changes made to Traquair, and the house has remained the same ever since.

Traquair House, Scottish Borders copyright John Clive Nicholson
Traquair House © John Clive Nicholson

In 1953 Frank Maxwell Stuart, the 19th Lord of Traquair, opened the house to the public for the first time, and the Lords of Traquair continue to reside here today. Despite its use as an everyday residence, much of the house is on view, boasting several important features, such as its Bear Gates, last closed in 1745 by the Jacobite army marching south to England and remaining unopened until a Stuart again sits on the Scottish throne.

The Museum Room is home to one of the oldest surviving murals in Scotland, dating back to 1530. A secret room on the top floor of the house, known as the Priest’s Room, served as sanctuary for John, the 2nd of Earl of Traquair and his wife, Lady Anne Seton, to practice their very controversial Catholic beliefs in post-Reformation Scotland in the 17th century. There is a chapel in the northwest wing, which was established after 1829, when Catholics could again worship freely and legally in Scotland.

Traquair is also home to its Cottage Restaurant built in 1745 and its Traquair House Brewery housed in the 18th century wing. Behind the house there is a maze which was built in 1981 and requires a quarter of a mile walk to reach the centre.

Map and directions

Traquair House and grounds is open daily to the public from April to 31 October and with shortened weekend hours only in November.

View Traquair House in a larger map

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