Plate XI., Borthwick Castle, p.25.

[Scotland Illustrated Contents]


ABOUT the end of the fourteenth and beginning of the fifteenth century, lived a Sir William Borthwick, who, being a man of great parts, was employed as an ambassador on several important negotiations, and concerned in most of the public transactions of his time. This William appears to have been created Lord Borthwick before 1430; for, in October that year, at the baptism of the king’s two sons, several knights were created, and among the rest William, son and heir of Lord Borthwick. He obtained from James I., of Scotland, a license to build and fortify a castle on the lands of Lochwarret, or Locherworth, which he had bought from Sir William Hay: “Ad construendam castrum in loco illo qui vulgariter dicitur le Mote de Lochorwart.” This grant was obtained by a charter under the great seal, June 2d, 1430. A stately and most magnificent castle was accordingly reared, and afterward became the chief seat and title of the family. This amazing mass of building, which gives name to the parish of Mid-Lothian in which it is situated, is yet upon the whole very entire, and of astonishing strength. There is indeed in the middle of the east wall a considerable breach; but whether occasioned by a flash of lightning, or by the influence of weather, or by some original defect in the building, cannot now with certainty be determined. The form of this venerable structure is nearly square, being 74 by 68 feet without walls, but having on the west side a large opening which seems to have been intended to give light to the principal apartments. The walls themselves – which are of hewn stone without and within, and most firmly cemented – are thirteen feet thick near the bottom, and towards the top are gradually contracted to about six feet. Besides the sunk story, they are, from the adjacent area to the battlement, ninety feet high; and if we include the roof, which is arched and covered with flag-stones, the whole height will be about 110 feet. “From the battlements of Borthwick castle, which command a varied and beautiful view, the top of Crichton castle can be discovered, lying about two miles distant to the eastward. The convenience of communicating by signal with a neighbouring fortress was an object so much studied in the erection of Scottish castles, that, in all probability, this formed one reason of the unusual height to which Borthwick castle is raised.” On the first story are state-rooms, which were once accessible by a drawbridge. The great hall is 40 feet long, and so high in the roof that, says Nisbet, “a man on horseback might turn a spear in it with all the ease imaginable.”