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Traquair House


The designed landscape at Traquair consists of parkland, woodland, lawns and formal gardens. There are some 17th- and 18th-century features although the present informal layout dates from the mid-19th century. The mid-18th century walled garden houses the restaurant. A maze was planted in 1981 on the site of an 18th-century parterre.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

Type of Site

Long-established country seat developed from former royal hunting grounds and late medieval tower house, and retaining some 17th to 18th-century landscape design features and infrastructure. Contains one of the largest hedged mazes in Scotland (planted 1981).

Location and Setting

Located one mile (1.5km) south of Innerleithen, this relatively small designed landscape is set within the upland valley landscape of the middle Tweed. Enclosed by the strong relief of steep hill-sides, the policies themselves occupy flat ground, immediately to the south of the Tweed. Traquair House itself stands at the centre of the designed landscape, a scenically prominent structure in a park and woodland setting, and most famously appreciated from along the length of a formal, tree-lined avenue. In local landscape views, the upland terrain beyond forms a striking and contrasting backdrop for the house, trees, gardens and avenue. The Quair Water, a Special Area of Conservation, flows through the designed landscape to meet the Tweed. The elongated Well Pool immediately to the north west of Traquair House, meanwhile, is believed to reflect the former course of the Tweed before it was re-routed and straightened in the 17th century (Hardy 1881: 485; Strang 1994: 226). Encompassing a total of 68ha (168ac), the designed landscape is bounded by the Tweed to the north, and local roads to the east and west. The small village of Traquair lies immediately to the south.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Traquair House is an important harled rubble Scottish Domestic mansion comprising a 3-storey plus attic main block with 2, lower, flanking wings arranged around a forecourt. Erected on the site of an earlier royal residence at the end of the 15th century, the original tower house was enlarged and developed during the mid-16th to 17th century to form the character of the present house. Key features include steeply-pitched roofs, exposed sandstone dressings around small windows, and an array of circular angle-turrets, mostly added in 1599. Significant works by James Smith, 1695-9, include the lower, office wings either side of the forecourt, and the garden terrace along the east front, which terminates in ogee-roofed garden pavilions, c.1700. Smith's screen wall across the courtyard incorporates a central gateway with wrought iron gates, over which extends an ornate scroll overthrow of tulips, roses and the Stuart of Traquair shield. A long, straight entrance avenue leads to the courtyard. At the entrance, are the closed, wrought-iron bear gates, 1737-8, with stone carved bears on the gatepiers, 1745-6, and with flanking, single-storey lodges and nearby cottages. At the termination of the avenue, closer to the house, are the exedra, a pair of curved stone walls c.1738 that terminate in rounded piers and which exhibit some surviving statuary. A later entrance drive, formed in the 19th century passes the East Lodge, a two-storey hybrid Picturesque/Tudor Gothic lodge, 1880-1, before crossing the Quair Water via a two-span bridge of the same date. Harled and random-rubble boundary walls demarcate the edge of the policies. Closer to the house are a range of garden and estate buildings, including a circular-plan, wattle and heather summerhouse, built 1834, and a three-sided, rectangular walled garden, with rubble-built walls and doorway with lintel dated 1749. Partially within this enclosure is a garden house (now brewers house), a vernacular 3-bay, single-storey cottage, c.1749, with 19th-and 20th-century improvements. Of similar date and style are the nearby tea-room, and the estate office, both of which also formerly provided accommodation for estate workers. Craft workshops, immediately to the north east, comprise a collection of rectangular, vernacular outbuildings, built from whinstone rubble for stabling, carts, and bothy accommodation c.1749.

