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Borthwick Castle

Borthwick Castle
©2014 Gazetteer for Scotland

Borthwick Castle

A twin towered castle on the E flank of the village of Borthwick in Midlothian, Borthwick Castle lies 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Gorebridge. It was built by Sir William Borthwick in 1430 on the site of an earlier tower and is noted for its exceptionally strong walls which are up to 4.3 (14 feet) thick. It is said that prisoners, with their hands tied, were invited to jump the 4m (12 foot) gap between the massive towers of this U-plan keep. Those who succeeded were freed, those who did not would no longer be in the need of the hospitality of the house!

Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-87), visited the castle in 1567 soon after her unpopular marriage to James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell (1536-78). The couple were besieged by a force of 1000, led by some of Mary's most senior nobles, who implicated Bothwell in the murder of her second husband Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley (1545-67). Mary was able to negotiate with the force, allowing Bothwell to slip away, and she escaped the following day dressed as a page-boy. The opposition quickly caught up with Mary who, within days, was forced into compromise and captivity at Carberry Hill.

The Parliamentarian army of Oliver Cromwell (1599 - 1654) attacked Borthwick in 1650 and brought about its swift surrender. Damage to the stone-work, caused by cannon, can still be seen. The castle was abandoned not long after the visit of Cromwell's forces but was fully restored between 1890 and 1914. During World War II Borthwick was used as a secret repository for various national treasures. In 1973 this fine castle was converted into a hotel.


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