Neidpath Castle, Scottish Borders
Almost one mile west of the Border town of Peebles, on a high ridge above a loop in the river Tweed, stands the peaceful looking L-plan keep of Neidpath castle. The castle site dates back to the late13th century when a tower was raised here by the Fraser family, in their role as sheriffs of Tweeddale. The Frasers were originally Norman importees invited into Scotland by King David I of Scotland to maintain order in the region through their well-known ruthless Norman efficiency.
The castle is close by the road heading west out of Peebles, however the best view is definitely heading the other way, when having to stop for oncoming traffic and looking out to the right across the river below, with the castle perched high above within its woodland setting. This is the perfect example of a Scottish tower house set within the beautiful Border country.
~ History ~
1140's ~ The Norman Frasers are invited into Scotland by King David I to maintain order in the region through their well known ruthless Norman efficiency.
1300 ~ Sir Simon Fraser who, during the siege of Caerlaverock castle steals horses and armour from King Edward I of England, whilst in his service. Simon flees and joins William Wallace in rebellion who defeats the English army three times on the same day at Roslin. In retaliation the Fraser lands of Neidpath are burnt by the English.
1305 ~ William Wallace is betrayed, captured, and executed for treason by King Edward. Sir Simon Fraser like so many other Scottish rebels return to King Edward's peace and is forgiven. He later serves as a soldier in France on behalf of Edward. But on his return to Scotland, he again rebels, this time with King Robert the Bruce.
1307 ~ After the defeat of the Scots at the battle of Methven, Sir Simon is captured and taken in chains to London, where he is tortured then executed in the same manner as Wallace. He is castrated, disemboweled having his entrails burnt before him while still alive, then hung drawn, quartered, and decapitated. With his head placed on a stake above London bridge beside the rotting skull of William Wallace. Neidpath tower is utterly destroyed.
1312 ~ The Norman Scottish Hay family inherited the estate of Neidpath through marriage to Sir Simon's only daughter and build themselves a new tower on the site of the previous tower.
1357 ~ The Hays move their principal seat from Neidpath to Yester Castle through marriage, building a courtyard castle astride the ruins of the famous subterranean Goblin Hall. Neidpath is retained as a second home in their role as Sheriffs of Peebles.
The Lowland Hays are allied to the Douglas's, originally through vassaldom to the 'Black' Douglas but then by marriage to the 'Red' Douglas's, who in turn rout the 'Black' Douglases on behalf of King James II. This destruction of the 'Black' Douglas's and their allies the Lyndsay's, iss also supported by the Gordons and Hays in the north and both families received rewards from the King for their loyal service.
1488 ~ The Hays along with the Gordons and Keith's desert
King James III prior to the battle of Sauchieburn near Stirling, where he is killed by a rebel Scots army led by his son Prince James and future King James IV.
1513 ~ Baron Yester and the Hays of Erroll fall at the battle of Flodden along with King James IV and many other nobles including the Douglas's, Gordon's and Keith's.
1544 ~ During the wars of the 'Rough Wooing' against the Scots by King Henry VIII to force the marriage of Mary Queen of Scots to his son and heir, the English Prince Edward, later King Edward VI of England, Neidpath escapes the wrath of the English in the castle burning attacks. Meanwhile the Hay's principal seat at Yester Castle is attacked. In the first assault the castle is stoutly defended by the 4th Baron Yester and the English withdraw to join their main army at prior to the battle of Pinkie.
During this battle the Scots are routed by combined use of land and ship based bombardment. Baron Yester while advancing with the 'Red' Douglas contingent is unhorsed and captured by the English, spending the next four years in the Tower of London.
1548 ~ In the second assault Yester Castle is eventually taken by the English and local Scots who favour the marriage of Mary to Edward. The English the raised a fort at Haddington. In desperation the Scots call on French military aid to evict these unwanted hostile tenants at Haddington. The French agree to this in exchange Mary is sent to France to marry Francis the Dauphin, heir to the French throne.
In revenge the English continue to burn castles and villages throughout the Borders. Yester Castle is again recaptured by the Scots but leave it in ruins while the siege of Haddington continues. Yester Castle is abandoned and left to ruin.
1563 ~ The Hays are among Mary Queen of Scots most loyal subjects and upon her return to Scotland entertain her at Neidpath castle.
1567 ~ The Hays field their army on behalf of Mary at the battle of Carberry Hill against the King.
1568 ~ Hay men again fight for Mary at the Battle of Langside.
1587 ~ Mary Queen of Scots is executed whilst in exile in England by Queen Elizabeth I.
Mary's son King James of Scotland and England holds a Privy Council at Neidpath Castle.
1646 ~ Hay of Neidpath is created 1st Earl of Tweeddale by King Charles I and commands a Royal regiment for the King against Oliver Cromwell's Parliament forces.
1650 ~ Following the defeat of the Scots army by Oliver Cromwell at the battle of Dunbar, Neidpath is attacked and after a limited bombardment eventually surrenders.
1680's ~ Neidpath is purchased by William Douglas, Duke of Queensberry for his second son, the Earl of March.
~ Myths & Legends ~
According to tradition the Castle is haunted by lady in a brown dress with a white collar, known as Jean Douglas, the ‘Maid of Neidpath’. Jean fell in love with the Laird of Tushielaw but was forbidden to see him by her father. The Laird was sent away while Jean pined away in grief. On the Lairds return he did not recognise Jean in her wasted state, and she is reputed to have died of a broken heart, doomed to wander the castle in sorrow. Sir Walter Scott stayed at the castle and wrote a poem about the legend adding to its popularity.