Floors Castle, Borders, Scotland

In its enviable setting beside the River Tweed stands the magnificent and romantic creation of William Playfair - a vast fairytale castle adorned with turrets, domes and spires. When the first Duke of Roxburghe came to Floors at the turn of the 17th century he inherited a much more modest property on the Huge Ker estate.

In 1721 William Adam was commissioned to extend the existing tower house to provide an elegant Georgian country house for the first Duke. A relatively plain, symmetrical block served the Dukes for the next 100 years until James Innes Ker decided to upgrade the rather dour building. He was only seven years old when he became the 6th Duke of Roxburghe but 20 years later he was created Earl Innes, and had begun the magical transformation of Floors Castle. William Playfair, a leading Edinburgh architect, was responsible for the inspired design and it took him some 10 years to complete the project. Not only did he embellish the central core of the old house, but he extended it even further until the dimensions and grandeur of this stately home were unsurpassed in Scotland.

Floors Castle remains very much the great Victorian showpiece externally, but the internal decorations have since been altered to reflect the style of Duchess May, the American heiress who married the 8th Duke of Roxburghe in 1903. During the early 1930s she reorganised and redecorated many of the rooms to provide suitable settings for her collections of fine art, tapestries and exquisite French furniture, and Floors Castle retains her strong influence. With an instinctive appreciation of beauty, and an ability to create the perfect environment for exhibiting her treasures, the Duchess has certainly left a legacy worthy of such an impressive house.

The lands forming the original estate were acquired in the mid-14th century by John Ker but, as the family's wealth increased over the next two centuries, so the estate was extended. The 10th Duke has established several commercial enterprises on his 56,000-acre estate, including sporting activities and a country house hotel, but a large part of it is still farmed. Visitors can enjoy woodland walks, explore the nature trails, see the old walled garden, or eat a picnic beside the River Tweed. Whilst welcoming the public onto to his extensive property to sample a little of the grand life of his predecessors, the present Duke is also ensuring that future generations can continue to maintain their ancestral home.

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