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Floors castle

A Home Called Floors

For the Duke and Duchess of Roxburghe, this is home...a fairytale
castle so large it is almost impossible to photograph from the drive,
set in 52,000 sprawling acres.

BY STEPHEN MCGINTY

In the shadow of the Cheviot Hills, on the banks of the River Tweed and resting among the soft, gently rolling landscape of Borders country, stands Floors Castle, one of the finest country houses in Britain. I first encountered the castle as a 12-year-old enraptured by the movie Greystroke: The Legend of Tarzan, when the property played the role of ancestral backdrop to Christopher Lambert's monkey-man-turned-reluctant-aristocrat. (Tired of attempting to master the knife and fork, he took to clambering around the ramparts like a long-haired gargoyle.) It would be almost 30 years before we met again -- Floors Castle and I, not Christopher Lambert.

My first impressions? Floors Castle is exceedingly large. The main block is three stories high with large wings on either side. Good luck to anyone attempting to photograph its full regal splendour from the front drive without the aid of a Panavision lens, as the filmmakers clearly did. Yet, what is curious and becomes instantly clear to the visitor who ventures inside is that the castle is only two rooms deep -- not quite the vast megalith that it first appears to be. That said, there still must be 20 bedrooms and 35-to-40 other rooms; perhaps more.

Another surprise is that it is actually quite homey, especially for a place that opens its doors to tens of thousands of visitors each summer season. The Duke and Duchess of Roxurghe still keep it as their principal residence and family photographs -- children, friends and hunting guests through the years -- are on display in most of the public rooms.

As I was visiting in the final days of the season, the castle and the grounds were far from quiet but not as packed as the days of high summer. The property was built in the 1720s by the architect William Adam and then redesigned in the 19th century by William Playfair, who added on the turrets and battlements, which are largely ornamental and have, quite happily, never seen a shot or a cannonball hurled in anger.

What is clear from wandering the rooms is that this is a castle designed and furnished for comfort and pleasure rather than conflict and sieges.

The full text of this article is available in the Spring 2020 issue of Scottish Life.

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Photo © John Pringle/Scottish Viewpoint