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Scotcrest Blog

Burleigh Castle, Perth and Kinross – Clan Balfour

burleigh castle clan balfour

Unusually flanked on one side by a main road, Burleigh Castle is one of the most accessible clan seats in Scotland and the historic home of the Balfour family.

Believed to have been originally given to the Balfour family around the middle of the 15th century, the clan would first build a tower house which still forms the basis of the taller north tower. The castle would then be expanded further in 1582 when the more appealing south west tower was built and on its completion, the finished castle is believed to have surrounded a quadrangular courtyard.

The fortunes of the Balfour family would then improve in 1607, when Sir Michael Balfour was raised to the peerage becoming Lord Balfour of Burleigh. The family would enjoy their increased stature for the next 100 years until 1707 when Robert Balfour, son of the 4th Lord Balfour, was sentenced to death for murdering the Inverkiething schoolmaster as revenge for marrying the woman he had wished to marry

Even worse was to come for the family, however, as after coming out in favour of the Jacobite cause in 1715, Robert Balfour would have his estates and titles seized by the government and was forced to live out his life in exile in France.

With its spiritual owner now no longer in the country, the castle was sold to the Irwin family before later passing to the Grahams of Kinross. The Burleigh would then fall into disrepair with parts of the structure that are now missing likely harvested for stone to build Burleigh House, a large farmhouse located near the castle. Since then , the castle has remained in a relatively similar state for the last 200 years and is now owned by Historic Environment Scotland where it is a Scheduled Ancient Monument.

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Learn more about Clan Balfour HERE.

 

Clackmannan Tower, Clackmannanshire – Clan Bruce

Clackmannan Tower - Clan Bruce

Dominating the surrounding area for miles thanks to its lofty position, Clackmannan Tower is the former seat of one of the most influential families in Scottish history, the Bruces.

Located on King’s Seat Hill near the town of Clackmannan, the tower sits at an elevation of 55 metres above sea level and gives tremendous views over the River Forth to the south and the Ochil Hills to the north.

It is believed that a royal residence may have originally sat on the location of the current tower and could have been built as early as the reign of Malcolm IV from 1053 to 1056, however, according to legend, the structure we know today was originally constructed by the former King of Scots, Robert the Bruce, at the start of the 14th century. While this is perhaps no more than a story, we do know for sure that the fortification had been completed by the middle of the 1300s as King David II, Roberts son, would grant the tower to one of his kinsmen in 1359 in an attempt to keep the property under the control of the family rather than the Scottish monarchy.

The Bruce family would eventually lose a lot of their influence following the passing of the Scottish crown to the Stewart family upon the death of David II, and from here, it is harder to track the history of the family and the castle. Despite this, we do know that the family would expand the castle at the start of the 15th century, adding a second tower to the south and extending the height of the original tower. The Bruces would also later add a mansion in the early 1600s.

The family would live at Clackmannan until the late 1700s and towards the end of their spell in control of the castle, would begin to receive a number of distinguished guests and acquaintances thanks to the reputation of Katherine Bruce, who lived there until her death in 1791. Among the famous faces to stay with Bruce was Robert Burns, who Mrs Bruce mock-knighted using the sword of her ancestor, King Robert the Bruce. This would be the last hurrah for the castle, however, as it was abandoned soon after with the tower’s mansion house being demolished at some point before the year 1841. The sword with which Katherine ‘knighted’ Burns is said to have been the one used by Robert at Bannockburn and, along with an accompanying helmet, it was passed to the Earls of Elgin, another branch of the Bruces, where it is now kept at their seat at Broomhall in Fife.

Today, the castle is under the control of Historic Environment Scotland after being repaired following a partial collapse. Memorials for the Bruce family that once stayed in the tower can still be found at the graveyard of the nearby parish church in the town of Clackmannan.

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Learn more about the history of Clan Bruce HERE.

