Borthwick Castle revamp shortlisted for top award

Bothwick Castle
Bothwick Castle
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STEEPED in history, Borthwick Castle was once home to Mary, Queen of Scots – that is, until she fled the castle disguised as a pageboy.

But that doesn’t mean the historic venue – said by some to be haunted – can’t keep up with the times after the 15th-century building recently underwent a multi-million pound revamp.

Bothwick castle

Bothwick castle

Now designer Melanie Brown has been shortlisted for an award in recognition of her efforts.

Melanie dedicated 18 months to restoring the castle, which saw her create a ten-bedroom luxury retreat available for private hire.

She managed the interior design, project management and all procurement and as a result was shortlisted in the Hotel Interior Design category of this year’s Northern Design Awards.

Melanie said: “This was a highly complex, multi-million pound refurbishment brought in on time and on budget, despite the inevitable challenges of creating a high-end luxury finish within a medieval setting.

“The castle presented a raft of logistical problems, not least in moving furniture and fittings into a 15th-century castle with only spiral staircases.

“We had to hoist furniture in through balcony windows and a bed in Mary Queen of Scots’ bedroom was a jigsaw puzzle of 18 pieces.”

Melanie carried out the work alongside Historic Scotland, which previously awarded the building Grade A status – a rating only held by around eight per cent of the country’s listed buildings.

She added: “Despite the challenges, there were no compromises. We simply found a way around problems, so it’s thrilling to have the project recognised in such a significant way by the Northern Design Awards judges.”

The revamp marks the culmination of Borthwick Castle’s 600-year-old history, which began with the castle’s creator, Sir William de Borthwick, who built it in 1430.

Mary Queen of Scots stayed there in June 1567, shortly after her marriage to the Earl of Bothwell. Her husband Lord Darnley had been murdered earlier that year.

The couple had only been there a short time when word reached them that insurgent lords were advancing on the castle with 1000 men, intending to take Bothwell to be tried for Darnley’s murder.

Bothwell left for Dunbar to raise an army, leaving Mary to face the lords. She told the army surrounding the castle that he had left and then escaped through a narrow window in the castle’s Great Hall disguised as a pageboy, riding off to join Bothwell.

And while the castle has now been modernised, its history might not be as far away as you think with its Red Room said to have its own resident ghosts.

These are said to include the spirit of a maid murdered by one of the Borthwick lords and that of a family chancellor, killed for embezzlement.

Melanie is now working to refurbish the castle further, including outer buildings, riverbanks and listed walled garden.