Niddry Castle


Niddry Castle is a private residence.  It was ruined until the mid-1980s when it was partially restored.  The restoration is continuing with extensive external repair works being undertaken during the course of 2009.

Niddry Castle will be open to the public from 29 August to 20 September 2009 and 26/27 September 2009 as follows:

Sat/Sun: 1.30p.m. to 4.30p.m.

Mon-Fri: 5.00p.m. to 6.00p.m.

Access to the interior will be limited pending restoration.


Niddry Castle is a 15th century L plan tower with imposing 10 foot (3m) thick walls.  At some point, believed to be in the mid 16th century, the castle was extended upwards with the parapet and garret storey being built up into an additional storey featuring fine dressed ashlar stone and unique splayed dormer windows, in a similar approach to that at Preston Tower.


George, 3rd Lord of Seton began the building of Niddry Castle but was killed at Flodden in 1513 before its completion.  George, 4th Lord Seton repaired and built a great part of the house before his death in 1549.

Seton Palace in East Lothian was the principal seat of the Setons. However, when the Earl of Hertford invaded Scotland in 1544, his army ‘came and lay at Seton, burnt and destroyed the castle thereof, spoyled the kirk, took away the bellis and organis, and other tursible thinges, and put them in their schippes, and brynt the timber wark within the said kirk.’


It is likely that the Seton family may have used Niddry Castle as its principal residence at that time.

George, 5th Lord Seton completed the castle in 1567 and the following year, on 2 May 1568 Mary, Queen of Scots stayed following her escape from Loch Leven Castle.  For his actions in aiding her escape, Lord Seton was formally deprived of his lands and title by a decree of July 1568.  Lord Seton returned to Scotland before 1572 and used Niddry as part of the supply route to Edinburgh Castle, which was then held by Kirkcaldy of Grange, in the name of Mary, Queen of Scots. Consequently in the same year Niddry was the subject of two unsuccessful sieges by the forces of the Regent, the Early of Morton.  Seton survived the capture of Edinburgh castle and was able to hold the wedding of his daughter Margaret to Claude Hamilton at Niddry castle on 4 August 1574.

The Setons were on the royalist side during the civil war and as a result lost their lands and possessions.  The English army was quartered in and around Niddry Castle on the night of 14 September 1650.  The Setons regained their lands and titles following the Restoration of 1660.  In 1676 they sold Niddry Castle and its lands to John Hope.  The Hope family lived at Niddry Castle until 1702/3 when they moved to Hopetoun House, although it was completed until 1710. 

The castle was described in 1720 as ‘a large tower with low buildings joined to it and convenient office houses, surrounded with large parks, and a stately avenue from the East, all well planted’.  

Niddry Castle is situated in a quiet and open location, right opposite the village of Winchburgh and flanked by a golf course. It is now privately owned and not open to the public but one can get a good view by walking all around the building. Niddry Castle was the property of Lord Seton, who came to meet Mary on the other side of the water when she escaped from Lochleven Island with the assistance of George and Willie Douglas. Having crossed the Forth at Queensferry, it is here that on the 2nd of May 1568, she gave instructions for the raising of her adherents and then rapidly moved on to Cadzow Castle in Lanarkshire, pausing at Craignethan Castle along the way.


Gardening featured strongly amongst the Setons. The historian of the family says, ‘the second lord built the haill place of Wintoun, with the yard and gardens thereof,’ and he describes quaintly its ornamented gardens, the flower-plots of which were surrounded by a hundred wooden towers or temples, surmounted by bells over-gilt with gold.’  A charter of 1506 refers to ‘the orchart of Winchburgh’ and another of 1548 records ‘orchards, enclosed gardens within and outside, protected by the defences (of the castle)’. The very high walls of the walled garden remain.

John Reid, the author of an early gardening book ‘The Scots Gard’ner’ published in 1683 was born at Niddry Castle and his father and grandfather before him were gardeners at Niddry Castle.