Redcastle, Killearnan – Clan MacKenzie

redcastle clan mackenzie

Now left in a partially ruinous state, Redcastle has endured a tumultuous history since its construction at the end of the 12th century.

Originally built by King William the Lion as a reaction to unrest and rebellion in the highlands, the structure was built alongside another fortification at Dunskaith as the King struggled to gain control of the far north of his country. The castle would serve as a stronghold to help keep warring clans at arms’ length and would also protect the region from an invasion by sea thanks to its close proximity to the Beauly Firth.

The first documented resident of Redcastle would be Sir John de Bisset and the Bissets would stay in control of the property in some form until the turn of the 14th century when it would become a part of the powerful Douglas dynasty. The ownership would then pass back to the crown within half a century after the defeat of the family in 1455.

The next 40 years remain a mystery but we do know that the next residents of the castle would also be its most famous, the MacKenzies. First to move in was Kenneth MacKenzie of Kintail in 1492 and as the MacKenzies began to rise in stature over the subsequent years, so too did the castle, with the reigning monarch, Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed at the property in 1552.

The MacKenzies would stay in control of the castle for the next two centuries as it survived numerous wars thanks to its northern location within the British Isles. In fact, so far away from London was the castle that it would be the last place in Scotland to hold out against the troops of Olver Cromwell in 1649.

Sometime thereafter, It is said that the castle was burned down (perhaps by Cromwell’s forces) but did continue to be inhabited well into the 1700s with Bonnie Prince Charlie believed to have stayed there in 1745 during the last Jacobite Rising.

After this, the castle’s history becomes a bit more dismal as, despite improvements in the 19th century, it was soon sold to owners that did not have its best intentions at heart. The deterioration of the building would continue all the way through to the Second World War when it was requisitioned by the army, something that would accelerate its demise even further with the final nail in the coffin coming when an owner decided to remove the castle’s roof in an effort to avoid paying taxes.

Today, the ruins of the once-proud structure remain on the edge of the highland village of Killearnan. This castle can still be visited by the public and, despite being in a state of disrepair, it is still a category B listed building.

Surprise a loved one this Christmas with one of our personalised Scottish Clan Products HERE.

Learn more about this history of Clan MacKenzie HERE.

Eilean Donan Castle, Kyle of Lochalsh – Clan MacKenzie

Eilean Donan Cstle - Clan MacKenzie

Now better known as an iconic Scottish landmark and one of the world’s most photographed castles, Eilean Donan has a long and storied history as the traditional clan seat of the Highland Clan MacKenzie.

First constructed in the 13th century, the castle is built on a tidal island at the meeting point of three sea lochs; Loch Duich, Loch Long and Loch Alsh, and is believed to have been named after a 6th century Irish Saint, Bishop Donan, who came to Scotland around 580 AD.

It would be the threat of Viking invaders which would lead to the construction of the castle in the 13th century as it held a vital strategic position on the border between the lands the Lords of the Isles (under Norse rule) and the Earls of Ross. This threat would end in 1266, however, with the signing of the Treaty of Perth which passed control of the Western Isles and other Norse lands to the Scottish crown following a victory over Viking forces at the Battle of Largs in 1263.

It was after fighting at this battle that Colin Fitzgerald, the man traditionally believed to have been the progenitor of the MacKenzies, would be given the lands upon which the Castle sits as a reward. Fitzgerald would later change his name to MacKenzie and, as they say, the rest is history.

As the years passed, the castle would often become a designated safe place for some of the country’s most famous (or infamous) figures to hide due to its relative isolation in the north-west of the country and Robert the Bruce is said to have sheltered there over the winter of 1306 and 1307.

In the following years, it would be an infamous figure who would stay at the castle, however, as before visiting, the Earl of Moray would order the execution of 50 wrongdoers with their heads to be displayed on the castle’s walls as he arrived in 1331.

