This floating castle appears to be from an enchanted fable, but in actuality it is Europe's best preserved Renaissance water castle.
Thirlestane Castle is set in extensive parklands near Lauder in the Borders of Scotland. Aptly named Castle Hill, it stands upon raised ground. The land has been in the ownership of the Maitland family since 1587, and Thirlestane served as the seat of the Earls of Lauderdale.
Before the 13th century, a large fort was built here and was the site of the ancient church of Lauder. In 1482, James III’s favorites, including the architect Robert Cochrane, were dragged by envious nobles led by Archibald Douglas, 5th Earl of Angus and hanged from the (earlier) Lauder Bridge.
In the early 16th century, the structure passed to Robert Lauder of that Ilk, who gave it in dowry to his daughter Alison and her husband George Wedderhede. This couple and their son were all murdered in feuds in 1547 and eventually only young grandchildren were left as heirs.
The castle became home to St. Hilary’s school of girls which had evacuated Edinburgh during World War II. The 15th Earl and Countess of Lauderdale continued to live in the north wing, while the school used the rest as dorms and classrooms. St. Hilary’s remained here until 1944 when they returned to Edinburgh.
In 1972, Captain Gerald Maitland-Carew inherited the castle, which was in a serious state of disrepair, from his grandmother, The Countess of Lauderdale. It was given to a charitable trust established to ensure its preservation, with financial grants from the Historic Buildings Council and the National Heritage Memorial Fund. In addition to the grounds, the castle itself and its interiors is noted for fine collections of paintings, furniture, porcelain and a historic toy collection.
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