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    Thirlestane Castle 2: our unforgettable visit of the castle!

    In my last post I told you about the wonderful days we shared in Thirlestane Castle with our dear friends Iain and Margaret! Souvenirs ! Souvenirs ! In the living-room of our magnificent apartment, situated in the south wing of the castle, a glittering Christmas tree added its cheerful note to the warm and cosy atmosphere of the place. We’ll never forget our stay there! Outside, an unexpected fine weather, with a clear blue sky, allowed us to take good winter pictures of the castle and of a few places around (Melrose Abbey, Dryburgh Abbey…). It was rather cold however and the fine weather didn’t last long, alas.

     

    Thirlestane Castle in the Scottish Borders © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle in the Scottish Borders © 2019 Scotiana

    We had first discovered Thirlestane Castle in July 2007 and we re-discovered it in December 2019…

    Happy are those who can live here all year long through the changing seasons… we’ve admired and smelled the fragrance of its lovely roses in summer and in winter we’ve seen the frost giving a touch of magic to the green lawns while our Christmas tree was glittering at the window… we still miss the autumn colours and carpets of daffodils swaying in the breeze as to celebrate a new day and a new season in front of the beautiful pink sandstone façade …

    Thirlestane Castle rose garden © 2007 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle rose garden © 2007 Scotiana

    We’ve learned fascinating things about the history of the castle and of the Maitland family during our winter holiday for we were given the opportunity to visit the castle with a private guide and the gentleman was a local historian who was very fond of the castle and eager to share his enthusiasm with us and some of the secrets echoing between the old walls.

    Arms of the Earls of Lauderdale as shown in Brown's The Peerage of Scotland, 1834

    Arms of the Earls of Lauderdale as shown in Brown’s The Peerage of Scotland, 1834

    The current Earl of Lauderdale is Ian Maitland, 18th Earl of Lauderdale (born 4 November 1937 in Belgrade). Pour la petite histoire, I’ve learned that, as the “Bearer for the Sovereign of the Sovereign’s National Flag for Scotland”, one of the Officers of the Royal Household in Scotland, the Earl of Lauderdale has the right to bear the saltire for the Sovereign. That’s a great honour !

    Arms of the Earl of Lauderdale Chief of Clan Maitland

    Arms of the Earl of Lauderdale Chief of Clan Maitland

    The historical family seat is Thirlestane Castle and, presently, it is home of Captain the Hon. Gerald Maitland-Carew and his family. The captain lives in a nearby cottage and his son Edward together with his family live in the north wing of the castle.

    While in holiday at Thirlestane we happened to come across several members of the family: Edward and Sarah and their two young children, Emily and Thomas. We were very happy to have the opportunity to exchange a few words with Edward who appears to be a very friendly gentleman, très soucieux du bien-être de ses hôtes

    Thirlestane Castle brochure

    Thirlestane Castle brochure

    Now, let us begin our visit of the place. I’ve selected some of our pictures, taken in July 2007 and December 2019 and a few passages from the very interesting and well-documented Castle brochure which is open on my desk. Indeed, I’ve followed the order of book chapters and I’ve also made use of the little plans illustrating the text. I’ve found them very useful to help situate each room  in the vast labyrinthic T-shaped building.

    Below is the list of the chapters… in this 2nd post about Thirlestane Castle I will focus on the first six ones…

    • The Entrance Hall
    • The Panelled Room & Library
    • The Billiards Room and Small Libraries
    • The Duke’s Room and the Grand Bed Chamber
    • Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room
    • The Large Drawing room
    • Ante Drawing Room and Chinese Room
    • The Dining Room
    • The Maitland Room
    • The Nurseries
    • The Kitchen Scullery and Laundries
    • Border Country Life Exhibitions

     

    Thirlestane Castle 3D plan DSC02795

    Thirlestane Castle 3D plan DSC02795

    1 – The Entrance Hall

    Tired and dirty from long journeys on difficult roads, visitors in Victorian days would have climbed the imposing stone steps at Thirlestane to find themselves in this low-ceilinged hallways, remodelled in 1840 from the 16th original.

    Oak panelling and a welcoming blaze in the distinctive pink granitefireplace would have offered guests a congenial atmoshphere in which to remove muddy coats and boots and take a moment to compose themselves before being ushered in to meet their hosts.

    (Thirlestane Castle Trust brochure)

    Thirlestane Castle Entrance Hall Thirlestane brochure plan

    Thirlestane Castle Entrance Hall scale model © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle Entrance Hall scale model © 2019 Scotiana

     

    Thirlestane Castle The Entrance Hall - grandfather clock and arms © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle The Entrance Hall – grandfather clock and arms © 2019 Scotiana

    • a beautiful scale model castle
    • swords hanging on the walls
    • a beautiful ancient grandfather clock
    • an elaborate ceiling though not the most beautiful one in the castle
    • one of the many pink granite fireplaces to be found in the castle.

    2 -The Large Library

     

    Thirlestane Castle plan 2 The panelled Room and Library

    The large library together with another panelled room are situated in the centre of the old keep.

    Thirlestane Castle panoramic view of the large library © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle panoramic view of the large library © 2019 Scotiana

    Books, books, books ! A panelled room, a fireplace and two comfortable sofas to sit with a book… please let me there !

    This room and the other panelled room were originally vaulted but on our picture you can see that today they have elaborate ceilings.

    Thirlestane Castle panoramic view of the large library © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle panoramic view of the large library © 2007 Scotiana

    3 – The Billiards Room and small libraries :

    These rooms are situated at the very back of the keep, the billiards room between the north and south drum towers, and the small libraries in the towers themselves.