The MacKenizes would retain control of the castle for the majority of the next 200 years after this event before passing it to the MacRaes, who became constables in 1509. The two families would remain connected after this and the MacRaes acted as the ‘bodyguards’ of the MacKenzies as the family grew from strength to strength. After this handover of power, that the Castle would begin to become a serious target for invading armies and in 1539, Donald Grumach MacDonald, a claimant to the Lordship of the Isles, was killed by an arrow shot from the castle by Duncan MacRae as he besieged its walls.

Later, during the Jacobite Rising of 1719, the Eilean Donan would become home to a garrison of Spanish troops controlled by staunch Jacobite, William MacKenzie, 5th Earl of Seaforth, as they waited for a delivery of weapons and a cannon from Spain. Unfortunately for them, the English caught wind of this short stay and, despite the relative safety previous tenants had enjoyed at the castle due to its isolation, the British Government would launch a fleet of 3 heavily armed frigates to preempt a full-scale invasion. The ships would bombard the castle for 3 days, meeting limited success due to its 14 feet thick walls, before invading and forcing the Spanish defenders to surrender. Upon taking the castle, the English forces found 343 barrels of gunpowder, which would then be used to destroy what was left of the castle following the bombardment.

Eilean Donan would lie in a state of disrepair for the next 200 years until the island was purchased in 1911 by Lt Colonel John Macrae-Gillstrap. McRae would dedicate the next 20 years of his life to rebuilding the once great castle, restoring it to its former glory, and the newly constructed fortification would be reopened in July of 1932 in addition to the now iconic arched bridge which connects the castle to the mainland. The structure would stay under the control of the MacRaes until 1983 when it was passed to the ownership of the Conchra Charitable Trust. It has been open to the public since the year 1955 and now features a tremendous visitor centre.

Eilean Donan is an icon of Scottish culture and has featured on numerous advertising campaigns for Scottish tourism, boxes of shortbread and multiple blockbuster movies such as the James Bond film, The World is Not Enough in 1999. It is a true piece of Scottish history and is rightly revered by many Scots as one of the country’s greatest landmarks.

Surprise a loved one this Christmas with one of our personalised Scottish Clan Products HERE.

Learn more about the history of Clan MacKenzie HERE.

Kisimul Castle, Castlebay, Barra – Clan MacNeil

Kisimul Castle -Clan Macneil

Rather than using a traditional moat for protection, Kisimul Castle uses the water of Castlebay in Barra as a natural defence against incoming enemy invaders.

The castle is the traditional clan seat of the MacNeil clan and is said to have been constructed as early as the 11th century by ‘Neil of the Castle’ MacNeil, a direct descendent of Neil of the Nine Hostages, High King of Ireland at the end of the 4th century.

The MacNeil clan would then make the castle their long term home and are said to have fought at the Battle of Bannockburn on the side of Robert the Bruce in 1314 during the Scottish Wars of Independence before later being given the title of Lords of Barra with ‘Gilleonan MacNeil’ becoming the first person to hold the accolade in 1427.

Having such great power in a relatively isolated part of Scotland did lead to the MacNeils committing some gruesome acts, however, perhaps none more so than ‘Marion of the Heads’, second wife of Gilleonan, who earned her nickname after beheading her stepsons to ensure her own son’s succession as the head of the clan.

The isolation did have other benefits, however, and meant that the clan was able to remain well protected from attacks with Barra being hard to access from the Scottish mainland, where battles often raged. The castle was, however, besieged several times during clan wars and the MacNeils would travel across the water to fight in battles at Worcester and Killiecrankie before taking up the Jacobite cause in 1715.

Despite not actually fighting during the Jacobite Risings, the clan’s chief would be imprisoned for his connection to Bonnie Prince Charlie and an agent even reported in 1750 that the clan were to support the exiled Bonnie Prince Charlie by raising 150 men to start a new rising after the disastrous defeat of Cullodden in 1746.

