Thirlestane Castle

Thirlestane Castle is now a hotel where guests can stay. However, visitors who aren’t hotel guests can also take a tour around the castle. Visitors can also stay at the Thirlestane Castle Caravan Park, situated under the castle, on the estate grounds. 

As well as the castle’s architecture and grounds, visitors can look at a collection of paintings, furniture, toys, porcelain, and other historical artefacts.

Visiting Thirlestane Castle


There are parking and restroom facilities available on-site.


If you are not a guest at Thirlestane Castle, you will need to book a tour. Tours are on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays at 10:30 am and 2 pm. The tours are run by experienced tour guides, who will take you through the castle's interior and exterior. If you're lucky, the tour may even be run by a member of the Maitland family

Tickets cost £15.00 for adults, £14.00 for concessions, and £5.00 for children. 

To go on a tour, you should check that tours are running and pre-book tickets. 


Thirlestane Castle is open to guests throughout the year. However, before driving to the castle, check the website to ensure it is open and rooms or tours are available.

Thirlestane Castle is in Scotland’s Lauder region. History has seen two Thirlestane Castles; the first was built in the 13th century as a simple fort. In the 16th century, the Maitland family took control of Thirlestane Castle and built a magnificent second structure, which still stands today.

Location and Access

Lauder, Berwickshire

Scotland TD2 6RU

Telephone: 01578 722430

If coming by bus, you can catch the number 51, which will drop you at a stop nearby the police station. The castle is about a nine-minute walk.

By car, the castle can be found not far from the A68 in Lauder.

History of Thirlestane Castle

Thirlestane Castle was built in the 13th century as a border fort to protect Edinburgh. Over the centuries, it passed down to different families who added upgrades and defensive enhancements to the original structure. Today, Thirlestane Castle is a high-end hotel that is open to visitors and guests.

Time Line

The following dates are rough and may have been a couple of years out as different sources report slightly different dates.

-13th Century (Original Thirlestane Castle Was Built)

Historians believe that Thirlestane Castle was originally a border fort or castle that would deter attacks on Edinburgh from the South. The Scottish monarchy built the original structure near Leader Water on Castle Hill. 

-1532 (Given to the Wedderhede Family)

In 1532, Robert Lauder of Ilk gave the castle to his daughter, Alison, and her new husband, George Wedderhede, as a part of Alison’s dowry. However, the couple and their children were murdered in regional feuds in 1567. The castle then passed on to the couple’s grandchildren. 

-1543 – 1551 (Occupied by the English)

During the Rough Wooing wars, the English army occupied the castle. In the time of occupation, Sir Robert Bowes made improvements to the structure by adding a fort. 

The castle then passed into the ownership of the Cranstoun family. 

-1587 (Sold to the Maitland Family)

In January 1587, the Cranstoun family sold Thirlestane Castle to the Maitlands, a politically powerful Scottish family. Sir John Maitland built a square keep on Thirlestane Castle's site, transforming it into a fort. 

He then began constructing a new home in the Border Hills, a mile (1.6 km) away from the castle’s old site. It was this structure that became the new Thirlestane Castle. The other structure is now called ‘Old Thirlestane Castle,’ and only a crumbling tower remains visible today. 

The Maitland family resided in the new Thirlestane Castle, where attention shifted to this new structure.

-1590 (The Structure Is Enhanced)

In 1590, Sir John Maitland was made the Lord Chancellor of Scotland and gained a new title; Lord Maitland of Thirlestane. He began enhancing Thirlestane Castle and commissioned stonemasons and builders to make the castle into a large, three-storied structure. 

Royalty visited the enhanced Thirlestane Castle often. James VI is recorded to have stayed at least three times for weddings and country excursions. 

-1660 (Alterations to the Castle)

In 1660, the Maitland family ascended to greater heights. John Maitland, the Duke of Lauderdale, was appointed the Secretary of State of Scotland in 1660 and appointed renowned architect Sir William Bruce to upgrade the castle. Sir William was influenced by Renaissance architecture. Some of the adaptations he made to the castle included: 

  • Two imposing front towers.
  • Impressive staterooms with plasterwork ceilings that were distinctive to the 17th century.
  • New windows to the stone walls.
  • A sweeping grand staircase at the entry. 

