Traquair House, near the town of Peebles, is one of the oldest continuously inhabited houses in Scotland. In 1491, James Stuart inherited it, and the house has been in the hands of the same family ever since.
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Traquair started as a royal hunting lodge as early as 1107 then became a fortified tower. It was extended and altered over the years. In the 16th and 17th centuries it was turned into a mansion house with the wings being added in 1680. It served both as a pleasure ground for English and Scottish kings (27 have visited) and as a refuge for Catholic priests.
The entry to the grounds is framed by the famous Bear Gates (Steekit Yetts) that were, according to legend, closed by the 5th Earl in 1745 when Prince Charlie left, and the Earl vowed never to reopen them until the Stuarts were restored to the throne.
In the house are portraits, a state bed, and a library of 3000 books from the 18th century. The museum room contains historical documents. Hidden passageways, cupboards and secret staircases attest to the familyís Catholic faith and need to hide a priest in the house. Also on view are the cellars.
Mary, Queen of Scots, visited Traquair in 1556, and there are many of her personal belongings and mementos here, among them are a quilt stitched by her and her ladies in waiting, James VIís crib, a rosary and a copy of the warrant for her execution.
Six miles (10km) southeast of Peebles
At junction of B709 and B7062
Tel. 0 1896 830 323
Open: grounds, April-end Sep, 11am-5pm, Thu, Fri, Sun; house from noon to 5pm, last entry 4pm
Historic Houses Association property; art gallery; shops; parking; tea-room; brewery
Photos courtesy Geograph Britain and Ireland
Traquair House exterior by Graham Horn, Traquair House gates by James Denham