Live like a queen: Borthwick Castle

Mary, Queen of Scots’ former refuge offers an unforgettable escape from the everyday, in a break that combines majesty, history, fine dining and supreme comfort

Travel and Wellbeing 19 Nov 2019

Borthwick Castle is just a half hour drive from Edinburgh in the rolling Scottish countryside
The State Room at Borthwick Castle
The Sinclair bedchamber at Borthwick Castle
Borthwick Castle's Gate House

If you’re looking for a big place to hire for a party, work event or a break with friends or family, finding somewhere memorable to stay is key. And there are few, if any, places in the UK as unforgettable as Borthwick Castle.

The 600-year-old castle lies just 30 minutes south of Edinburgh and is available for exclusive, year-round hire. It towers over the spectacular Scottish countryside, just as it has done since Sir William Borthwick built the imposing castle in 1430. The castle has played a key part in Scottish history ever since and is perhaps most famous for being a place of refuge for Mary, Queen of Scots in 1567.

She reportedly came to the castle, disguised as a man, on the run from Edinburgh following the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley. Mary fled with the Earl of Bothwell, who had been accused of being involved in Lord Darnley’s murder. When an army pursued the queen to Borthwick she escaped out of the window of the Great Hall – dropping more than 4.5m to the ground below and escaping on horseback. One of the castle’s finest bedrooms – the Mary Queen of Scots – is the one Mary is said to have stayed in, and it comes with a private door onto the grand State Room as well as her private chapel.

The castle also came under attack from Oliver Cromwell in 1650, when Lord Borthwick refused to leave and resign his home to the Roundheads. The top of the East Wall of the castle still wears the scars of Cromwell’s cannon fire, a small reminder of Borthwick’s long and important history.

The Mary Queen of Scots bedroom, where the queen stayed when visiting Borthwick Castle
The Mary Queen of Scots bedroom, the resting place of the queen stayed when she visited the castle

Today, the castle has been transformed into a wonderland of indulgence. Each bedchamber has been lovingly restored to the utmost comfort and the castle also features three incredible rooms in which to socialise, including the imposing Great Hall – a magnificent room with a huge open fire, made for banqueting and parties. Above the Great Hall lies the State Room, along with Mary’s chapel, full of deep sofas, cosy corners and original artworks. On the top floor sits the Garrison, a light and airy room with knockout views, where in the time of Mary, Queen of Scots or Cromwell the troops would have retired to sleep. Now, it is the perfect location for wedding ceremonies, business meetings or even poker tournaments – your wish is the castle’s desire.

The castle is available only for exclusive hire – but it’s far from a ‘hand over the keys and wish you a pleasant stay’ set-up. Borthwick Castle is fully staffed 24-hours a day, and a daily maid service, turndown, breakfast and any other help required is all part of the service. The staff are on hand to organise any trips, meals out, excursions and activities required, which might include trips to local distilleries, including the fascinating Lindores Abbey Distillery, nights out in Edinburgh, fishing, hiking or shopping – the area is chock-full of things to discover, although leaving the glorious surrounds of the castle might not seem as appealing once you’ve arrived.

Feasting is a huge part of staying at the castle and the food is of the highest quality. Head chef Derek Johnstone uses local ingredients to create everything from banquets to intimate dinners, and will work closely with guests to create a bespoke culinary experience suited to the party’s requirements. Borthwick Castle also boasts an impressive cellar of wines and whiskies and even has its own signature 1430 cocktail, which the castle team can pair with a carefully crafted meal or serve whenever you fancy.

There are 10 luxurious bedchambers in the castle itself, all complete with sumptuous furniture and finishes. In the grounds, there’s also the gorgeous Gatehouse, complete with free-standing bath, and the two-bedroom Crookston Cottage, which has one double and one twin room with bunk beds, making it perfect for families. Borthwick Castle sleeps up to 26 in total and has strong relationships with neighbouring hotels for any additional day guests.

Prices start at £10,000 per night throughout most of December, with a minimum three-night stay over 24-26 December and 30 December-1 January priced at £33,000*. This includes turndown, housekeeping, unlimited soft drink minibar, tea and freshly brewed coffee, a cooked-to-order full Scottish breakfast and mulled wine and mince pies upon arrival. Bespoke dining and activity packages will be created for you to suit your group’s particular requirements. A guide price for three nights’ catering is £11,500 (breakfast, lunch and dinner).