Neidpath Castle

(Nerdpath Castle)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Neidpath Castle, an old baronial fortalice in Peebles parish, Peeblesshire, on the Tweed's N bank, 1 mile to the W of Peebles town. It is the strongest and most massive of the numerous feudal strengths still extant in Peeblesshire; and, though ruinous and partly fallen, it still exhibits an imposing quadrangular pile. Its walls are 11 feet thick, and consist of greywacke stones held together by a cement as hard almost as themselves. The castle stands on a rock at the lower end of a wide semicircular bend of the murmuring Tweed. The concave bank, or that on the side of the castle, is very steep, and of great height; the convex bank commences with a little plain half encircled by the river, and rises in a bold and beautiful headland, which seems to stand sentinel over the bend. Amidst this scene, the castle commands, on the NW side, an important pass; and, on the E, it overlooks the opening vale of the Tweed and the bridge and town of Peebles. Sings Pennicuik in his Description of Tweeddale;-

'The noble Nidpath Peebles overlooks,
With its fair bridge, and Tweed's meandering brooks.
Upon a rock it proud and stately stands,
And to the fields about gives forth commands.'

The woods which embowered the castle were felled by 'Old Q.,' the last Duke of Queensberry, either meanly to impoverish the estate before it should fall to the heir of entail, or to fling what he could in the lap of his natural daughter. Wordsworth, who came hither with his sister Dorothy on 18 Sept. 1803, has thus denounced this act of vandalism:

'Degenerate Douglas! thou unworthy Lord,
Whom mere despite of heart could so far please,
And love of havoc (for with such disease
Fame taxes him), that he would send forth word
To level with the dust a noble horde,
A brotherhood of venerable trees,
Leaving. an ancient dome and towers like these,
Beggared and outraged! many Hearts deplored
The fate of those old trees; and oft with pain
The traveller at this day will stop and gaze
On wrongs which Nature scarcely seems to heed;
For sheltered place, bosoms. nooks. and bays,
And the pure Mountains, and the gentle Tweed,
And the green silent pastured yet remain.'

The seventh Earl of Wemyss replanted the demesne, which now once more is beautifully wooded. The S or older part of the castle has tumbled in huge masses to the margin of the Tweed; the later, albeit ancient, portion has recently been refaced, and thereby not improved in aspect, as neither by a tall white chimney. On the keystone of the courtyard archway is the crest of the Hays of Yester, a goat's head over a coronet, with a bunch of strawberries (French fraises) beneath, symbolical of the name Fraser. Rooms on two floors are tenanted still by the keeper; and the top, which commands a magnificent prospect, is gained by a narrow corkscrew staircase.

The castle was anciently the chief residence of the powerful family of the Frasers-proprietors first of Oliver Castle in Tweedsmuir, and afterwards of great part of the lands from thence to Peebles,-sheriffs of the county, and progenitors of the families of Lovat and Saltoun. The last male of them in Tweeddale was the valiant Sir Simon Fraser, who thrice in one day defeated the English in the battle of Roslin Moor (1302), and by the marriage of whose elder daughter Neidpath Castle passed in 1312 to the Hays of Tester, ancestors of the Earls and Marquises of Tweeddale. By one of them, probably Sir William Hay, in the early part of the 15th century, the newer portion was added. In 1587 James VI. was at Neidpath, which in 1650 was garrisoned by the young Lord Yester for the King's service, and held out against Cromwell longer than any other place S of the Forth, but, being battered by shot on its southern or weakest side, was at last forced to surrender. In 1686 the Tweeddale estate was purchased by the first Duke of Queensberry for £23, 333, and by him was settled on his second son, the Earl of March. During the first half of last century it was the summer home of the Earls of March, the third of whom in 1778 became by inheritance fourth Duke of Queensberry. At the latter's death without male issue in 1810, it was transmitted to the Earl of Wemyss, the descendant of a daughter of the Queensberry family. Towards the close of last century Neidpath was for some time occupied by Prof. Adam Ferguson the historian, and Sir Walter Scott speaks of cheerful days he spent then within its walls. And Ellen, Earl March's -child, the 'Maid of Neidpath'-history tells nought of her, but the world knows her through the lyrics of Scott and Campbell.—Ord. Sur., sh. 24, 1864.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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