Not every historic home in Scotland features a thatched roof or crumbling stone castle walls. There's one, in particular, that, from the outside, is really quite modest in design but commanding in presence - but only for those who are permitted past its gates to get a closer look. In 1491, this house was given to the family who would inherit it for thousands of centuries to come. While this might not seem all that significant other than the history that comes with it, the gates to the home were vowed never to be opened until the throne was once again taken by a member of the Stuart family.
To this day, that promise has yet to be fulfilled - but visitors can still tour the inside of the home, which has remained untouched since the 18th century.
The House And The Promise Made
Traquair House holds the title of being the oldest consistently inhabited house in Scotland which alone makes it an incredible piece of history. The Stuart family occupied the house from the end of the 15th century all the way to the 18th century, with not a single non-family member dwelling under its roof in between. Prior to 1738, the house did not have the towering gates surrounding its borders as it does now. These were installed by the fifth Earl of Traquair, where they were used for seven years until Bonnie Prince Charles departed the home. It was at this time that the Earl vowed to never open the Bear Gates again until another Stuart King was to take the throne.
Despite the vow that was made, the gates have been opened - and a select number of visitors are able to tour the home. What they see during their visit, though, is not what most people expect. The house itself has practically been frozen in time since the mid-1700s, and its rooms, including all of the items in them, have been left exactly as they were.
Touring the Traquair House
There's more to see in the Traquair House than just its hallowed halls; each room seems to have a story and each area, a history.
While the upper floors are restricted from visitors, there are many rooms to explore that come with an anecdote or history lesson from pamphlets given during the self-guided tour.
A Well-Lived-In Space
One thing is for sure: the Stuart family truly lived in this house to the fullest, as is evident by how well-worn and loved the interior of the house seems upon first entering. Although the exterior of the house makes it appear fairly large, the rooms inside are modest and not without humility, which is a striking contrast from what one might think of when they consider a royal home. The furniture - original to the home - is fairly worn-in and has the obvious appearance of a lively home, just as the items that are now considered antiques were obviously used in abundance at one point.
A Visual History, Room-By-Room
As visitors progress past the front hall entryway, they'll be taken first to the cellars at the lowermost part of the house. This is where the family kept their crockery collection, as well as where the servant's areas were located. There was also a space for food storage in this area of the home, along with a rather spooky scene setup.
Before visitors are taken back to the main floor, they'll be shown a separate area downstairs where an eerie cast of an old woman has been staged in a rocking chair. After being sufficiently spooked, guests are permitted to explore the home room by room, with informative sheets that are posted around each, detailing the room's history. However, before that happens, it's advised that visitors watch the video detailing the house's history before going back up to the upper floors.
Along the way, guests will read stories about those who lived and visited the house, along with its historic relationship with the Jacobite Rebellions of Scotland. A bed which Mary Queen of Scots used on her visit to Traquair House is also on display, as well as some interesting items, like the cloak that the Fifth Earl of Nithsdale used to escape the Tower of London with help from his wife (he was disguised as a maid - it's quite the tale!).
Visiting Traquair House
- Open: April - June + September, 11 AM - 5 PM daily / July - August, 10 AM - 5 PM daily / October, 11 AM - 4 PM daily / November, Saturdays & Sundays 11 AM - 3 PM with guided tours
- Cost: Adult £ 9, Child £ 4.50, Senior £ 8, Family £25
- Languages: English
- Accessible areas: Tearoom, surrounding grounds, house ground floor, gift shop, cafe, bathrooms, brewery, hedge maze
- Address: Innerleithen, Peeblesshire, EH44 6PW, 01896 830323