Early Medieval Period

Early Medieval Period

Early Medieval Period - Royal hunting lodge and defensive tower

The name Traquair comes from tret or tre a word of Celtic origin meaning a dwelling place or hamlet, and from quair meaning a stream with a winding course. The Quair burn joins the River Tweed a few hundred yards from the rear of the house.

It is not known when the exact foundations of the house were laid but a substantial structure must have existed by 1107 when Alexander 1 of Scotland signed a royal charter at Traquair. At this time the castle was used as a hunting lodge for royalty and also as a base where they could administer justice, issue laws and hold courts. At Traquair, many charters still exist. One, signed in 1175 authorised William the Lion to found a Bishop's Burgh with a right to hold a market on Thursday. This small hamlet was later to become the City of Glasgow.

During this period Traquair was nestled in the middle of the vast Ettrick Forest and provided a superb venue for royal hunting parties who came to hunt wild cat, wolves, deer, wild boar and bears who roamed the forest. A mural painting in the Museum dating back to the early 1500's depicts some of these early hunting scenes.

After the death of Alexander III in 1286 the peaceful life of the Borders was shattered by the Wars of Independence. Traquair became one of the many fortified towers or peles that were built along the banks of the Tweed. When the alarm was raised they could communicate to each other by lighting a beacon at the top of the tower and alert the neighbours of an English invasion. Traquair was briefly occupied by English troops but returned to the Crown with the accession of Robert the Bruce in 1306.

More peaceful times eventually returned to Traquair in the 15th century and when James III succeeded in 1460 he gave Traquair to his current favourite Robert Lord Boyd, but when the gift was not appreciated he gave the castle to his favourite court musician, William Rogers. However, he held Traquair for only nine years when he was persuaded to sell it to the Earl of Buchan for the paltry sum of 70 Scots merks (£3 15s).

The Earl of Buchan, a half uncle to the king then gave Traquair to his second son James Stewart who became the first Laird of Traquair in 1491. Since this date the house has remained in the same family.