“ Address: Innerleithen / Peeblesshire / EH44 6PW / Scotland „
We visited Traquair House in the Scottish Borders on a recent trip there at the end of July. We picked Traquair to visit out of all the Borders castles because it had a maze something I have always wanted to do and for my husband they have a brewery so he wanted to have a look around there and have a few samples of the real ale.
Where is it
Traquair house is 1.5 miles away from Innerleithan which is on the A72 between Peebles and Galashiels. The road off the A72 to Traquair house is a bit twisty so you will need to drive slowly especially as it is very easy to miss the left hand turning into the grounds. You also come out a different exit so it is easy to get lost but if you are heading back to the main road take a left turn!
Traquair markets itself as a visitor's attraction as the Scotland's oldest inhabited house. The castle was initially a hunting lodge for the Scottish royalty and would be the centre where they could administer justice, issue laws and generally uphold laws.
The house has through various twists, turns and wars become home to the Stuart family and the Lord of Traquair. Some of the important historical points have influenced the house and its history. Most noticeable of this was the family upholding the catholic tradition and also being part of the Jacobite rebellion. The house first became a tourist attraction in 1953 showing people around a few rooms following the Second World War and has gradually gone on to open more of the house to tourist. A full history of the house is available on its website for anyone to read.
Our experience and about the house and grounds
We got there on a warmish summer day and paid our entrance admission at the gates and went to park alongside the drive. The original drive with its bear gates is now grassed over. There is plenty of parking for the attraction. At the end of the car park there is a map to aid you finding your way about you also get given a map of the grounds with your admission ticket.
As our toddler was still asleep from the car journey I left hubby in the car with the sleeping boy whilst I went off to investigate some of the craft areas. To my major disappointment these were all shut bar one. The owners of the other craft shops were away on holiday. Now I know logically they need a break but hey this is July and tourist season surely they wanted me to spend my money on their goods! The only shop that was open was selling leather and sliver goods that were crafted in a Celtic fashion with lots of Celtic knots. Though these were well made they weren't to my taste so I didn't linger long and went back to the car.
By this time our son was waking up so we unloaded our picnic for lunch. There is a picnic area under some trees with benches but we choose to do what some other people were doing too and spread our rug out on the grassy slope of the originally drive. Several cheeky peacocks came to try our sandwiches much to our sons delight.
Once replenished we decided to do one of the walks around the grounds. The walk we choose was the woodland walk. This starts at the corner of the house and follows a path around the outer parts of the grounds of the house. You walk past the children's playground and head into the woods. This walk was delightful as you go past several babbling burns and streams and through pine woods. During July there were a few of the dreaded Scottish midge near the water but we all managed to avoid being bitten. The walk is illustrated on the leaflet you get given with your admission fee. During the course of the walk at the points where you can go in several directions there are numbered wooden posts to point you in the right direction. At a leisurely amble with our son in our trusty baby backpack it took about 45 minutes to an hour to walk around and stop to take several pictures of the our selves against the back drop of the house or woods. The walk ends back at the front of the house and the wine glass lawn.
We then amble our way back towards the back of the house to head to do the maze. This was something we were all looking forward to and we had high hopes of wearing our son down so he would get a good night sleep. It was unfortunately time for the second disappointment of the day. The maze was also closed for essential maintenance. Again I was totally agog that in July and what I thought would be the height of the tourist season they were closed to trim the hedges. We continued to spend time outside though and admired the various different rare breed hens that were in runs by the maze and looked at a few of the pigs. We then walked around the gardens to see cupids garden. The flowers in this were very fragrant and there was a small statue of cupid was very robust as my son rushed up to touch it and it survived the experience.
