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    THIRLESTANE 1: Dream days in a fairy-tale Scottish Castle…

    Who has never dreamed to spend a holiday in one of those fabulous “romantic” castles which have enchanted generations of travellers, artists, writers… a few months ago the dream came true for us and that was like being part of a fairytale story…

    Many many thanks to our dear friends, Iain and Margaret, to whom we owe such a wonderful gift. We’ll never forget the time we shared with them at Thirlestane Castle in the magic atmosphere of Christmas time, our late arrival there, quite late in the afternoon, and Iain so kindly waiting for us on the road, in the dark,  in front of the big castle gates. While waiting for us in the night, Iain had been surprised to see Mr Edward Maitland-Carew himself, the owner of the castle which was driving there with his children, stop his car in front of him and ask if he needed help.  After arriving at last, we followed Iain along the small private road leading to the castle car-park. How happy we were to meet again Margaret!  She and Iain had prepared for us a fabulous Scottish tea with a whole assortment of delicious Scottish cakes and specialties. What a good time we had there, sharing all these delicacies, in the cheerful atmosphere of the apartment our friends had found… it was great to meet up again at last, but in such a place and in front of the illuminated Christmas tree it was truly féérique

    Thirlestane Castle in the Scottish Borders © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle in the Scottish Borders © 2019 Scotiana

    We had fallen in love with Thirlestane Castle twelve years before in July 2007 when we visited it for the first time  but, then, we could never have imagined that we would be invited one day to spend some time in such an enchanting place.

    It is one thing to visit a castle but another one to live in it…

    Iain and Margaret had booked the ‘Earl & Countess Three-Bedroom apartment’.  No need to say we enjoyed every minute of our stay there!

    Thirlestane Castle Earl & Countess apartment window © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle Earl & Countess apartment window © 2019 Scotiana

    Here’s the beautiful jutting out window of our apartment drawing-room … you can see it on the right of the façade… you can’t be mistaken for there is only one window like this one 😉

    Thirlestane Castle drawing-room window © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle drawing-room window © 2019 Scotiana

    What a wonderful surprise to awake in such a splendid bedroom !  You rush to the window and look outside…

    The park in the morning at Thirlestane Castle © 2019 Scotiana

    The park in the morning at Thirlestane Castle © 2019 Scotiana

    December… no snow, just a little frost on the grass… the sky is blue and it will be a sunny day… you need no more to put on warm clothes and go down the staircase trying not to get lost in the labyrinthic corridors of the castle…

    It’s so beautiful outside… so silent… so peaceful… nobody in the area… only a few birds, blackbirds… a winter atmosphere but not so cold and very sunny…

    We are very happy to be here…

    There are five remarkably well restored apartments to rent out in Thirlestane Castle.

    • The Earl & Countess Three-Bedroom apartment
    • The Maitland Two-Bedroom
    • The Lauderdale One-Bedroom
    • Glenburnie One-Bedroom
    • The Sculleries One-Bedroom

    https://www.thirlestanecastle.co.uk/news/launching-our-new-luxury-apartments

     

    Thirlestane Castle Earl & Countess apartment

    Thirlestane Castle Earl & Countess apartment

    “This apartment was formerly the private quarters of the 14th Earl and Countess of Lauderdale and most recently the castle nurseries. It has been exquisitely restored into a three-bedroom apartment, perfect for small groups and families. Accessed by one of the castle’s grand sweeping staircases, its position on the second floor means there are fabulous views of the parkland from the large full height windows.

    A dramatic colour scheme has been used throughout to compliment the statement items of furniture and paintings that have been borrowed from the castle collection.

    The coral walls of the master bedroom highlight the vintage-style bed hanging while its luxurious ensuite is a calming shade of Wedgewood blue. Original bedheads from when the castle was used as a hospital in the First World War complete the room. The bold colours and intricate Schumacher ‘Chiang Mei Dragon’ fabric in the second bedroom offers a nod to the castle’s links with Asia. The 15th Countess’s father was J. J. Bell-Irving, a very successful Hong Kong banker and merchant, and he brought many items back with him which can be seen throughout the castle. The opulence continues in the ensuite shower room with vintage gold taps. The high ceilings throughout the apartment enable a grand four poster bed to be used in the third bedroom. The large windows frame stunning views across the castle estate.

