The Maxwell Stuarts have lived in Traquair House since 1491, making it the oldest continuously inhabited house in Scotland. The whitewashed facade is strikingly handsome, with narrow windows and trim turrets surrounding the tiniest of front doors – in other words it’s a welcome change from other grandiose stately homes. Inside, you can see original vaulted cellars, where locals once hid their cattle from raiders; the twisting main staircase as well as the earlier medieval version, later a secret escape route for persecuted Catholics; a carefully camouflaged priest’s hole; and even a priest’s room where a string of resident chaplains lived in hiding. In the museum room there is a wealth of treasures, including a fine example of a Jacobite Amen glass, a rosary and crucifix owned by Mary, Queen of Scots, and the cloak worn by the Earl of Nithsdale during his dramatic escape from the Tower of London.
Spare time for the surrounding gardens, where you’ll find a hedge maze, several craft workshops and the Traquair House Brewery, the only British brewery that still ferments totally in oak. There’s a café serving snacks in an estate cottage on the redundant avenue that leads to the locked Bear Gates; Bonnie Prince Charlie left the house through these gates, and the then-owner promised to keep them locked till a Stuart should ascend the throne.