Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Pilmuir House - a 'delightful example' of a laird's house

Pilmuir House was a particular favourite of Scottish historian and author – and the Scottish Castles Association Founder President – Nigel Tranter who described it as ‘a delightful example of a 17th century laird’s house’. In fact, this is the only building appearing in colour in his works which he placed on the front cover of ‘The Fortalices and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland 1400-1650’ in 1935. The sketch of Pilmuir House, shown in the book below, is unique in that it was not Tranter's but that of F R Stevenson who, interestingly, was best man at Nigel's wedding!

Pilmuir is situated near Haddington in East Lothian and replaced an earlier castle which occupied its site. In 1624, according to a dating stone over the doorway, it was constructed by William Cairns together with his wife Agnes.

It consists of an oblong main block with a staircase wing projecting from the centre of its north side. A small spiral stair is corbelled out between the wing and the main block supported on a squinch (a straight or arched structure across an interior angle of a square tower to carry a superstructure such as a dome). Additions date from the 18th century.

The walls are harled and the gables crow-stepped. The whole building represents, as Tranter remarked, a ‘delightful’ example of Scottish architecture.

The photograph below was taken around 1904 but very little has changed since then and we're sure Nigel's delight with Pilmuir would continue if he were aware it remains occupied and in good condition.

pilmuir house
Pilmuir House photographed in 1904

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 09 Jul 2016 Updated: 24 Mar 2018
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