This proposed rising didn’t end up coming to fruition, however, and the 14th chief, Roderick, was later forced to sell the castle and all his lands around Barra to the Gordons of Cluny in 1840. Kisimul would then pass under the control of the Cathcarts before finally being returned to the Macneils in 1937. It has since been restored over the course of the 20th century and is now under the control of Historic Environment Scotland after being leased to the organisation for 1000 years by the family in 2001.

Learn more about the MacNeil Clan HERE.

Make your Christmas a Scottish one with one of our personalised Scottish products HERE.

Balnagown Castle, Easter Ross – Clan Ross

Balnagown Castle - Clan Ross

Now owned by the Egyptian-born businessman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, Balnagown Castle is the traditional clan seat of the Ross family and is located beside the village of Kildary in Easter Ross.

A castle was first constructed on the site of Balnagown in the early 14th century by Hugh Mormaer, Earl of Ross, however, after the death of Hugh, the family would lose their royal favour and the lands that came with it.

The castle would come back into the family’s hands, however, in 1375 and would remain with them thereafter with Hugh’s stepson expanding the estate, something that would be continued by later generations over the next few centuries.

During this time, the castle would be transformed, ‘from a humble stone fortress to a castle fit for a laird’, with the first main cosmetic changes to the structure coming in the late 16th century when the 10th laird of Balnagown would transform the castle’s original tower by increasing its height and width.

The Balnagown estate would continue to be expanded over time and after the 12th Laird was captured after the Battle of Worcester in 1651, the 13th laird, David, would rebuild Balnagown completely before passing it to the Rosses of Halkheld in 1711 after failing to produce an heir.

The castle would again pass to another branch of the family in 1754 when it came under the control of Admiral Sir John Lockhart-Ross, 6th Baronet. Like his predecessors, the admiral would spend much of his time improving the Balnagown Estate and was said to have been “the most efficient and enterprising Highland estate manager of his day”. The admiral’s son, Sir Charles Lockhart-Ross would also add the castle’s Italian Gardens in the years following his death.

Despite this constant improvement, Balnagown would sadly fall into disrepair by the middle of the 20th century thanks to the mismanagement of Sir Charles Ross, 9th Baronet. Despite having good intentions for the castle-like his ancestors, Ross would sadly be forced to leave Scotland after attempting to declare the estate a territory of the United States of America to evade taxation on his arms business which manufactured the popular ‘Ross Rifle’. This bold move would lead to him being branded an outlaw by the British Government for a time and meant that he would not be able to return to the United Kingdom until his death in 1942, leaving the castle abandoned.

Balnagown would remain without an interested owner until 1972 when, after finding the castle in a dilapidated state, Egyptian businessman, Mohamed Al-Fayed, would purchase the castle after stumbling across it while on a business trip to the highlands.

Mr Al-Fayed would purchase the castle within a week of first visiting it and would renovate the structure twice over the next thirty years while slowly re-purchasing the lands of the estate which had been lost after being sold in an attempt to fund repairs on the castle. In recognition of his restoration of the castle, Mohamed Al Fayed was awarded the freedom of the highlands and still regularly stays at the castle with his family.

Find out more about Clan Ross HERE.

Make your Christmas a Scottish one this year with one of our Scottish products HERE.

 

Bothwell Castle, South Lanarkshire – Clan Murray

Bothwell Castle - Clan Murray

One of the largest stone castles in Scotland, the ruined Bothwell Castle was once the ancient home of the powerful Murray Clan and an important stronghold in central Scotland.

Located between the Lanarkshire towns of Bothwell and Uddingston, the castle was originally constructed in the mid 13th century by Walter Moray and his son William ‘the rich’ Moray after the family acquired the property in 1242 and it would quickly become an important castle, thanks to its position and size.