While Sir William made several adaptations, he retained many of the castle’s original features, creating a structure that blended the best architectural elements of different centuries. 

-1745 (Hosted Prince Charles)

When Prince Charles (who would later become Charles III) was travelling to England to reclaim his throne with the Jacobite army, he stayed at Thirlestane Castle. The suite he stayed in is called ‘Bonnie Prince Charlie’s Room’ — even today. 

-1840 (More Upgrades)

In 1840, David Bryce and William Burn were commissioned to make improvements to the castle. They added two large wings and a central courtyard. The new wings made room for servant’s quarters, more expansive kitchens, and additional laundries. 

In their design and construction, David Bryce and William Burn were careful to retain features of the earlier baroque architecture while at the same time adding modern Victorian elements and comforts. 

Thirlestane Castle hosted several lavish Victorian parties in the 19th century. 

-1914–1918 (Used as a Hospital)

During World War I, Thirlestane Castle was used as a hospital and recovery centre. It catered to soldiers from the officer class. 

-1939–1944 (Residence of St Hilary’s Girl’s School)

During World War II, students and teachers from St Hilary's school (based in Edinburgh) were evacuated to Thirlestane Castle. Much of the castle was used as dormitories and castles until 1944. The school relocated to England the same year.

Through this time, the Earl and Countess of Lauderdale also lived at Thirlestane Castle. 

-1984 (Cared For by a Charitable Trust)

In 1984, the Maitland family employed a charitable trust that helped carry out extensive repairs and renovations. The charitable trust still functions today and works to ensure that the castle is preserved. 

-2016 – Present (A Hotel and Heritage Site)

Thirlestane Castle has been transformed into a luxurious hotel with self-catered apartments. The hotel has over five self-catered apartments, each having its own unique historical relevance. 

Guests at the hotel can engage in a range of experiences, including touring the castle, visiting the castle wine cellars, and dining in one of the staterooms. 

Thirlestane Castle Occupants


  • 13th Century - Mid 16th Century: Built by the Scottish monarchs and used as a fort under monarch control.
  • Mid 16th Century - Late 16th Century: Passed from the Wedderhede family to the Cranstoun family.
  • Late 16th Century: Sold to the Maitland family, who built a new structure.
  • Late 16th Century - Present: Owned and occupied by the Maitland family and looked after by a charitable trust.

 Images of Thirlestane Castle

Thirlestane Castle
Thirlestane Castle

Images Supplied and licensed from Shutterstock Standard Licence Package

Thirlestane Castle Q&A

What Kind of Castle Is Thirlestane Castle?

Thirlestane Castle was originally a stone castle erected to defend Edinburgh from invasions from the South. Over the centuries, it has been adapted to include materials and elements from different eras. 

What Was the Primary Use of Thirlestane Castle?

Thirlestane Castle has served many different purposes over the years. It was the powerful Maitland family's residence for centuries and hosted royalty, nobility, and several balls. It also served as a hospital and a school in the first and second World Wars, respectively. 

What Is Thirlestane Castle Used for Today?

Today, Thirlestane Castle is both a hotel and a well-cared-for monument. The castle is part of the Big Houses in the Scottish Borders group, committed to protecting and preserving monuments in the Scottish region. 

What Else Can Visitors Do and See Around Thirlestane Castle?

There are several attractions around Thirlestane Castle that people will enjoy. Visitors can visit the Trimontium Heritage Center and the Lochcarron of Scotland Visitor Center, both museums that give you insights into Scottish history.

You can also visit Floors Castle to understand more about Scotland’s military history. 

The Thirlestane Castle hospitality team also offers a range of experiences, including falconry and country dancing demonstrations, whisky and gin tasting, and archery and clay pigeon shooting. 

Location of Thirlestane Castle

Thirlestane Castle is situated near Lauder, Berwickshire. It is half an hour’s drive from Edinburgh; visitors can fly into the Edinburgh airport and drive down to the castle.