Following this we returned to go round the house. We started on the ground floor and looked through various windows at the vaulted cellars these contained several different exhibits including a tongue in cheeky tribute to ghosts now as a most of the viewing windows are at eye level and you can only enter one of the vaulted rooms we had to keep lifting our son up to see things. A disabled visitor wouldn't be able to see these I don't think. In fact the only room in this part of that house that is wheelchair friendly is the Still Room with it large collection of china. To see the rest of the house we put our son back into the baby carrier as the stairs are very steep and twisty. On the next floors there are several imposing room rooms including a drawing room and the king's room. The king's room is where Mary Queen of Scots is said to have stayed and contains the crib that was used for her son who became King James VI whom the room is named after. There are several guides who man the different rooms for you to ask questions about the various exhibits and they certainly where friendly and knowledgeable when we asked a few questions about some of the paintings. Also contained within each room are laminated sheets with information about the room and some of the more special objects within it. In some rooms there were also projectors projecting pictures on to the wall of some members of the current family. I personally found this to be more of a distraction than a benefit.
One of my favourite rooms was the library it is spread over two rooms and all the walls are covered in books. There is also a reading chair which if I ever have a house big enough for a study I want one. It basically is a chair you sit on John Wayne style with a rest for you to put the book on. The books are catalogued by the portraits of the philosophers and poets around the cornicing which I think is a novel way to do things.
The other room that I thought was particularly interesting was a bedroom at the top of the house and this was used to a hid a catholic priest. Part of the bed clothes were actually if worn correctly a priests vestments. From this room there was also a secret passage for the priest to escape if there was a raid by the anti -catholic movement.
From the house you were able to get several fantastic views of the drive way, the bear gates and the rest of the grounds. We were also able to gaze down fondly at the maze. Which I have to say from seeing it from above looked wonderful and full of various turns and no dead ends that should provide a good deal of amusement to the visitor.
Making our way back down stairs we left the main body of the house and were directed by the guide at the door to the drawing room and dining room these were again well displayed and full of information. On the opposite side of the courtyard we went to see the family chapel. This though a quite space for worship and still in use today it was a bit too "high church" for my tastes with lots of religious paintings. Hubby by this point after wearing our son in the backpack was ready to sample the wears of the brewery so off we went to find it.
Here was our third disappointment of the day it too was closed due to them actually brewing beer so you could only look in through the door. However we were directed to the brew shop where you could taste all three beers. The lady doing the tasting though friendly was probably not the most informative about the differences between the beers and how these were achieved in the brewing process. My husband did like the beer and bought several to take home and a beer tankard.
We then walked back up the drive to go for a cake and coffee in the restaurant and to see the walled garden. We decided to have the cream tea, which for £3.50 per person included a pot of tea, a fruit scone with jam and clotted cream I thought as good value for a tourist place. As I don't drink tea the staff were happy to give me a cup of coffee for the same price. We ate these on the patio area and again were joined by a hungry peacock. The scones were lovely and moist with plenty of fruit. The walled garden has a fountain and a garden pond and a delightful horse sculpture.
As this is a very old house the accessibility for disabled visitors are limited. In acknowledgment of this the owners have put together a video tour of the house with commentary that you can ask to watch. The shop has a ramp that can be put in place for you to access this. The restaurant is all on one level. The toilets, which are in a portakabin in the grounds, do include a disabled toilet. According to their website they are also in the process of making a short woodland walk that is wheelchair friendly.
I think they do make children welcome there are, various outdoor play equipment for children to play on and enjoy and if the maze is up and running this would be a great thing for children to do. The toilet in the house did have an area that you could use to change a nappy. But the toilets in the grounds did not.
Other things available
You can actually stay at Traquair house as a guest in one of three rooms on a bed and breakfast basis.
You can get married in the chapel if you are catholic or somewhere in the grounds for civil services if not. It is then possible depending on the size of your wedding to have the reception in either the house or a marquee in the grounds.
They also run various events at Traquair ranging from outdoor plays to art events.
I think this is good house to visit in the Scottish borders and I would probably go there again. The house is full of history with informative guides. There are lots of lovely grounds to walk around. But I will in future phone in advance to check to see if the maze and brewery are open as I was disappointed that they were closed and would like to return there to do both of these things.
House and grounds
Senior Citizens £6.50
Daily from April 10th - October 31st
Weekends only in November
April, May & September 12.00pm - 5.00pm
June, July, August 10.30am - 5.00pm
October 11.00am - 4.00pm
November 11.00am - 3.00pm
Tel: 44 (0)1896 830323
The Traquair dates back to 1107 and was originally a hunting lodge for the kings and queens of Scotland.