The first real test of the castle would come during the Scottish Wars of Independence when it was taken over by English forces in 1298 and such was the strength of the castle, it would take 14 months of constant besiegement by the Scots to regain control. It would then be recaptured by a much larger English army in 1301 and would then stay in English hands until 1314, during which time it would serve as the headquarters for Aymer de Valence, Edward I’s Warden of Scotland.

The castle was a constant target for invading English forces due to its strategic location on the banks of the River Clyde and was taken again in 1336 under the orders of Edward III. Edward would rebuild the castle (after it had been partially destroyed by angry Scots who associated the building with English rule), however, it would fall almost as quickly as it was taken when Andrew Murray, the rightful owner of the structure and a good friend of Robert the Bruce, would retake the stronghold before pulling down a section of the western wall into the River Clyde to assure it could not be occupied by the English again.

The castle would remain abandoned until the 1360s when, following the marriage of Joan Moray of Bothwell, the heiress of the Morays, to Archibald Douglas, the castle would fall into the hands of the Douglas Clan. The Douglases would immediately begin to rebuild Bothwell and by 1424 they had constructed the great hall, north-east and south-east towers and a curtain wall.

After the ‘Black’ Douglases were forced to forfeit their lands in 1455, the castle once again changed ownership, this time passing to the Crichtons, the Ramsays and finally, the Hepburns. This revolving door of ownership would eventually come to an end when the castle was returned to the Douglases in 1488 when it was exchanged for Hermitage Castle in Liddlesdale.

Unfortunately for Bothwell, this would also signal the end for the castle as a functional living space as it was subsequently abandoned by the family in favour of a new mansion nearby as they demolished the castle’s northeast tower in the process for its stone. Bothwell would remain under the control of the Douglases until the 19th century when it passed to the Homes and in 1935, the structure was finally given a new lease of life when it was placed under the care of the state and has since been repaired with part of the curtain wall being rebuilt.

Bothwell Castle remains a prominent structure in the Lanarkshire area and can be visited easily from either Glasgow or Edinburgh in under an hour’s drive. It is well worth a visit for anyone interested in Scottish history, particularly the Scottish Wars of Independence, and is a must-see for any Murrays passing through the area.

Find out more about the history of Clan Murray HERE.

Celebrate your Scottish history with a traditional Scottish Clan Plaque HERE.

Castle Leod, Ross-shire – Clan MacKenzie

Castle Leod Clan MacKenzie seat

Widely considered to be the inspiration for ‘Castle Leoch’, the seat of Clan MacKenzie in the cult TV series, ‘Outlander’, Castle Leod is home to the real Clan MacKenzie and is an imposing structure located within a stunning wood, around 5 miles to the west of the Highland town of Dingwall.

Originally the location of a fort which was built after the last ice age, the structure would at one point become home to Thorfinn II, the Norse King, who would base himself at this primitive Pictish castle during the Battle of Torfness in 1030 when MacBeth was said to have taken the Scottish Throne

This original structure would not last for very long, however,  as it would soon be replaced by a stone keep which would remain until the late 15th century when the land would come under the control of its most famous rulers, the MacKenzies. During the years between the life of Thorfinn II and the arrival of the MacKenzies, the castle would be modified to closely resemble its current design with only minor alterations made in the subsequent years, such as the removal of a lower story which once existed below the castle. It is this castle that the MacKenzies would inherit as a reward following the participation of John of Killin, 10th Chief of Clan MacKenzie, in the battle of Flodden in 1513 and the structure would remain the family’s home to this day.

Over the years, the MacKenzies would grow to be one of the strongest clans in Scotland, largely thanks to the work of Sir Rory Mackenzie, the de-facto chief and one of the most feared men in the highlands during the 16th century. His son, George, would become the first Earl of Cromartie and would serve as the Secretary of State for Scotland while retaining a strong friendship with the famous scientist, Sir Isaac Newton.