Drives and Approaches

The formal avenue leading from the closed bear gates to the main front elevation of Traquair House remains one of the strongest landscape design components of the policies. In place by the mid-18th century, its function as an entrance approach was short-lived. Among the different recorded traditions on the closed gates, or 'Steekit Yetts', the most frequently-cited claims that after a visit by Charles Edward Stuart (Bonnie Prince Charlie), the gates were closed with the express order that they should only be opened after a Stuart was returned to the throne. Lined with mature sycamores planted in the 19th century, the grassed-over avenue remains important for channelling views to and from the house. Interestingly, Roy's map of the mid 18th century shows a continuation of the avenue on the other side of the house, towards the Tweed to the north-east. Although probably removed by the earlier 19th century, a ford and footbridge over the Quair still afforded access from this direction during the mid to later 19th century (OS 1855-8, Hardy 1881: 482-3).

Today, there are two main approaches. From the west, an entrance drive leads to the house, running parallel to the avenue on its south side. From the east, the later 19th-century drive, with its gateway, lodge and bridge, built 1880-1, marks a departure from formality. It curves downhill through woodland before crossing the Quair, and arriving at the lawn in front of the house.


Long woodland-fringed parks are situated along the Quair in the south of the designed landscape, and immediately north of the avenue. They retain the structure depicted on the 1st edition OS maps (1855-8 OS), and contain mixed deciduous trees that display a good age range, including both 19th and 20th century specimens. The roundel in the park to the north of the avenue is enclosed by a wall, while those along the Quair were added for game cover in the second half of the 19th century. The field known as Moffat Allers Wood, to the north west of Traquair House, is bounded to the south by a row of attractive veteran oak.


The present distribution of woodland plantations at Traquair reflects a layout achieved by the mid to later 19th century. Supplemented with 20th-century planting, this structure endures today. It comprises peripheral belts and blocks of trees, (mostly deciduous on the east, and mostly coniferous to the west), and core mixed woods around the house, Well Pool and along the East Drive. The woodland around the east drive was established during the second half of the 19th century, and is notable for its tall conifer specimens that project above the surrounding mixed deciduous canopy. A Noble fir and Douglas fir have achieved a particularly impressive size and stature. ( ). Planting here took place on the sites of earlier working areas, including part of the old orchard, and a bleachfield, both depicted on the 1st edition OS map, (1855-8, OS 25'). Visible remains of rubble walls and gatepiers, rubble-built structures and a canal associated with the bleachfield can still be seen within the woods. A woodland trail passes through the core woods around the east drive and leads along the Quair Water; by tradition, a favourite of Lady Louisa Stewart in the 19th century ( ). By the footpath, a copse of yews includes four gnarled and twisted heritage trees known as the Traquair House Yews, estimated to be more than 400 years old ( ).

The Gardens

Little remains of the formal gardens that once adorned the house. Along the east front, only the double-terraces and ogee-roofed pavilions survive from a more extensive scheme devised by James Smith, c.1700 (Cruft et al 2006: 735). This scheme almost certainly included a parterre garden, and a schematic drawing of the late 17th century suggests the former presence of fountains with piped water supply (copy held by RCAHMS). Along the south, a continuation of the terrace includes a garden doorway, while on the west front, surviving decorative fixtures leading to the forecourt include the distinctive screen wall, gates and exedra (curving stone walls with statuary). These give some sense of the original formal layout of the late 17th to early 18th century, which was designed to promote an impression of symmetry and grandeur.

Other garden elements date from later periods, and contain a mixture of 19th-and 20th-century features. The most striking component today is the square maze, located immediately below the east front terraces. Designed by John Schofield and planted in 1981, it is one of the largest hedged mazes in Scotland ( ). With four sub-centres, and final end-point in the centre, it is defined partly by high Leyland cypress hedging, and partly by beech, planted in the early 1980s to replace plants killed during a harsh winter. Immediately to the south of the house, Cupid's Garden provides a fairly secluded garden setting, delimited by high beech hedges, and featuring simple, rectangular box-lined beds. This garden leads south and east to the croquet lawn; an expanse of well-maintained grass adorned with 19th-century specimen trees, including a fine Douglas fir, and the restored and relocated summerhouse, dated 1834. The children's playground is a more recent addition, while a rectangular area between this garden and the maze is retained mostly as rough grazing.

