Places to Visit in Scotland
- Floors Castle
To the north of the Borders town of Kelso is the magnificent and imposing Floors Castle, home to the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe. The name is derived from the French "Fleurs" and an atlas of 1590 shows that there was a castle at this location at that time. The present Floors Castle was built for the 1st Duke of Roxburghe in 1721 who commissioned William Adam to create a plain, but symmetrical neo-classical Georgian country house. Over the generations, each Duke made their own personal mark by adding extensions, east and west wings, and more elaborate interiors. It was the sixth duke in the late 1830s who invited the celebrated architect of the day, William Playfair to remodel the Castle. This was a major commission and he was determined to create something rather flamboyant and dramatic to complement the breathtaking setting of the beautiful estate sweeping down to the River Tweed His vision was a romantic fairy tale castle with pepperpot towers and turrets, battlements and parapets as well as a window for every day of the year.
Playfair`s dream was fulfilled. The Duke and Duchess were "much pleased with the alterations" and their near neighbour from Abbotsford,Sir Walter Scott marvelled at the romantic new look.
" A kingdom for Oberon and Titania to dwell in" he remarked.
Floors Castle today is the largest inhabited caste in Scotland but apart from being a private ancestral home, several of the fabulous State rooms are open to the public through the summer months. On view are outstanding collections of French 17th and 18th century furniture, fine works of art including masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse and Augustus John. Everywhere are ornate painted ceilings, wood panelling and rich fabrics. The 8th Duke married May Goelet, a beautiful young American heiress, who brought to Floors her own collection of art including a priceless series of 17th century Gobelins tapestries. The ballroom was specially altered in the 1930s to provide the wall space to hang these exquisitely embroidered fabrics depicting Neptune, Ceres, Venus, Cupid and Juno as the Elements accompanied by the Seasons.
As this is a living, breathing home, not a museum, you gain more of a sense of a family history tracing the ancestral line of the Roxburghes, generation by generation from the first to the present, tenth, Duke. All around, still keeping a watchful eye are grand posed portraits of previous owners. But also scattered around the Louis XVI oak tables and desks, are contemporary photographs of the present family. In the dining room and displayed in endless glass cabinets are numerous gold rimmed, dinner services and delicate tea sets, Chinese and Dresden porcelain, crystal glasses and silver tea pots all reminiscent of previous wedding gifts and purchases over the centuries and all still beautifully preserved.
What you take away is a truly romantic, continually evolving, story of a house and its family with all the ghosts and memories, treasured gifts and impressions left by succeeding generations.
This article is by travel writer Vivien Devlin and the graphics on this page are courtesy of Floors Castle.
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