Despite its name Floors Castle isn’t actually a castle in the strict sense of the word but rather a grand country house. If you accept the ‘castle’ designation, it is the largest inhabited castle in Scotland.
As a reward for him endeavours in the Act of Union that created the United Kingdom in 1707, the first Duke received his Dukedom and title and set out to build a castle fit for his status as a nobleman. Architect William Adam (Son of acclaimed Robert Adam) was commissioned by Duke John, 1st Duke of Roxburghe to build the imposing structure on estate land and 14 years later the mansion was complete, making it one of the newest old ‘castles’ in Scotland. The layout follows an 18th-century tradition of having a main living block with two symmetrical service wings, similar in design and size to Hopetoun House just outside Edinburgh.
Floors was further embellished in the 19th century with turrets and battlements by William Playfair for Duke James.
Floors stands in 100 acres of mature estate land featuring one of the finest walled gardens in Scotland and a Holy tree that was planted to commemorate the spot where King James II died after his muscat backfired and killed him in 1460. Adams also laid out tree plantations giving grandeur to the estate whilst taking full advantage of the sweeping views across the Tweed valley to the Cheviots.
Visitors are treated to a feast for the eyes, with opulence and grandeur on an huge scale. Two Tapestry collections include the 17th century Gobelins tapestries that make a lovely backdrop to the ballroom whilst masterpieces by Picasso, Gainsborough, Raeburn and a particularly fine collection by Matisse are on display. With no less than 294 windows the upkeep of Floors Castle is no mean feat but 1748 was a particularly expensive year when the window tax was introduced. The tax due of £14 was the highest payment of its type in Scotland.
When Queen Victoria travelled to Balmoral every summer she made a habit of visiting castles on the journey north. While she didn’t ever stay at Floors, she did go for afternoon tea in 1867. The Queen’s House was built in honour of her visit and today you can visit it in the Walled Garden.
Across the River Tweed lies the ruined remains of Roxburgh Castle, one of the largest medieval fortresses in Scotland built in 1125.