Walled Garden

The rectangular walled garden is no longer in traditional horticultural use, but remains part of the garden grounds open to the public at Traquair. Its doorway bears the date 1749, and the enclosure as a whole is depicted on Roy's Military Survey map of 1747-55. This map depicts a seemingly formal, complex interior arrangement, focused on a single central feature, such as a statue, sundial or fountain. By the mid-19th century, however, the walled garden was under cultivation for kitchen produce. The first Ordnance Survey edition of 1855-7 reveals an efficient arrangement of cross-axial paths (1855-7, OS 25'), while visitors in 1842 commend the excellent crops', such as strawberries, and an array of unusual herbs (Gardeners' Magazine 1842: 440). Surviving features of the productive garden include a good number of veteran apple trees, some in trained espalier form, and traces of the former paths, visible as slightly raised lines traversing the length and width of the walled enclosure. By the early 20th century, the south west corner was in use as a pheasantry, while private horticultural production in the rest of the garden continued until the late 1930s. It was let as a market garden until the 1950s, after which the garden was mostly grassed over. The southern half of the garden remains unmaintained. The northern part, however, now functions as a relatively simple garden space and outdoor eating area, with the adjoining former estate workers' cottages converted for use as a range of modern facilities. In addition to the apple trees, notable features within the enclosure include recently-restored herbaceous borders, and recent central pond with fountain.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

Access contact details

The site is open daily from April to October. For details see:


There are buses from Edinburgh to Innerleithen, one and a half miles from the house. For details see:


The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

Reason for Inclusion

This scenically prominent designed landscape, with striking formal avenue, provides the setting for Traquair House, an exceptional Scottish Domestic house that retains much of its 17th-century character. Scientific interest is provided by the Traquair Yews, distinctive heritage trees, and the nature habitat value of both the River Tweed and the Quair Water.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

Late 15th century to c.1700, 1730s-1740s, Early 19th century, 1880s, 1981

Site History

Traquair was a favoured hunting ground of medieval royalty (Gilbert 1979: 21-22). During the 12th to 13th centuries, a residence and estate centre almost certainly occupied the site of the present house (Cruft et al. 2006: 730). The lands had formed part of Ettrick Forest, a medieval and late-medieval royal hunting reserve in which the term 'forest' refers more to its legal and administrative context rather than an extensive, unbroken wooded area (RCAHMS 1957: 3). Nevertheless, the surrounding terrain provided ample cover and grazing for game and it is just possible that the surviving Traquair Yews are relics of late-medieval managed woods and copses ( ).

The development of Traquair as a private country seat took place from the late 15th century onwards. Apart from brief incursions under Edward I and II of England, crown ownership had continued until the reign of James III (r.1460-1488), who bestowed Traquair on court favourites, including musician William Rogers. The Earl of Buchan persuaded Rogers to sell and by 1491, had promptly passed the estate onto his second son, James Stuart, the ancestor of all subsequent owners of the designed landscape. Over the next decade, it is highly likely that work got underway on the construction of a new, free-standing tower house. Mentioned in a charter of 1512, the thick-walled base of this defensive structure is still detectable within the present building (Cruft et al. 2006: 730).

Increased family fortunes and power during the 16th and early 17th century paved the way for new design and building projects. By 1599 the tower had been substantially rebuilt and extended (Cruft et al. 2006: 730). The 7th laird, and 1st Earl of Traquair, John Stuart, pursued a turbulent political career that ended with a fall from grace and eventually, imprisonment. Nevertheless, the trend for improvement at Traquair continued and it was probably under his instruction that the River Tweed was re-routed to the north to its present alignment, presumably to avoid undermining to the house (Strang 1994: 226). Further architectural work took place at the end of the 17th century, when the 4th Earl commissioned renowned Edinburgh architect, James Smith, to work on the house and immediate grounds. While an ambitious proposal to remodel the main elevation in Baronial style was not executed, Smith's other architectural plans were realised, and included some formal garden design work. The fountains and parterre do not survive, but garden terraces, pavilions, exedra, and the forecourt screen wall are important remains of this scheme.

