Take a Tour
Visitors can take a tour through the house where there are 17 rooms open to the public. The house has an intimate family feel with the main rooms reflecting an eighteenth century décor. However, step through to the original tower and you can see the bed where Mary Queen of Scots slept and the original stair that became part of the secret escape route for Catholic priests in times of terror. A full history of the house can be found here.
The main entrance will lead you into the hall and the main stairs. Beyond this to your left is the cellar passage where you can see into two vaulted cellars. Ahead you will see the Servants’ Bells and you can go into the Still Room, the housekeepers’ office in Victorian times and in the eighteenth century a garden parlour overlooking formal par terre gardens.
Entrance and Main Stairs
As you enter the main house you will pass through the original inner front door where it is said the Earl of Montrose hammered in vain when he sought shelter at Traquair following his defeat at the battle of Philiphaugh in 1645. The Earl pretended he was not at home and later accused of treachery.
The main stairs built around the late 1500’s as the house was extended lead to the upper floors.
The “Still Room” situated on the ground floor was originally a garden parlour in the 1700’s but later became the housekeeper’s room when the room was partitioned and she kept her stores under lock and key. The room was also situated here so she could have listened for the bells outside in the hall. There is a fine display of porcelain here both English and Chinese and a trompe d’oeil painting on wood above the fireplace. You can see a photograph in the corner of Lady Louisa Stuart who died in 1896 in her 100th year. If you are staying for bed and breakfast, the Still Room is where breakfast is served.
You can see kitchen items from Victorian times including a butter churn, copper pans and other kichenware.
Peer into this cellar and perhaps you will see the Traquair ghost!
On this floor you can see the High Drawing Room, the largest room in the entire house built in the late 1500’s and then pass through into the original 12th century tower where you can see the Dressing Room and Kings Room.
High Drawing Room
When this room was completed in the late 1500’s it was more a medieval great hall in style. The ceiling was decorated with painted beams and behind the wood paneling traces of the original murals still exist. A part of the ceiling was restored in the 1950’s which you can see now. The room was then remodeled by the 5th Earl in the mid 1700’s and very much reflects the classical influences that were popular at the time. The wood paneling includes classical Greek columns and the painted overdoors represent the “liberal arts” music, drama and architecture.
This room has been rearranged to demonstrate the domestic life of former times with bath, bidet, hot water cans, slop basin, washstand etc. The first bathroom at Traquair with running water was only installed in the 1920’s and electricity was not introduced here until the late 1950’s. In the corner of the room is a disguised secret cupboard for valuables reflecting life in the late 1600’s when the family were often subject to searches because of their Roman Catholic religion.
This was the main room of the original tower house – the oldest part of Traquair. The kings and queens of Scotland stayed here when they came on hunting trips, climbing the small winding stair behind the door in the corner. This was the only entrance until the tower was extended in the 1500’s. Mary Queen of Scots stayed here with her husband, Darnley and their baby James, who was to become King James VI of Scotland. He slept in the cradle at the foot of the bed. The bed itself had an interesting history as at some point the in the 1700’s it was used as a “mourning bed” and all the hangings were dyed black. The 19th Laird restored it to its original colour.
Enter this room either by the original tower stairs or by the main stair. On this floor you will see the Museum Room, a former lumber room which contains many objects, needlework and glass as well as hunting mural dating from the 1530’s perhaps indicating this room was more important in medieval times. Along the corridor on this floor you can see into the Guest Room.
The Museum Room is made up of the original tower and the newer addition in the early 1500’s which contains a mural decoration of a hunting scene that has been dated to 1530 (pictured above). The room was originally a Great Hall used for entertaining but latterly became a lumber room where the family stored its innumerable collection of treasures in trunks and boxes. These included a superb collection of embroideries such as this petit point embroidery (left) from the 1600’s.
The Guest Room
This room was regularly used as a guest bedroom and the half tester bed is similar to other bedrooms in the house. The wallpaper is from the 1950’s but the carpet is one of the earliest examples of Scottish carpet known to still exist from the early eighteenth century.
On this, the top floor of the house, you can visit the Dolls Collection, High Gallery, First Library, Second Library and the Priests’ Room.
The Dolls Collection
The Dolls collection is a bequest from ….. w and contain over 60 dolls … and the Doll’s House an exquisite replica of a Georgian House donated by Mrs Joan Scott.
The High Gallery shows a series of rotating exhibitions from the archives and also exhibits work from contemporary artists. The room is also used for meetings, small lectures and conferences.
The First Library
Created between 1700 and 1740, the Library has a collection of about 3000 books and has remained almost intact since it was first formed.
Portraits of philosophers and poets around the ceiling cornice are used for cataloging the books, which are numbered and ordered below them. Over the fireplace is a schoolroom scene, possibly after a painting by Jan Steen and painted by a local artist.
The Second Library
This Library acts as an overflow to the First Library and contains a further 1800 books as well as examples of the extensive archive material in the house. As the house was never sold the archive holds an extraordinary amount of domestic and political papers revealing a remarkably insight into family life over the centuries.
This room was used as a Chapel until the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed in 1829. Here the resident chaplain would also have lived, often in complete secrecy. In the corner of the room you can see an ingeniously designed secret escape route hidden behind a shelved cupboard.
In times of danger the priest could have fled through the cupboard and down the old stairs, then leave by the side of the building when the house was being searched.
The two wings of the house, sometimes referred to as the “modern wings” were added in 1694 by the Edinburgh architect, James Smith who also completed the courtyard with its wrought iron gates and the pavilions at the back of the house.
This room is situated in one of the “modern” wings of the house which were built in 1694. The decoration here is now Victorian with French hand blocked wallpaper chosen at the Great Exhibition in 1851. The table can be extended to seat up to 24 people and is used by the family and also can be hired for weddings and special events. There are a remarkable collection of family portraits on the wall including a portrait of the 1st Earl of Traquair, who was made Lord High Treasurer of Scotland in 1636. On the sideboard there is a collection of pewter plates and mugs as well as three cutlery boxes. The centre one contains a full complement of Bow porcelain-handled knives and forks.
Lower Drawing Room
This room adjoins the Dining Room and is where the ladies would have retired after dinner or taken tea in the afternoon. There is another example of the French hand blocked wallpaper in this room and a Chippendale style mirror over the fireplace. On either side of the fireplace hang the portraits of the Duke of Perth and the Duchess (daughter of the 4th Earl of Traquair), both painted by John Alexander in 1735.
In the far left corner of the room is an ebonised Flemish cabinet c 1700 decorated with biblical scenes.
In the East wing lies the Roman Catholic Chapel which was converted in 1829 after the Catholic Emancipation Act was passed. Previously, the family billiards room, it is a Victorian style chapel where servants and estate workers would have sat in the pews with the family at the back behind the screen. There are 12 Flemish oak carvings from the 1500’s depicting the life of Christ and a fine Italian marble altar. The kneelers are all individually embroidered by a group of volunteers and depict designs inspired by the interiors of Traquair. You may also pick up the very “heavenly smell” coming from below as this is where the eighteenth century brewhouse is situated.