The fine dwelling in the picture below is Traquair House, near Peebles in the Borders, as it can be found in an engraving of 1814. There are tales of a heather hut here as far back as 950 but when Alexander I visited here in 1107 it was already a reasonably sized house. Fortified during the wars of Independence and visited by kings from both sides of the border it was eventually bought in the 15th century by descendants of the present owners. It is the oldest continually occupied house in Scotland.
When we visited a couple of weeks ago we found the house very much like it had been left in the 200 year old engraving. There is a great many interesting things to be seen in a tour of the house which, as is usual with stately homes, I am unable to show you because of photography rules. Many of the exhibits emphasis the family's connection to the Stuart royal family, the Jacobite cause and their adherence to Catholicism when it was illegal. There are a number artifacts in the house which are said to have belonged to Mary Queen of Scots including a cradle used by her son, James VI ( 1st of England), and the a (not unusual) lock of Bonnie Prince Charlies' hair and other Jacobite goodies. A little more about Charlie later.
Supporting the loosing side in the Jacobite rebellion didn't help the family and their fortunes went into decline until well into the 20th century. It is in this way that many stately homes in the country fall into disrepair or are handed over to the National Trust but the family, now Maxwell Stuarts, managed to save the house with a little assistance from government grants that became available after the Second World War and by opening it to the public. They also rent out some of the outbuildings to crafts people - only this chap was open when we were there - , hold local fairs in the grounds, do weddings, banquets and even let a few rooms.
Enough words for now. Have a wee wander through the extensive grounds.
The house from the back.
This chap is Charlie, who is a kune kune pig. They are New Zealand in origin, Kune kune means fat and round in Maori.
And his chum Lulu - I'm not sure quite how chummy they are as they had individual pens.
Just as I was leaving this chap headed my way and even had a bit of a pose.
This bridge can be seen on the way out of the estate. It'll be the reason buses and lorry are asked to leave by the front gate (I wonder if somebody spotted this potential problem before it was found out in practice)
These two bears sit on either side of Traquair's famous Bear Gate
They were built by the 5th Earl of Traquair in 1738. In 1745 Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed at the house on the Jacobite's March south into England. When he left through these gates, the Earl had the gates closed and vowed that they wouldn't be opened again until there was a Stuart king on the throne. There hasn't of course been a Stuart king on the throne since and indeed the gates remain closed. The castle entrance is now a few yards to the right of this picture.
Good grief! did I fail to mention that they made beer? In the 18th century the castle did indeed have it's own brewery and having found some of the old recipes the 20th Laird of Traquair restarted it in 1965. It has since become quite a viable brewery and, as if we didn't already know, we felt obliged to run a little quality testing later that evening. If I may say, they do make exceedingly good beer.