Places to Visit in Scotland
- Bowhill House, Scottish Borders
Bowhill House from the Parkland
Bowhill House is the home of the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch and Queensberry and their family. The Duke, of course, is the clan chief of the Scotts who have had an association with the Scottish Borders going back to at least the 12th century. The original Buccleuch Castle was about 16 miles west of Hawick but the Scotts moved to a more substantial property at Branxholme Castle, south of Hawick. But after the Union of the Crowns on 1603, the lawlessness that was prevalent in the early days subsided and stout defensive castles were no longer so important. But it was not until the early 19th century that the Scotts (by now elevated to the dukedoms of Buccleuch and Queensberry partly as a result of astute marriages) began to build Bowhill House which was completed in the 1870s, surrounded by an extensive estate. Sir Walter Scott, a kinsman and frequent visitor, admired the house so much he christened it ‘Sweet Bowhill’ in his famous poem, ‘The Lay of the Last Minstrel’.
Over the centuries the Dukes have collected an impressive collection of paintings and tapestries including works by Leonardo da Vinci, Joshua Reynolds, Edwin Landseer, Canaletto, Henry Raeburn, David Wilkie, Hans Holbein and many others. Other art treasures, include 18th century hand-painted Chinese wallpapers, family portraits by Gainsborough and Reynolds and portrait miniatures by Hans Holbein, Nicholas Hilliard and Samuel Cooper. Pictures line the walls throughout Bowhill and many Art Galleries would struggle to match the range and quality of what is on display. The graphic on the left is of Henry Scott, 3rd Duke of Buccleuch (public domain, via Wikimedia Commons ). Henry Scott (1746-1812), is best known as a travelling companion of Adam Smith the economist.
Walks and Other Activities in the Estate
Bowhill covers over 63,000 acres and you can pick up a leaflet at the visitor centre that has maps showing a number of walks of different types. There is a relatively short walk which is suitable for taking children in push-chairs and circles round two small tranquil lochs. This provides views back to Bowhill House - in spring the grassland is a sea of daffodils. As well as longer walks by the banks of the river Yarrow which take you to ancient Newark Castle. Although a ruin without a roof its ten feet thick walls are still impressive. See also Places to Visit - Newark Castle on Rampant Scotland for more on this historic building. In addition to the wild flowers and birds that can be seen around the estate you may be lucky and spot an elusive red squirrel too!
Bowhill House was positioned so that it had great views across the estate and those views can be appreciated from the gardens as well. There is a rose garden, formal flower borders and a rock garden at the rear of the house and in spring rhododendrons and azaleas produce their vivid colours. At the east end of the House there is a Sunken Garden and a small arboretum is being created with trees to put on a year-round show with their spring and autumn colours, flowers and berries.
In addition to the house itself with its fabulous collection of art and objects there is a small theatre which can be used for performances or conferences, a visitor centre with a wide range of souvenirs (the Bowhill brochure with its lavish illustrations of the inside of Bowhill is well worth the purchase price as you could easily miss some of the objects on display in the house). Then there is an excellent "Minstrel Tearoom" with a menu that includes home made soup (which I can recommend), sandwiches, toasties, Paninis and baked potatoes with various fillings and, of course, tea and coffee and soft drinks. There is a "soft play" room for the children to burn off some excess energy as well as an open air adventure playground in the woods.
You can also arrange riding lessons and trekking at the riding centre next to Bowhill in the old stables. The Buccleuch Country Riding trail covers 57 miles through the beautiful Borders scenery, crossing the scenic Cheviot and Lammermuir hills. The Buccleuch Country Ride is the first long distance trail of its kind in Scotland.
You can get more information about Bowhill, including opening hours at the Bowhill House Web site. The site also gives details of special events such as at Easter, May Day Holiday, Harvest Festival and Halloween Ghost Walks. You can also print out PDF format brochures about specific aspects of Bowhill.
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