Duns Castle is a stunning 14th century Scottish Castle with 12 bedrooms and 7 cottages that sleeps up to 56 guests. It is located beautifully in the Scottish Borders only one hour south of Edinburgh. It is the centrepiece of a stunning 1200-acre estate and has been the seat of the Hay family for over 300 years.
This castle is steeped in history with the oldest part dating back to 1320.
The history of Duns Castle
The property that Duns Castle sits on is simply gorgeous. It is an idyllic venue for weddings and other special events. It is also the perfect place to enjoy tranquillity and peace that makes you one with the wildlife and nature surrounding the castle.
The Duns Castle Estate also features a lovely nature reserve. The castle and most of the structures on the property are designated as a scheduled ancient monument.
The early history
The early history of Duns Castle is almost completely unknown. What is known, however, is that a small keep was built on the lands that were granted to Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray by King Robert the Bruce in 1320. The structure may have been razed by the English sometime in the 16th century.
Possibly, during the Rough Wooing of 1545 when the town of Duns, nearby, was burned to the ground.
The castle and manor appear to have passed into the hands of Patrick V, Earl of March after Randolph’s death in 1332. After the Battle of Halidon Hill, the following year, the manor was granted by King Edward III of England to Thomas de Bradestan. After this, there were multiple changes of ownership.
During the First Bishops’ War of 1639, the castle played home to General Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven. His army was quartered nearby and blocked the English from advancing into Scotland. At the time, neither side wished to fight which led to negotiations that led to the Pacification of Berwick that ended the war.
Then, in 1670, Sir James Cockburn of Cockburn purchased the estate and burgh of Duns from Hume of Ayton. The manor was then sold to William Hay of Drumelzier, son of John Hay, 1st Earl of Tweeddale in 1698. It has remained in the family ever since.
Changes at Duns Castle
After its acquisition, it was remodelled. It underwent more remodelling not long after between the years of 1791 and 1798 by the architect John Baxter. The house was then transformed into a gorgeous Gothic Castle between the years 1818 and 1822 by architect James Gillespie Graham.
The interior woodwork was all carved by the noted sculptor, Sir John Steell, during his apprenticeship.
The current day
Nowadays, there is a publicly accessible park and two large man-made lakes, the Hen Poo and the smaller Mill Dam that form the Duns Castle nature reserve. The castle and its outbuildings are currently available to serve as a venue for weddings and corporate functions, with accommodations available for the guests.
You may enjoy reading about other Scottish castles such as Drum Castle or Fyvie Castle.
Duns Castle Timeline
- 1320- A small keep is built on the lands that were granted to Thomas Randolph, 1st Earl of Moray by King Robert the Bruce
- 1332- The castle and manor appear to pass into the hands of Patrick V, Earl of March after Randolph’s death
- 1333-After the Battle of Halidon Hill, the manor is granted by King Edward III of England to Thomas de Bradestan
- 1639- The castle plays home to General Alexander Leslie, 1st Earl of Leven
- 1670- Sir James Cockburn of Cockburn purchases the estate and burgh of Duns from Hume of Ayton
- 1698-The manor is then sold to William Hay of Drumelzier, son of John Hay, 1st Earl of Tweeddale and has remained in the family ever since
- 1791 to 1798- The castle undergoes significant remodelling by the architect John Baxter
- 1818 to 1822- The house is transformed into a gorgeous Gothic Castle by architect James Gillespie Graham
Duns Castle facts
- Duns Castle dates back to 1320
- Duns Castle is the centrepiece of a beautiful 1200-acre estate
- The estate has its very own Duns Castle nature reserve
- The castle has been added to over the centuries by the three major Scottish families who have lived there
- The castle has remained home to the same family ever since 1698
Featured in TV and film
- Mrs Brown (1997)
- This September (2010)
- Beauty and the Beast (2017)
Who owns Duns Castle?
The present owners, Alexander and Aline Hay live in private quarters within the castle. They play a very active role in the management of the estate and in welcoming guests. They are more than happy to share a few anecdotes of the castle’s history.
The area surrounding Duns Castle is full of cultural, archaeological, and leisure interests. Edinburgh is only around an hour away which makes this castle fairly central to everything. This castle is the perfect venue for weddings, family gatherings, corporate meetings, and special events.
The Duns Castle cottages offer even more accommodation choices. They hold around 33 guests among 18 rooms which brings the total sleeping capacity of the estate to 56 guests. Every year, this castle attracts many visitors who can’t help but adore this lovely landmark.
Nearby, you can visit Paxton House, Manderston House, Mellerstain House, Coldingham Bay, and Norham Castle.