Thirlestane Castle, Lauder – Clan Maitland
Under the ownership of the Maitland family since the late 16th century, Thirlestane Castle is an attractive building located in the Scottish Borders near the town of Lauder.
While the current castle was constructed in the 15th century, a fortification has stood on the site since at least the 1200s and would previously be owned by the Lauders and the Cranstouns under its previous name ‘Castle Hill’. The Cranstouns would eventually sell the fortification to the Maitlands in 1587 and it is then that the building of the modern-day structure would begin.
The modern castle would first be constructed by Sir John Maitland, James VI”s chancellor, soon after the time of the purchase. Sir John would construct the large keep of the castle upon the foundations of the old fort and this new house at Thirlestane would replace the Maitland’s old home at Old Thirlstane Castle (located 2 miles away).
However, it would be John Maitland, 2nd Earl of Lauderdale, who would fully remodel the house to resemble its modern appearance in 1670. Maitland would later be made Duke of Lauderdale in 1672 by Charles II and was Secretary of State for Scotland from 1661-80 before falling out of favour. During this time, the castle was duly transformed to resemble a building suitable for conducting the affairs of the state due to his high standing and it was then that the two front towers and the grand staircase were added as the castle gained ints now familiar look.
The structure would remain under the control of the Maitlands even after their standing in Scotland was lowered significantly following the Covenanter uprising and Thirlestane would receive one final upgrade in the 19th century when Edinburgh architects David Bryce and William Burn were contracted to design two large wings flanking the central keep and a south wing around a central courtyard.
The house would then serve as a stately mansion other than a period in the 1940s when it was used as a girl’s school for children evacuated from Edinburgh during the Second World War. During the war, the Earl and Countess of Lauderdale lived in the North Wing of the Castle and the rest of the building was reserved for dorms, classrooms, a dining room and an assembly hall. The girls would remain at the School until 1944 when they returned home.
The castle and its contents were then transferred to a trust in 1984 and it has since undergone an extensive programme of repair. Today, Thirlestane is still home to the Maitlands but can be visited by the public between the months of May and October.