    The main reception room is an open-plan space dominated by a large gilt mirror that until recently hung in the State Drawing Room of the castle. The chandelier casts a soft light over the portraits, one of which is by John Scougall, and the bespoke wallpaper panels featuring designs from an historic antique tapestry. Watch the sunset in the evening over the parkland from the large west-facing bay window.

    With hints of vibrant colour on the walls and historic furnishings, the Earl & Countess give you a stunning castle experience. Completed in January 2019 this is one of the newest apartments available at Thirlestane Castle which can also be taken in conjunction with our other apartments to sleep larger groups.”

    https://www.thirlestanecastle.co.uk/stay/the-earl-countess

    Thirlestane Castle Earl & Countess apartment bedroom

    Thirlestane Castle Earl & Countess apartment bedroom

     

    But now let me tell you more about Thirlestane Castle…

    Thirlestane Castle eagle-gates © 2007 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle eagle-gates © 2007 Scotiana

    Here’s the impressive entrance of the castle. The atmosphere is set: old high walls, ornamental cast-iron gates and stone pillars capped with eagle statues…

    Thirlestane Castle country road © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle country road © 2019 Scotiana

    The gates open into a vast and beautiful park and the small private road crosses a pine wood, goes up and down in a lovely landscape of green meadows planted, here and there, with very ancient and majestic trees. It’s winter but the weather is nice !

    December/July at Thirlestane Castle. Can you notice the difference on our pictures below?

    Thirlestane Castle and its horses in winter © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle and its horses in winter © 2019 Scotiana

    December 2019…

    Horses in Thirlestane Castle park © 2007 Scotiana

    Horses in Thirlestane Castle park © 2007 Scotiana

    Summer 2007 !

    The trees were green, the horses didn’t need a coat.

    It was our first glimpse of the castle emerging in the green background with the Scottish flag waving in the wind 😉

    Thirlestane Castle lane © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle lane © 2019 Scotiana

    Now, back in last winter, we’re now approaching the castle…

    Panoramic view of Thirlestane Castle © 2019 Scotiana

    Panoramic view of Thirlestane Castle © 2019 Scotiana

    Here we are at last, on the castle car-park of Thirlestane Castle… of course, we won’t enter by the main entrance, ours is further on the right and Iain has the key as he had the code to pass the great gates… fortunately for us !

    Thirlestane Castle façade © 2019 ScotianaA

    Thirlestane Castle façade © 2019 ScotianaA

     

    Thirlestane Castle is a magnificent red sandstone16th century castle set in the middle of a lovely pastoral landscape.  But when you see it for the first time you’re immediately struck by the beauty of the many turreted façade, the big staircase, the balconies…

     

    Thirlestane Castle staircase © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle staircase © 2019 Scotiana

    You soon feel like climbing the majestic staircase ornamented with two big urns set on two big pillars and carrying the emblem of the Maitland clan, a lion holding a sword in one paw and a fleur de lys in the other… the staircase leads to a terrace surrounded by beautiful balustrades…

    Thirlestane Cranes © 2007 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Cranes © 2007 Scotiana

    The two Thirlestane Cranes are keeping guard at the entrance…

    Thirlestane Castle Trust brochure

    Thirlestane Castle Trust brochure

    SEVEN HUNDRED YEARS OF HISTORY

    “Nestling in the gentle Border hills, with its rose pink sandstone and fairytale turrets, Thirlestane Castle holds a uniquely important place in Scottish history. It is one of the oldest and finest castles in the land, and home to one of the country’s most distinguished families.”

