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May 2014

Scotland’s Oldest Inhabited House, visited by 27 Scottish Kings and Queens, dates back to 1107 and has been lived in by the Stuart family since 1491.

Scottish Borders Coat of Arms

From a distance, you wouldn't think that Traquair was 'Scotland's Oldest Inhabited House', whatever that means[1], because it doesn't look that old. Continually inhabited they seem to mean so no 'To Let' signs here over the centuries.

Ownership flipped between the Scottish and English aristocracies until 1491 when James Stuart signed the deeds and despite him buying it at the  Battle of Flodden, it's been in the family ever since.

[1] Just Scotland's oldest house then?

Up close, it still doesn't look that old and that's because it isn't. The site might date to the 1100s but most of what you can see is late 17th century at the earliest.

Giving money to toffs to be allowed to look at their furniture isn't normally this one's idea of a good day out but, bumbling around in the Borders anyway, there's rain on the horizon and it's brewing up a storm but more on that in a minute.

Inside, you'll have no recollection later[1] of anything other than where Mary, Queen of Scots and Bonnie Prince Charlie, inevitably, once both got their heads down.

No, outside is where it's at where you're allowed to wander around a lake and lose yourself in a maze.

[1] You can read about or recall it all  here.

Kiddies are more than accommodated with an 'adventure playground' and a less challenging area if they're still toddling types.

There's even some domestic wildlife around the side and yes, you'll have to push some children out of the way to get this close.

Rummaging in the cellar beneath the chapel one afternoon, Peter Maxwell Stuart, the 20th Laird of Traquair, came across what was left of a brewery. This had been foaming as far back as 1566, they say, when it provided the pints that were poured for the aforementioned Mary.

Toffs are great, aren't they? Despite not having the faintest idea about fermentation, he had the 18th-century machinery mashing again by 1965. They call it 'craft' brewing nowadays but he was doing it at least 40 years before it became fashionable.

Their range is best described as 'dark', 'traditional' and Scottish with Bear[1] Ale coming in at a bearable 5%. That's a nod to the Bear Gates that keep you outside of opening hours but they've upped the ABVs on the House and Jacobite Ales at 7.2% and 8% respectively! Hic!

Catherine Maxwell Stuart, the 21st Lady of Traquair, appears to have inherited her father's entrepreneurial spirit and she's buzzing around the place happy to chat to those whose interest extends beyond the brewery.

As with most places like this, they've had to diversify and as well as managing all 4,500 acres of the estate, she oversees the weddings and bar mitzvahs and their overnight guests and the corporate conferences and all manner of outdoor events in summer and, even, the annual International  Festival of Literature & Thought, it's thought.

It's presumed she sleeps well at night but not from the satisfaction of a hard and busy day. Rather, sat in front of Taggart of an evening with a couple of bottles of Jacobite, that's enough to send anyone off.

This can be officially confirmed. Hic!