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Hawthornden Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2018.

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Hawthornden, the romantic home of the poet Drummond, in Lasswade parish, Edinburghshire, 1 ¼ mile NE of Roslin, and 5 furlongs NW of Hawthornden Junction on the Peebles branch of the North British, this being 11 ¼ miles S by E of Edinburgh. Standing upon the steep right bank of the North Esk's rocky pine-clad glen, classic Hawthornden is ' a venerable and picturesque looking edifice. The left side, as you face it, consists of a hoary mass of ivy-clad masonry, perhaps 600 years old, while the inhabited part to the right is a pleasant irregular house, with gables and a turret in the style of the 17th century. ' Over the doorway are carved in marble the armorial bearings of Dr William Abernethy Drummond (1720-1809), Bishop of Edinburgh; and near them is a Latin inscription by the poet, telling how in 1638 he restored the house for himself and his successors; whilst a tablet, placed by the Bishop on the gable, runs-' To the memory of Sir Lawrence Abernethy of Hawthornden, a brave and gallant soldier, who in 1338 conquered Lord Douglas five times in one day, yet was taken prisoner before sunset. ' Within, the most interesting objects are a great two-handed sword, Robert Bruce's 'tis said; a good portrait of the poet's father, Sir John Drummond, who was gentleman-usher to James VI.; and a poor one of the poet himself. He, William Drummond, the 'Scottish Petrarch,' was born here on 13 Dec. 1585; here in the winter of 1618-19 he entertained Ben Jonson, who had walked from London to Edinburgh; and, here. broken-hearted by Charles I. 's execution, he died on 4 Dec. 1649. The present owner is Sir James Hamlyn Williams-Drummond, fourth Bart. since 1828 (b. 1857; suc. 1868). The grounds are -of great beauty, and contain a large sycamore, called the ' Four Sisters ' or ' Ben Jonson's Tree, ' whilst a rocky seat is named the ' Cypress Grove ' after Drummond's first published production. Some curious artificial caves are in cliffs below the mansion and further up the North Esk's ravine. Formed, it would seem, with prodigious labour out of solid rock, they communicate one with another by long passages, and have access to a draw-well of great depth, bored from the court-yard of the mansion. Like the ' earth-houses ' of the North, they probably belong to prehistoric times. Three of them bear the names of the King's gallery, the King's bedchamber, and the King's dining-room; and they were occupied in 1338 as military retreats by the adventurous band of Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie. These caves were visited, on 14 Sept. 1842, by Queen Victoria. A fine view is got of Hawthornden from a point of rock overhanging the river, and popularly called John Knox's pulpit:

' The spot is wild, the banks are steep,
with eglantine and hawthorn blossomed o'er,
Lychnis, and daffodils. and hare-bells blue;
From lofty granite crags precipitous.
The oak. with scanty footing, topples o'er.
Tossing. his limbs to heaven; and. from the cleft,
Fringing the dark-brown natural battlements,
The hazel throws his silvery branches down;
Then. starting into view. a castled cliff,
whose roof is lichen'd o'er, purple and green,
O'erhangs thy wandering stream, romantic Esk,
And rears its head among the ancient trees.'

See Prof. David Masson's Drummond of Hawthornden (Lond. 1873), and John Small's Castles and Mansions of the Lothians (Edinb. 1883).—Ord. Sur., sh. 32, 1857.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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