Neidpath Castle is a tall 14th Century L-plan tower house which sits on a steep bank overlooking the River Tweed. It has an unusual internal layout and rounded corners on the keep.
The first castle at Neidpath was constructed by Sir Simon Fraser in the mid-13th Century. He was a Knight Banneret and friend of William Wallace. He was one of the leaders of the Scottish victory at the Battle of Roslin and later fought for Robert the Bruce. He was captured by English forces in 1306 and executed in London.
After Fraser's death, the barony of Neidpath came into the Hay family by marriage. They built most of the castle that we see today, perhaps using the foundations of Fraser's castle. They used greywacke stone rubble, a rock noted for its hardness, and a very hard mortar to construct the castle's eleven foot thick walls.
The original entrance to the castle was on the south side, accessed via a wooden staircase that could be removed in the event of an attack. The turrets were probably simple bartizans.
Neidpath Castle was unscathed during King Henry's "Rough Wooing” while the family's other castle at Yester was attacked twice. The Hays family were strong supporters of Mary, Queen of Scots. She was entertained here in 1563 and her son King James VI of Scotland (James I of England) held a privy council here 1587.
The Hays were on the Royalist side during the Civil War. Cromwell's forces besieged the castle in 1650 and Neidpath was notable as it held out for longer than any other fortress in southern Scotland. It is said that the castle only surrendered when Cromwell's cannon started to take the walls down. As a result of his support John Hay of Yester was created 1st Earl of Tweeddale by King Charles II.
After the damage it suffered in the war, the keep was substantially remodelled in the 1660s by the 2nd Earl. An additional storey was added beneath the vault of the hall and a wide stair was added. It was also around this time that the courtyard buildings were constructed, along with an avenue of yew trees and gardens.
Inside the castle the basement of the main block and wing are both vaulted. The widened staircase leads from the first floor to the vaulted main hall on the second floor. Inside the walls turnpike stairs lead up to the third floor. There is also a dark pit prison which can only be reached from a hatch in the floor above. Its four main floors are intersected by mural passages and mezzanine floors which give the impression that the castle is full of small chambers and passages.
The 2nd Earl was declared bankrupt and sold Neidpath to the William Douglas, 1st Duke of Queensbury in 1686. In the late 18th Century the castle was let out to tenants, including the Scottish philosopher, author and enlightenment historian Adam Ferguson.
By the 1790's Neidpath Castle was in the possession of the 4th Duke of Queensbury. He spent most of his time in London society and didn't care much for his lands. Neidpath was suffering from a lack of maintenance and the upper floors of the wing collapsed. In 1795 the Duke also had some of the gardens demolished and trees cut down, for which William Wordsworth pilloried him in a sonnet.
In 1810 the castle passed into the hands of the Wemyss family. They still own it and have maintained and improved it where possible.
The castle is private and only open by arrangement. Tours for groups, schools and students can be arranged with the estate office. Neidpath can also be rented for parties, weddings and as a filming location.
Neidpath Castle has catered for a number of events including historical re-enactments, Burns suppers, musical evenings and the International Chutney Festival.
Status: Private / Wedding Venue / Events Venue
Owner: Wemyss & March Estates Management Co Ltd
Tel: +44 (0)1875 870 201
Opening Times: Open by arrangement only.
Neidpath Castle's Keep
Looking up at Neidpath Castle from the Tweed