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Secret stairs and a massive maze: Historic Traquair House creates real adventures

© ShutterstockTraquair House, dating back to 1107, is located in Innerleithen
Traquair House, dating back to 1107, is located in Innerleithen

A few miles outside Peebles, in the town of Innerleithen, is Traquair House – Scotland’s oldest inhabited house, dating back to 1107.

Visitors can explore the history through fascinating tours, but there’s also a lot to enjoy in the grounds – the estate is home to the largest hedged maze in Scotland, as well as craft workshops and a café.

Beer lovers can sample ales from the on-site brewery, which has been brewing since 1694. The Stuart family have lived at Traquair House since 1491 and Catherine Maxwell Stuart, 21st Lady of Traquair, has managed the estate since 1990.

“I grew up here doing practically every job there is at a visitor attraction. From washing dishes in the tearoom to running large-scale events, the best thing about running Traquair is the variety,” Catherine says. “You never know what each day will bring!”

Home of kings and queens

With an abundance of history and activities, a day at Traquair House is always an interesting one.

The house has hosted 27 kings and queens over the years, and the family was loyal Jacobite supporters.

Catherine describes the house as “almost untouched over the centuries” and, when it comes to hidden nooks and crannies, Traquair House is hard to beat.

During the Scottish Reformation in the 16th Century, the family protected a Catholic priest from execution.

“The priest’s secret stair is hidden behind a bookcase in the Old Chapel at the top of the house and goes all the way down to the bottom – not for the faint-hearted!”

Traquair Maze, made with 1,500 beech trees, has also been a popular attraction for families visiting since 1981.

Catherine is always delighted to hear from those who have visited Traquair House. She says, “Visitors always remark on the atmosphere at Traquair, which comes from visiting a lived-in family home.

“It also has a wonderful feeling of peace and tranquillity,” she says. “There’s a reward of knowing the pleasure the house and grounds bring to our visitors, both young and old.”


Things to do in the Borders

Dawyck Botanic Garden, Peebles, 01721 760254

Five-star garden across 65 acres, incorporating some of the UK’s oldest trees and rarest plants.

Floors Castle, Kelso, 01573 223333

Tour this incredible castle, built in 1721, with extensive gardens, cafés and deli.

Mary, Queen of Scots’ Visitor Centre, Jedburgh, 01835 863331

Listed 16th-Century building where Mary stayed in 1566, now telling her story through artefacts and paintings.