House of the Binns

(The Binns)

The House of the Binns
©2022 Gazetteer for Scotland

The House of the Binns

Located 3 miles (5 km) east of Linlithgow and 5 miles (8 km) west of South Queensferry is the House of the Binns, the home of the Dalyell family from the early 17th Century. The name derives from two hills, or Binns in Celtic, on which the house is situated. In 1612, the estate was acquired by Thomas Dalyell, an Edinburgh merchant and between 1621-30 he completely rebuilt the original house on the site. His son, the Royalist General Tam Dalyell (1615-85), is perhaps its most notable owner. He extended the Binns, adding the first of several towers said the have been built to prevent the devil blowing the house away.

Today, little can be seen of the original 17th Century three-storey structure, but it still forms the core of the house. It was extended in the mid-18th Century and again c.1810 by the architect William Burn (1789 - 1870), who moulded it into the Baronial style, adding further towers and mock battlements. The resulting appearance was that of a stylised fort, but importantly the house maintains a record of changing taste over a period of two centuries.

The inside is more impressive than the exterior; there are fine cornices and mouldings that are amongst the earliest examples in Scotland. The High Hall and King's Room date from the time of the original house and are finely decorated. The Sea Room gives fine views over the Firth of Forth, while the Library includes a portrait of General Tam and features a fine mid-18th century fireplace. The rooms contain a fascinating collection of family portraits, Scottish furniture and Chinese and European porcelain. General Tam's memorabilia are preserved, including his Bible and sword.

In 1944, the Binns was the first to be acquired by the National Trust for Scotland under the Country Houses Scheme. The Dalyells retain part of the house, which is today home to outspoken Member of Parliament Tam Dalyell (b.1932).

The grounds include a woodland walk with views over the Firth of Forth.

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