Neipath Castle – Not Your Typical Scottish Castle

Neidpath Castle stands on the site of an earlier castle that belonged to Sir Simon Fraser. It passed by marriage to the de Hays family in 1312, who built the existing castle as a massive stone four storey L-plan tower house. Built against the steep banks of the River Tweed, the main block with its rounded corners originally had three vaulted rooms. Neidpath Castle was known as Jedderfield until the 16th century.

Extensive alterations to the tower in 17th century removed the top vault and divided the middle vault, to create extra floors. The Hays were royalists and Neidpath withstood Cromwell’s attacks longer than any other fortification south of the Forth. It was finally damaged by cannon fire and was surrendered. The castle was partially repaired and sold to the Douglas, Duke of Queensberry in 1686. It was given to his son, the Earl of March who added gardens and trees to the estate. The 3rd Earl of March succeeded as the 4th Duke of Queensberry, and let Neidpath to tenants.

Unfortunately the Duke allowed the estate to fall into ruin by cutting down the ornamental trees and allowing the gardens to be overgrown. Due to long neglect the upper part of the wing of the tower collapsed by 1790. When the earl died in 1810, the castle passed to the Earls of Wemyss, the current owners. Only the tower main block and rebuilt south range remained roofed.

The castle, which is reputedly haunted, is entered through the remains of an interesting gatehouse, with a round-headed arch. The uniqueness of the castle lies in that the tower is not actually square, but each wing is a parallelogram, with rounded corners. It is built with a peculiar hard mortar not usually seen in Scottish castles. It is presumed to be of Norman construction, like the Tower of London. The material is so hard that a staircase was dug out in the exterior wall in the 17th century without damaging the structure. In the small courtyard are an interesting range of buildings dating from the 16th to 18th centuries.

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