Borthwick Castle is one of the largest and best-preserved surviving medieval Scottish fortifications. The castle was built at the site of an earlier structure, and it remains the Borthwick family ancestral seat. Sir William Borthwick, later the 1st Lord, obtained from King James I on 2 June 1430 a licence to erect a castle or fortalice. It was originally a stone enclosure fortress centring on an unusually tall tower house. The design is a 'U-shaped' keep with a gap between the projecting, slightly asymmetrical, towers. There was a surrounding defensive courtyard with round towers pierced with shot-holes at the corners. While the tower house itself is exceptionally well preserved for its date, the surrounding wall and towers are much restored.

Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary, Queen of Scots visited Borthwick in 1563 and 1566. On 15 May 1567 she married James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and in June they came to Borthwick where they were besieged in the castle while under the protection of 6th Lord Borthwick. Mary, it is said, escaped the siege by disguising herself as a page. However, the queen was soon arrested and taken to Lochleven castle where she was held in captivity. Bothwell fled to Orkney and Shetland, and from there escaped to Norway, which at the time was under Danish rule.

Later history

In 1650 the Castle was attacked by Oliver Cromwell's forces, and was surrendered after only a few cannon shots. The damage to the walls from this attack is still visible.

After a period of abandonment, the Castle was restored by 1914. During World War II the structure was used as a hiding place to store national treasures. In 1973 it was leased from the Borthwick family and converted into an exclusive hire venue.


The castle is on a small hill surrounded by a stream. Apart from the large cannon scar on one face, the walls, built of fine sandstone ashlar, are virtually complete, and very unusually, none of the original narrow windows have been enlarged. The battlements, however, no longer survive to their original height, having lost their stepped crenelations. They are carried on massive projecting corbels with corner roundels. The tower has two doorways, both unaltered and round headed. One at ground level leads into the partly subterranean kitchen and storage vaults. The second is directly above it at first-floor level, and leads directly into the stone-vaulted great hall. It is approached by a reconstructed stone bridge.

The Great hall of Borthwick Castle is 12 m long and of great height. The barrelled Gothic ceiling is painted with pictures of the castle and 'De Temple of Honor' in Gothic characters is visible. The chimney which is also on a large scale is covered by designs.



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Founded: 15th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

Katherine Mundy (2 years ago)
Absolutely amazing. The staff were incredible, nothing was too much trouble and the castle itself is beautiful.
Karen Mundy (2 years ago)
Possibly the best time ever in the loveliest of venues. People always say staff were great - and they are! So utterly accommodating, friendly and thoughtful. We had a lockdown wedding and thought limited numbers and rules would ruin the occasion- not here at Borthwick Castle. IT WAS AMAZING. Thank you everyone
Leighanne Waterston (2 years ago)
amazing place for kids to see in nice walks
garry Peattie (2 years ago)
Attended a wedding here, the food was great and the venue was beautiful.
Jimmy Chisholm (2 years ago)
Wasn't at the castle itself but the surrounding area is lovely.
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