Later, George, the 3rd Earl, would move against the establishment and raise around 500 Mackenzie men to take part in the 1745 Jacobite rising on the side of Bonnie Prince Charlie. The Mackenzies would fight on the front line at the Battle of Falkirk but George would be captured the day before the infamous Battle of Culloden and sentenced to death while the family would be stripped of their titles and estates. However, thanks to the bravery of his wife, ‘Bonnie Bell’ Isabella Gordon,who would show extraordinary bravery to petition the king and befriend the Prince of Wales, his sentence was reduced to a life of exile in Devon.

George’s son, Lord MacLeod, would be allowed to leave custody at the age of 19 and would be recognised as a fantastic soldier in Sweden, where he would be given the title of ‘Count Cromartie of Sweden’, before returning to Castle Leod where he would see out the rest of his days.

The family’s fortunes would then wane, although the castle would be renovated in the mid 19th century by the Hay-Mackenzies, who would also add a large extension to the north of the castle as a new section for use by the family’s butler. The structure would see another restoration in the early 1990s as its roof was made watertight.

Today, the castle still occupies fine grounds, including a rose garden and a 470-year-old sweet chestnut tree, which was planted in 1550. It can be visited by the public on a number of limited days throughout the year.

Learn more about the MacKenzie Clan by clicking HERE.

Celebrate your Scottish heritage with a traditional Scottish clan plaque by clicking HERE.

 

 

 

Finlaystone House, Renfrewshire – Clan Cunningham

Finlaystone house Clan Cunningham

Overlooking the banks of the River Clyde, Finalystone House is a clan seat which has passed between multiple different families since its initial establishment in the 12th century.

Perhaps most famous as the traditional home of the Cunningham family, the house has also been used by the Dennistons in the 12th century and later the Kidstons and MacMillans until the present day.

Originally, ‘Finlay’s Town’ was said have been part of the 12th-century lands of Danziel and it is from here that the Dennistoun family took their name with the family being recorded as the ‘Barons of Danziel’s Town’ around this time. The Dennistouns would hold this land until 1399 when Sir Robert Danielstoun, who was confirmed in 1393 to be the holder of the estate, passed away leaving the Barony of Finlaystone to fall under the control of his daughter, Margaret, and her husband, William Cunningham.

The Cunninghams would be made the Earls of Glencairn in 1488 with Alexander Cunningham, the first person to hold the title, unfortunately dying in battle only 14 days after. The family would then go on to become influential supporters of the Scottish Reformation, with the grounds of the estate hosting the world’s first Protestant Reformed Communion service in 1566, held by the preacher John Knox. The Earls of Glencairn would later support Charles I & II during the rule of Oliver Cromwell with William, 9th Earl, narrowly escaping execution by Cromwell before being made Lord High Chancellor of Scotland by Charles II following the restoration.

In the following century, Finlaystone would receive one of its most distinguished guests when Scotland’s national bard, Robert Burns, dined in the house and commemorated the occasion by scratching his name onto a windowpane. James, 14th Earl, was said to have rescued Burns, “from wretchedness and exile”, and Burns would name his son James Glencairn Burns after the Earl. Despite this, the Finlaystone which Burns visited is not that same estate that we know today as the modern house was only constructed in the mid 18th century following the destruction of older buildings around this time. The central part of the modern house was built during this period and it is from here that the construction of the modern Finlaystone began.

Not long after this construction, John, 15th Earl of Glencairn, died childless in 1796 with the estate passing to his cousin, Robert Graham, who subsequently took the additional Cunninghame name upon his succession. The Cunninhghame Grahams would continue to live happily at Finlaystone in the ensuing years and even a scandal involving William Cunninghame Graham, known in the family as ‘the swindler’ due to his propensity for forging banknotes, could not force the family to move (although William was forced to sell most of his possessions to repay the bank.)

