“Good morning, Your Grace,” said Beverley Rutherford, Director of Operations at Floors Castle, as we made our way into the building. Your Grace? I may be American but I’ve read enough history books and watched enough films to recognize that title and the importance of it. I quickly looked up to see the 10th Duke of Roxburghe, and owner of this magnificent estate, walking past while on his way to work for the day. This is how my visit at Floors Castle began.
I had been touring Scotland with Ian Walker, owner of Borders Journeys, who kindly set up a private tour of Floors Castle for me. While I know that Ian and Beverley are lovely people who are incredibly good at their jobs, even I know they didn’t plan that moment simply to impress little ol’ me from California. In fact, I’d bet good money that they’ve forgotten all about it. However, it’s not every day when I get to explore castles and meet dukes! Shocking, I know. I think it’s safe to say that I won’t forget that moment any time soon.
Floors Castle was nothing like I expected it to be but everything I wanted it to be. Let me explain. Most castles I’ve visited, while impressive, are cold, empty, and it is up to me to imagine what they really were like way back when. Built in the 1720s, Floors Castle has been home to the Dukes of Roxburghe and remains a country home to this day.
As you walk through the main rooms, you’ll encounter old portraits of the previous owners, as well as photographs of the current Duke and his family. I was allowed a peak into the family’s dining room, which was absolutely massive with high ceilings, a grand fireplace, and ornate, antique furniture. There was also a baby’s highchair around the table, as a reminder that the family really does live here.
Even while passing through rooms with 17th century tapestries and chandeliers, it never felt too over the top or garish. Most rooms felt cozy and lived in… because they are! To me, this is what makes Floors Castle a unique and fascinating place to visit. I really enjoyed the varying decorative styles and furniture in each room. This is largely due to the marriage between the 8th Duke and May Goelet in 1903. May was an American heiress who brought with her a fabulous collection of American art, Belgian tapestries, French furniture, and Chinese porcelain.
Be careful not to spend all your time indoors at Floors because the exterior is equally as impressive. Visitors can explore acres of hearty woodland, go for a riverside walk, or relax in the Walled Garden and formal Millennium Gardens. While only an hour from Edinburgh, you’ll feel as if you’ve escaped to a more simple, peaceful place.
It was interesting to learn how Queen Victoria spent time at Floors Castle while mourning the death of her husband, Prince Albert. She was good friends with Duchess Anne Innes-Ker, married to the 7th Duke of Roxburghe. There’s plenty of Queen Victoria memorabilia to discover which I really loved and in the Millennium Garden, there’s a charming building known as the Queen’s House. This was built in 1867 as a place for Queen Victoria to take afternoon tea while visiting that year in August.
A visit to Floors Castle isn’t complete until you’ve dined at the Terrace Cafe. The excellent food comes as no surprise since the Duke’s personal chef works in the cafe kitchen as well. I realize now why even locals come here to eat! Please promise me that you’ll order the salmon cakes and treat yourself to a box of shortbread for the drive back. You’ll have zero regrets.
In 2016, Floors Castle will be open from March 25th until October 30th. However, private tours can be scheduled in the off seasons which is definitely worth looking into! Like me, you’ll feel as though you have the place to yourself. Except for, perhaps, the Duke’s granddaughter waving goodbye to you from the window as you take your last picture in front of the castle. Again, I don’t think Beverley or Ian planned this but I was starting to get suspicious!
My day at Floors Castle was truly memorable and I hope you enjoyed reminiscing with me! I’ll be writing more about my time in Scotland next week. I wrote a post last week about my overall experience of touring with Ian from Borders Journeys, so if you’re interested in visiting Scotland in 2016, head on over there for more details! It truly is a beautiful part of the world that I’m looking forward to seeing more of next year. After an experience like this, I won’t be able to stay away!
Have you visited Scotland before? Would visiting a castle be on your travel list? I’d love to know in the comments below! Also, you still have time to enter my giveaways (there are a few!) over on my 2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Travelers post. The last day to enter is Monday, December 14th.
More information about Ian Walker & Borders Journeys:
Website – http://www.bordersjourneys.co.uk
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/BordersJourneys
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Bordersjourneys
Tripadvisor Reviews – http://bit.ly/1N4RXHp
NOTE: Those four interior shots were provided by http://www.roxburghe.net/castle. Visitors aren’t allowed to take photographs inside the castle.