Ferniehirst Castle, Roxburghshire – Clan Kerr
Located between the English border and the Scottish town of Jedburgh, Ferniehirst Castle is the traditional home of the Kerr family.
Given to the Kerrs in 1357, the land on which Ferniehirst Castle stands would first house a structure in 1470, as a tower was constructed by Thomas of Smailholm among a forest of great oak trees. Smailholm would quickly be given the title of Baron of Ferniehirst and his son and heir, Andrew, would expand the castle in 1490, adding a defensive staircase, specifically designed to favour a swordsman fighting with his left hand.
This defensive addition would soon be tested in 1523, as the castle was besieged by Lord Thomas Dacre, eventually succumbing to the Lord after hours of hand to hand fighting. It would be retaken by the Scots in 1549 as a joint Scottish and French force regained control of the castle and executed 130 English soldiers who were based in the region.
Thereafter, the Kerr family would rise to prominence as the castle was used by Mary, Queen of Scots, during her final years as the Scottish monarch. Mary would place herself under the personal protection of Sir Thomas Kerr of Ferniehirst in 1565 and would stay in a house rented to her by Sir Thomas a year later. After her forced abdication in 1567, Kerr would break Mary free from imprisonment at Loch Leven and he would remain a supporter of her as she struggled to regain the throne in the subsequent years. However, after her death in 1586, Ferniehirst would come under attack by her son, James VI, as revenge for a previous falling out over the death of Regent Lennox in 1571. James would order the destruction of all of Sir Thomas’ properties but, thankfully, the structure would be passed to Sir Andrew Kerr, preventing an attack from taking place as the castle was saved.
With the castle located so close to the border with England, it would then be reinforced amid fears of an uprising. During this time, the doors were strengthened and gun holes were placed strategically around the building for defence. It would be further altered in 1633 as part of the estate was converted into a chapel before a series of uneventful years culminated with the death of William, 3rd Marquis of Lothian, in 1767, the last Kerr to live at the castle until 1976.
Remaining empty during the rest of the 18th century, Ferniehirst would eventually be repaired in 1830 and was used as a youth hostel throughout the majority of the 1900s, other than during the Second World War, when it was used requisitioned by the army. Today, the property is back in the hands of the Kerrs but can be rented out as holiday accommodation – making a it stunning place to spend a holiday in Scotland. It is also open to the public during July and is registered as a category A listed building under the control of Lord Ralph Kerr.