    Thirlestane Castle Billiards room and small libraries

    Thirlestane Castle Billiards room and small libraries

     

    Thirlestane Castle panoramic view of the small Library © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle panoramic view of the small Library © 2019 Scotiana

    Another library with book-lined walls ! Waouh !  There are two libraries in fact,  as you can see on the above plan,  a North and a South Library. I can’t remember of two distinct rooms. I will pay attention next time. But there are more than books in this room as you can see on our pictures ! Thirlestane Castle Small Library old cameras © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle Small Library old cameras © 2019 Scotiana

    What you can see here is a display of photographs and photographic equipment! A passionate photographer seems to have lived here. It seems to have been the 14th Earl Maitland.

    Thirlestane Castle Small Library with its rococo lectern © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle Small Library with its rococo lectern © 2019 Scotiana

    In the small library you can see an impressive rococo-style Italian lectern on which stands a big family bible printed in 1772. It was presented by the printers to Anthony Todd, the Postmaster General of the Day. Ten years later, Todd’s daughter Eleanor became Countess of Lauderdale on her marriage to James, the 8th Earl.

    Before leaving the room, just have a look at the window recess ! It will give you an idea ot the thickness of the walls, up to 13 feet in places, that is about 4 metres !

    Thirlestane Castle the billiards room © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle the billiards room © 2019 Scotiana

    The game of billiards became extremely fashionable in the 19th when gas-lit billiards rooms, hazy with cigar smoke, were a favourite after-dinner retreat for the men of the house. (Thirlestane Castle Brochure)

    4 – The Duke’s Room and the Grand Bed Chamber

    Thirlestane Castle brochure The Duke's Room & The Grand Bed Chamber plan

    Thirlestane Castle brochure The Duke’s Room & The Grand Bed Chamber plan

     

    Thirlestane Castle Duke's Bed Chamber © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle Duke’s Bed Chamber © 2019 Scotiana

    Here’s the kind of room fit for a duke and John Maitland, the 2nd Earl of Lauderdale, happens to have been the only duke of the family. In 1672, John Maitland had been rewarded with a dukedom by Charles II for his loyalty to the king. A most extraordinary personality and colourful character, a controversial figure too !

     

    John Duke of Lauderdale by Lely © 2019 Scotiana

    John Duke of Lauderdale by Lely © 2019 Scotiana

    A large, red-haired man whose coarse manner belied an exceptional intellect, he became a leading Royalist. Captured by Cromwell’s forces at the battle of Worcester in 1651, his imprisonment in the Tower of London for nine years under sentence of death did nothing to blunt his ambition.

    He was released in 1660 at the Restoration and made Secretary of State for Scotland.

    Such was the Duke’s influence that he was regarded by many as the uncrowned king of Scotland.

    (Thirlestane Castle brochure)

    Thirlestane Castle the Duke's Room ceilings © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle the Duke’s Room ceilings © 2019 Scotiana

    The duke wanted the best architects and artisans to turn his baronial castle into a palace and he didn’t hesitate to engage the King’s favourite ones. Sir William Bruce, one of the greatest Scottish architects, was commissioned to do the job. He added front towers and a grand staircase to the austere façade, and designed sumptuous interiors. Whether we like them or not, we can’t but admire the magnificent and very elaborate ceilings which ornate several rooms of the castle. They which are due to George Dunsterfield, a famous English plasterer who worked for Charles II.

    5 – Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room

    Thirlestane Castle brochure Bonnie Prince's Charlie Room plan

    Thirlestane Castle brochure Bonnie Prince’s Charlie Room plan

     

    Thirlestane Bonnie Prince Charlie's Room © 2007 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room © 2007 Scotiana

    On 3 November 1745,  Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Jacobite army left Dalkeith where they had stayed two nights. His aim was to reach London with the intention of reclaiming the crown.  On their route to England the Prince decided to make a stop at Thirlestane Castle. While the young prince stayed in the now called “Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room”, his men camped in the castle’s parkland. It must have been cold at this time of the year but the soldiers were used to  harsh conditions and… the worst was still to come…

    Thirlestane Castle Bonnie Prince Charlie's Room © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room © 2019 Scotiana

    On this framed document, a text beautifully written, reads :

    3 November : … the Prince’s column marched to Lauder & he led the march on foot with his target over his shoulder. There he lodged at Thirlestane Castle beloging to the Earl of Lauderdale. He occupied the north room behind the Red Drawing Room, now known as Prince Charlie’s Room. The castle was unoccupied so bed & bedding had to be brought from an Inn in the town which has since been demolished.

    Photo of a targe(t) that belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie - Wikimedia

    Photo of a targe(t) that belonged to Bonnie Prince Charlie – Wikimedia

    6 – The Large Drawing Room

    Thirlestane Castle brochure plan The Large Drawing Room

    Thirlestane Castle brochure plan The Large Drawing Room

     

    Thirlestane Castle The Large Drawing Room © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle The Large Drawing Room © 2019 Scotiana

    This large drawing-room is absolutely magnificent… our picture doesn’t do it justice but at least it gives an idea of the ceiling…  I was not a fan of this kind of plasterwork before seeing the ceilings at Thirlestane and, in fact, I can’t imagine this room without its very elaborate ceiling…

    Thirlestane Castle The Large Drwing Room piano stool © 2019 Scotiana

    Thirlestane Castle The Large Drwing Room piano stool © 2019 Scotiana

    I like very much this original piano stool…  not sure however it’s comfortable to sit on it for hours…

    To sit and dream…

    … that’s exactly what I’m doing, remembering our winter holiday in Thirlestane Castle and I hope you will dream too, trying to imagine what it can be to live for a few days la vie de château.

    Like all castles Thirlestane has its secrets and though I still don’t know much about them, what I know I’ll try to share with you.  So, stay tuned for I’ve still much to say …

    Á bientôt.

    Mairiuna.

     

     

     

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