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The History of Borthwick Castle

Located around twelve miles southeast of Edinburgh is the gorgeous Borthwick Castle. It sits slightly to the east of the village of Borthwick on a strong site protected on three sides by a steep fall in the ground. It is a simply stunning castle mainly due to its sheer simplicity.

The history of Borthwick Castle

Borthwick Castle is known as one of the largest and best-preserved surviving medieval Scottish fortifications. It takes its name from the man it was built for and it has for a long time been a magical venue for exclusive hire. Panoramic views of the castle can be gained from the Borders Railway between Edinburgh Waverley and Tweedbank railway stations.

The castle has recently undergone an entire transformation to take it back to its original style. Now, it stands beautifully, in all of its medieval grandeur.

Gatewy of Borthwick Castle
The gateway. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The early history

Borthwick Castle was built on the site of a much earlier structure. Sir William Borthwick, later the 1st lord, whom the castle is named after, obtained a license to erect a castle or fortification on the Mote of Locherwart from King James I in 1430. This seemed odd to the people of Scotland at the time as nobles usually didn’t need permission for a building or fortification.

Sir William then acquired a large part of Locherworth from his neighbour, William Hay, who wasn’t overly happy about this at the time. He was simply jealous of Sir Williams castle.

Mary Queen of Scots

In 1563 and 1566, Mary, Queen of Scots, visited Borthwick Castle. Then, in 1567, she married a man by the name of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Borthwell. In June, they came to the castle where they were besieged while under protections of the 6th Lord of Borthwick. It is said that Mary managed to escape the siege by disguising herself as a page.

However, soon after, the queen was arrested and taken to Lochleven Castle where she was held in captivity. Bothwell, on the other hand, fled to Orkney and Shetland. From there, he escaped to Norway which was under Danish rule at the time.

Changes at Borthwick Castle

In 1650, the castle was damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s forces who tried to attack it. After only a few cannon shots, the castle was surrendered. To this day, the damage to the walls is still visible.

After a long period of abandonment, the castle was eventually restored in 1814. During World War II, the castle was also used as a hiding place used to store national treasures of significant value. In 1973, it was leased from the Borthwick family and completely transformed into an exclusive hire venue.

Cannon damage to the walls at Borthwick Castle
Cannon damage to the wall. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

The current day

In June 2013, the castle closed to undergo extensive refurbishments. Then, in 2015, it once again opened up as an exclusive event venue. Nowadays, it is a lovely venue used to host exclusive events. There are twelve delectable bedchambers with lavish bathrooms, magnificent yet intimate dining and lounge areas, roaring fires, breathtaking views and spiral staircases inviting exploration and adventure.

You may enjoy reading about other Scottish castles such as Dunvegan Castle.

Borthwick Castle Timeline

  • 1430- Sir William Borthwick, later the 1st lord, whom the castle is named after, obtains a license to erect a castle or fortalice on the Mote of Locherwart from King James I
  • 1563-Mary, Queen of Scots, visits Borthwick Castle
  • 1566- Mary, Queen of Scots, visits Borthwick Castle
  •  1567- Mary, Queen of Scots marries a man by the name of James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Borthwell and comes to the castle where they are besieged while under protections of the 6th Lord of Borthwick
  • 1650- The castle is damaged by Oliver Cromwell’s forces who try to attack it
  • 1814- The castle is eventually restored
  • 1973- The castle is leased from the Borthwick family and completely transformed into an exclusive hire venue
  • 2013- The castle closes to undergo extensive refurbishments
  • 2015- Borthwick Castle once again opens up as an exclusive event venue
Fortified Borthwick castle
The fortified tower house. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Borthwick Castle facts

  • There is still damage on one wall of the castle from when it was attacked in 1650 by Oliver Cromwell’s forces
  • Mary, Queen of Scots stayed at the castle many times
  • The castle was used as a safe place to store national treasures during World War II
  • The castle takes its name from Sir William Borthwick, later the 1st lord
  • The castle’s dimensions are 74 feet (23 m) long, 68 feet (21 m) in breadth, and 90 feet (27 m) high

Featured in TV and film

  • Outlaw King (2018)
Borthwick Castle gatehouse
Another look at the gatehouse. Source: Wikimedia Commons.

Tourism

Nowadays, the castle isn’t open to the general public for tours. It’s now available for exclusive use events such as corporate events, your very own Borthwick Castle wedding, and other events. You can also hire the whole castle for periods of time. It is a great place to enjoy a beautiful stay in the countryside.

Nearby, you can visit Vogrie Country Park, Rosslyn Chapel, Pentland Hills, and Crichton Castle.

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