There is an abundance of tales to be told on your tour of Thirlestane Castle. Our guides and volunteers each have a few favourites that they love to share with our visitors.

We wanted to share some of these wonderful stories over the coming months for those who cannot easily visit the Castle to enjoy.

Midside Maggie is an incredible folklore tale of the Scottish Borders, one of which Maggie plays a part in the course of Thirlestane’s history through true heroism and kindness.

In 1643 Margaret Lylestone from nearby Westruther married Thomas Hardie. The couple farmed high up in the Lammermuir Hills overlooking Lauderdale and because their farm was the middle one of three, Margaret was called Midside Maggie. Although they were good farmers, three successive bad winters brought disaster to them and they were unable to pay their rent due to their landlord, the Earl of Lauderdale, who later became the Duke of Lauderdale.

Midside Maggie went to plead with the Earl who laughingly suggested that if she could prove the severity of the Lammermuir winters by bringing him a snowball in June, he would forget the debt. Unknown to her husband, Maggie made a huge hard-packed snowball and hid it under an overhanging crag high on the hills. On the first morning of June she rode down to Thirlestane Castle with the snowball, hammered on the castle door and presented the snowball to their landlord. To the couple’s delight he forgave the debt and they farmed with increasing success for many years.

A few years later, in 1651, the Duke of Lauderdale was captured at the Battle of Worcester and imprisoned in the Tower of London. By 1659, Lauderdale was still imprisoned, now at Windsor Castle, and his tenants at Midside, conscious of his generous gesture in earlier years, resolved to help. Maggie rode all the way to London bearing the accumulated farm rent.

She had concealed the golden coins in a bannock (a traditional Scottish type of circular, flat bread) and stood outside to Windsor Castle and sang “Leader Haughs and Yarrow”, an old Border ballad which caught the ear of the long-imprisoned Lauderdale who requested that the singer be bought up to him. Maggie gave him the bannock and with the hidden money it is said that he was able to secure his release from nine years of captivity.

Lauderdale fled to exile in Holland but returned to Thirlestane Castle in 1660. As a mark of appreciation of Midside Maggie’s kindness he presented her with a silver girdle which can now be seen in the National Museum of Scotland in Chambers Street, Edinburgh.

Hear more tales such as Midside Maggie, as well as stories from Thirlestane’s 400 year history on a Castle tour.

Regular guided tours are available from May-September and we welcome coaches and groups year round. Find out more and enquire to book your tickets here.