    (Thirlestane Castle Trust brochure)

    Maitland's original peel tower (Old Thirlestane Castle) - Wikimedia

    Maitland’s original peel tower (Old Thirlestane Castle) – Wikimedia

    12th-13th : on his marriage to Avicia, heiress of Thomas du Thirlestan, Sir Richard Maitland, whose ancestors had arrived in 1066 from France with William the Conqueror acquired, among other places, the land of Thirlestane with its old defensive tower. Its ruins are still visible today at about two miles from the castle. It was from this fortress that Sir Richard repelled the English in 1250. Indeed, the Maitland family was reputed for its patriotism. His son William of Thirlestane was a follower of Robert the Bruce and in 1513 another member of the family died with his king, James IV, on the field of Flodden. But during Scotland’s wars for independence the place often changed hands and sometimes it passed to the enemy…

    It was John Maitland, ‘Chancellor Maitland’, 1st Lord Thirlestane  and Chancellor to King James VI of Scotland, who decided to leave the old tower of Thirlestane to build a new castle.

    The present castle was built in 3 main stages:

    • 1590s : a defensive stone keep is built by ‘Chancellor Maitland’, in the baronial style, with four large round towers at each corner.
    • 1670s : it was Chancellor’s Maitland’s grandson, the first and only Duke of Lauderdale, a man haut en couleur who, well-decided to have a castle worthier of his new rank and ambitions, began to build extensions to his grand-father’s castle. The man was famous at the time. As a devoted Royalist he had been captured by the troops of Cromwell in 1651 and imprisoned in the Tower of London for nine years. After the Restoration he had become a member of Charles II’s cabinet. On his second marriage to the Countess of Dysart, after the death of his first wife, he had been granted the title of Duke of Lauderdale.
    • 1840s : a final extension of the wings

    “In 1972 the castle passed to the grandson of the 15th Earl, Capt. Gerald Maitland-Carew. He assumed the huge task of restoring the castle and preventing further deterioration. He also opened the castle to the public and created the on site café and tea room. Eventually the castle and its contents became a part of a charitable trust that brought in much needed funds to help with the upkeep of the gorgeous structure. The Maitland-Carew family occupy one wing of the castle as their personal residence.

    Gerald’s son Edward Maitland-Carew and his wife Sarah now continue the care of Thirlestane Castle. They host events such as weddings, car shows and outdoor plays, and created five apartments for guests to lease for short term stays.”

    Thirlestane Castle is truly a great place to see in summer as well as in winter.

    Thirlestane Castle sheep grazing © 2007 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle sheep grazing © 2007 Scotiana

    In summer, the view of  sheep, cows and horses peacefully grazing on the thick green carpet, under the Scottish changing skies and in such a beautiful environment,  is delightful and particularly relaxing.

    Thirlestane Castle in summer © 2007 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle in summer © 2007 Scotiana

    and you can also see and enjoy the delicate perfume of the many roses blooming in one of the castle gardens, their white and yellow colours brightening the pink sandstone walls…

    I wonder what Thirlestane Castle looks like later in the winter season, let’s say in February, when the turrets are covered with snow… or in autumn with the trees standing all around in their most gorgeous colours.

     

     

    The Library of Thirlestane Castle © 2007 Scotiana

    The Library of Thirlestane Castle © 2007 Scotiana

    We’ve been quite privileged to visit Thirlestane Castle with a private guide, a very kind gentleman indeed and who was not only a historian with a great knowledge of local history but also a man with a great sense of humour, a man who loved the castle and knew the art of sharing his passion with us… Iain was particularly interested and asked many questions while translating for us a few words which had escaped to us. It was GREAT !  We’ll NEVER forget this second visit of the castle.

    Next time, trying to remember our visit, I will tell you more about Thirlestane Castle, its magnificent rooms and the precious treasures they shelter.

    So, à bientôt,  don’t miss my next post 😉

    Thirlestane Castle has been one of our favourite Scottish castles since the beginning but I must say that now it means much more to us. So, once again, many thanks to Margaret and Iain for these unforgettable days !

    Mairiuna.

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