This happiness would not last, however, and William’s grandson, William Bontine Cunninghame Graham, was forced to sell the estate after accruing serious debts and it was passed to Sir David Carrick-Buchanan before being rented to George J. Kidston in 1873 and bought outright in 1897. Kidston was the Chairman of the Clyde Shipping Company, the oldest steamship company in the world, and would employ John James Burnet as his architect to give the house a more modern style. Burnet developed the ground floor, added a top story into the roof and constructed a pair of distinctive marble pillars to the interior of the home which led to it being classified as a ‘historic’ building.

In later years, the house would pass to the control of the MacMillans following the marriage of Marion Blackiston-Houston, a descendant of Kidston, to the solider, Gordon Holmes Alexander MacMillan. Sir Gordon was not even aware that he was the clan chief of the MacMillan Family until accidentally discovering his true pedigree in 1952 and since then the house has been home to the MacMillan clan chiefs. His son, George Gordon MacMillian, would succeed him in 1955 and opened the wider estate to the public in 1975 as a paid attraction. It has since become a fantastic asset for the local area as a popular visitor attraction with a tea room, play areas and a visitor centre.

Finlaystone is also one of Scotcrest’s local clan seats, situated only 10 minutes drive away from our headquarters and the MacMillan family remain good friends of the Scotcrest team to this day.

Celebrate your Scottish heritage by purchasing a Scottish family clan plaque HERE.

Learn more about the Cunningham Clan HERE.

Learn more about the MacMillan Clan HERE.

 

 

Borthwick Castle, Midlothian – Clan Borthwick

Borthwick Castle Clan Borthwick

One of the largest and best-preserved medieval fortifications in Scotland, Borthwick Castle has played a part in the lives of many key historical figures over the years, including Mary, Queen of Scots and Oliver Cromwell.

The property is also the historical seat of the Borthwick Clan and was first given to the family in the year 1430 when it was sold to Sir William Borthwick, later the first lord. William had been given a license to build a castle on the land by King James I after he had volunteered to be a substitute hostage in the ransom of the King in the year 1425 and would do so immediately, constructing a tower which would rise to 90 feet in height. William and his wife are still remembered as the builders of the castle today and their legacy is maintained by a tomb located in the nearby Borthwick Parish Curch, which includes two finely carved stone effigies of the couple.

The castle would later serve as a home for the infant King James V as he was looked after by the 4th Lord Borthwick,  following his father’s death at the disastrous battle of Flodden in 1315. It would once again act as a refuge for the Scottish monarch when James’ daughter, Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed in the castle in 1567 as she fled from Edinburgh following the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley. She stayed at the castle with Lord Bothwell, the chief murder suspect, until a 1000 strong army commanded by Scottish barons surrounded the fortification and she was forced to flee, disguised as a man, before being arrested and taken to Lochleven Castle, where she was held in captivity.

An extract of a letter addressed to the Archbishop of Glasgow at the time describes the moment that Mary escaped from Borthwick, saying, “The Lordis came suddenly to Borthwick; Bothwell fled to Dunbar, and the Lordis retyred to Edinbrough. She followed Bothwell to Dunbar, disguised.”

In the following century, the castle would come under attack from the forces of Oliver Cromwell, an assault which left scars to the castle that can still be seen to this day through a large gouge in the stonework on the east wall. During the attack, Lord Borthwick was ordered to leave his castle by Cromwell as he and his Parliamentarian forces marched through Scotland towards Edinburgh, however, the Lord refused and Cromwell opened fire, before, after a few cannonballs, he reconsidered his decision.

The threatening letter which was sent to Borthwick by Cromwell ahead of the bombardment survives to this day and states, “if you necessitate me to bend my cannon against you, you must expect what I doubt you will not be pleased with.”

The Borwick family would leave the castle around the time of this raid and the fortification would become abandoned until its restoration in the late 19th and early 20th century.  It would later be used as a place for storing national records during the Second World War and has since been leased as a conference centre before becoming a modern hotel.

Celebrate your Scottish heritage with one of our woodcarver clan plaques HERE.

Learn more about the Borthwick clan HERE.