Traquair House - History and Facts | History Hit

Traquair House

Traquair, Scotland, United Kingdom

Peta Stamper

26 May 2021
Image Credit: Duncan2406 /

About Traquair House

Traquair House is a fortified mansion style house in the Scottish Borders and is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited house in Scotland. Traquair House has been lived in for over 900 years and was originally built as a hunting lodge for Scottish monarchs.

Today the house is lived in by the 21st Lady of Traquair and her family, but the historic house and vast Traquair estate are open to the public.

Traquair House history

Traquair comes from the Celtic words meaning hamlet or dwelling and a winding stream, referring to the site’s location where the Quair burn meets the River Tweed. While the origin date of the house remains uncertain, by 1107 there was a structure to host King Alexander I who whilst there signed a royal charter.

Traquair was a hunting lodge for royals, nestled within the dense Ettrick Forest, but also served as a place to administer justice, hold court, and issue laws. For example, in 1175, William the Lion found a Bishop’s Burgh with a right to hold market on Thursdays – this site later became Glasgow.

During the Wars of Independence in the 13th century, Traquair became one of many fortified tower houses along the Tweed. The towers sent signals down-river to raise alarm during English invasions. Traquair House was returned to the Crown after a brief English occupation when Robert the Bruce became king in 1306, beginning a period of relative peace.

In the 16th century, the Lairds of Traquair were at the centre of political power and Mary, Queen of Scots visited in 1566 with her baby son. Like Mary, the house was associated with the Catholic tradition and Mass continued into the Reformation within the attic that had a secret escape route for priests.

The family’s support for the Jacobites further alienated them from high society, and after a visit from Bonnie Prince Charlie in 1745, Traquair promised not to reopen the gates until the Stuarts returned to the throne.

Traquair House today

For 300 years, there have been no alterations to the main house at Traquair, completed in 1695 by Edinburgh architect James Smith. Visitors are met with a grand driveway and gate leading to a whitewashed stone house with 2 large side wings and a double terrance overlooking formal gardens. Atop the gate, see the Traquair coat of arms.

On a guided tour, see the cradle, bed and room within which Mary, Queen of Scots stayed with her son and future king, James VI and I. Visitors can also wander through the estate’s vast parkland, exploring the maze or ambling down to the River Tweed.

Getting to Traquair House

If driving from Edinburgh, take the A27 from Peebles towards Innerleithen, following the brown signs for Traquair House. The 62 and X62 Borders Buses from Edinburgh to Innerleithen come every 30 minutes, and from Innerleithen Traquair is a 10 minute pathed walk.

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