Roy's Military Survey provides an interesting glimpse of the wider designed landscape in the mid-18th century, during the ownership of the 5th Earl, Charles Stuart. Enclosed, rectangular tree-lined parks surround a formal core consisting of the house and the long tree-lined avenue, depicted here as extending not only south west towards the bear gates, (completed 1740s), but also north east as far as the Tweed. Adjacent components include the newly-completed walled garden, a swathe of woodland north west of the house, around the site of the Well Pool, and possibly the orchard, to the north east (Roy 1747-55).

During the 18th century, the Jacobite sympathies of the Stuarts of Traquair, together with later mismanagement of family funds, ensured a period of relative hardship ( ). While other proprietors were building modern, classical mansions, the designed landscape at Traquair entered a long period of stagnation and slow decline, with few major changes to either the building or the landscape. The most concerted phase of activity took place around the 1730s and 1740s, when the 5th Earl commenced a significant programme of work that was to include not only the bear gates, but also the walled garden, stabling and estate accommodation, much of which survives today. The most notable alteration of the earlier 19th century involved the informalisation of the designed landscape through the removal of the north-east part of the avenue, and the creation of parkland and perimeter woodland plantations, instigated by the 8th Earl. Following his death in 1861, the estate passed first to his sister, Lady Louisa Stewart, before going to a more distant relative, the Hon. Henry Maxwell, who subsequently added the name Stuart. Later 19th developments included the removal of the orchard and the development of the eastern approach drive and associated woodland and conifer specimen planting.

By this period, the contrast between Traquair and the newer Border estates was increasingly marked, and commented upon. For John Brown, the house and landscape 'with nature reinstating herself in her quiet way' looked 'strange and pitiful among its fellows in the vale' (Brown 2004 (first published 1864): 127-8). Members of the Berwickshire Naturalists' Club, visiting in 1881, admired the house and closed gates of the avenue, but also considered it a 'representative of departed greatness' compared with the immaculate new gardens of the Glen (q.v.) which they went on to visit later in the day (Hardy 1882: 487).

Ironically, this quiet period at Traquair has resulted in a house now recognised as an outstanding historic and architectural survivor, with important associated landscape features. During the Second World War, Traquair was used as a billet for training soldiers, who also assisted with building and renovation projects. During the second half of the 20th century, several generations of the Maxwell Stuarts worked to improve, preserve and maintain the designed landscape, and develop Traquair as a visitor attraction. The house and grounds were open to the public for the first time in 1953, with the old estate buildings subsequently converted for use as visitor facilities. Other key developments include the reinstatement of the old Traquair House brewery in 1965, the planting of the ambitious, large hedged maze in the 1980s, and the periodic dredging of the Well Pool, which is prone to blanket weed. Although retained under the ownership of the Maxwell Stuart family, the management of Traquair is administered through a charitable trust, set up in 1999. There is a strong amenity and environmental focus, forged partly through membership of the Green Tourism Business Scheme, and Traquair receives some 40,000 visitors a year.


Victorian (1837-1901)

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • Gate
  • Description: The Bear Gates that terminate the sycamore avenue.
  • Avenue
  • Description: Sycamore avenue replanted in the mid-19th century.
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  • Tree Ring
  • Description: A ring of ancient yew trees.
  • Lake
  • Description: The Well Pond, thought to be part of the River Tweed before its 17th-century realignment.
  • Maze
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
  • Garden Terrace
  • Description: Late-17th-century terraces.
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Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential


Victorian (1837-1901)





Open to the public


Electoral Ward

Peebles and District South




  • Historic Scotland