Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

SCA Castle Tour To Lothians - Apr 2007

Gifford is one of East Lothian's most picturesque villages and an ideal base for this visit. Gifford was established in the 17th century within the estate of the Marquess of Tweedale. Paper and textile mills were the catalyst for village development in the 18th century and Bank of Scotland notes were produced here.

The village takes its name from Hugo Gifford of Yester. The granting of Yester dates from 1166 bestowed by King William the Lion. Although not on our itinerary, Gifford does have a ruined castle "Yester" dating from the 13th century. It is currently owned by the composer Gian Carlo Menotti. All that remains is a strange underground chamber called "The Goblin Ha". Yester House itself is attributed in part to William Adam and his son Robert. Gifford is also located just a mile or two from Lennoxlove, home of The Duke of Hamilton.

Cakemuir Castle

Cakemuir Castle


Situated in Midlothian, Cakemuir Castle is a 16th century four storey tower house. The projecting stair tower is round and capped with a square watch chamber. This feature is common to Tolquhon and Crossraguel and may symbolise Protestant sympathy.

The castle was built on the site of an earlier castle by Adam Wauchope, who defended the Earl of Bothwell against the charge of murdering Lord Darnley. It was at Cakemuir that Mary, Queen of Scots, met up with Bothwell after fleeing from Borthwick in June 1567 and sought escape to Dunbar.

It is reassuring to see a fine property like Cakemuir being both conserved and developed further with an impressive pond and a large Orangerie (correct us if it is not!).

From Cakemuir we remained in Midlothian heading for Auchendinny.

Auchendinny House

Auchendinny House


Martin Coventry considers the 18th century house is founded on two early vaulted chambers. Although we all trooped through the basement rooms few, if any, were convinced that these were authentic. However, irrespective, the House is a fine example of the work of Sir William Bruce, architect and pioneer of the Palladian style with Hopetoun House and Thirlestane Castle built to his design along with the rebuilt and extended Palace of Holyrood House (1671–81).

From Auchendinny to lunch at The Howgate Inn, previously known as the "Snooty Fox", a perfect retreat for SCA members to go to ground after the morning's excursions.

Stoneypath Tower - Lothians

Stoneypath Tower - Lothians


The village of Garvald, overlooked by Nunraw Abbey which the SCA have previously visited, is another picturesque, well kept secret. We abandoned the coach to walk the half mile through the valley to Stoneypath. The tower itself overlooks the Pappana Water and is an imposing red sandstone structure.

The history of Stoneypath encompasses several of the notable Scots families – Dunbar, Douglas, Lyles, Hamiltons and Setons. Debatably as early as the 13th century, it is here that Patrick Dunbar's wife, Black Agnes, resisted a siege by the English in 1338. The heraldry within the tower, however, would suggest a mid 14th century date for the "L" shaped keep and the castle lay in ruins for 350 years. Cromwell in his sacking of East Lothian castles in the 1650s may have been responsible for its ababdonment.

The latest battle at Stoneypath has taken place over the last six years with the restoration winning through. Now occupied, we were privileged to be shown around by the new owner, Steve Cole, and his family.

The endeavours of stonemason, Graeme Brown, earned him the admiration of the SCA and Graeme was nominated as recipient for the SCA Nigel Tranter Memorial Award. Stoneypath is an example of a ruin brought back into life which is a strategy close to the hearts of many SCA members and should encourage us to save more of our ruined towers, many of which are equally viable.

Saturday evening at the Tweedale Arms Hotel was rounded off with a dinner, liquid refreshment and much discussion.

Borthwick Castle - Lothians

Borthwick Castle - Lothians


Borthwick Castle dates from 1430 and was built by Sir William Borthwick. The twin tower appearance of the keep is dominant, housing five storeys with projecting wings of seven and eight storeys. Both the Great Hall and Garrison Room are vaulted and of immense scale. The solidity of the structure has ensured its survival. Few buildings can be offered for sale on a 999 year lease, with any hope of surviving. Borthwick is an exception.

Borthwick Castle was the final sanctuary of Mary, Queen of Scots, and the Earl of Bothwell in 1567 before fleeing to Cakemuir. The Borthwicks surrendered to Cromwell in the 17th century and the castle was abandoned for some 200 years, being restored in the late 19th century and occupied ever since. Borthwick Castle is now a hotel and conference venue.


In writing this article, unexpectedly, a year after the visit, I was surprised at how much my understanding of our heritage has improved as a result of producing these diary accounts. The role of the great families and development of architectural style through the centuries are now more meaningful. In compiling the background notes from sources readily accessible – MacGibbon and Ross, Nigel Tranter, Martin Coventry, Charles McKean and internet sources, I hope to provide members with detail during the tours and consequently use the Journal articles to convey personal impressions, along with a smattering of salient facts. If my endeavours encourage others to submit corrections or supplementary detail, I urge them to do so in a form which can be incorporated into future Journals.


Added: 28 Apr 2007 Updated: 18 Apr 2022
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