Globe-trotting Social History of Tea Tea and Travel

Traquair House: Did Robbie Burns take Tea here?

Traquair House seen from its ample lawns


Traquair House, located in the borderlands of Scotland, announces itself as the oldest inhabited house in Scotland. Surrounded by lush lawns, ancient yew groves and a good-sized maze, it holds its history and age well. It has been visited by 27 of Scotland’s monarchs including Alexander I, Mary Queen of Scots, James VI (James I of England) and Bonnie Prince Charlie (Charles Edward Stuart). It was originally built as a hunting lodge for Scottish royalty in the 12th Century. The house that now stands was begun in the 16th Century. There are some side buildings including a brewery which produces very strong but distinctive ale brewed using centuries old recipes.


Part of Traquair's massive Yew grove. At one time the grove was probably one whole tree and may date back to Medieval times.


A section of an ancient yew, looking every bit like a Rodin sculpture


Traquair House Brewery, producing 4 Ales. We tried Traquair House Ale and Jacobite Ale. Strong and unique


Traquair maze viewed from the second floor corridor


Google image showing the challenging maze


The house and grounds can be hired for weddings and other events such as Medieval Fayres and Shakespearean productions. You can even stay in the house for bed and breakfast. There is a restaurant that serves meals when the house is open, but no afternoon tea that I could see from their menu. There is however, evidence that tea was important to the family over the years. This is what I captured on my visit in August.


Some Tea Gems of Traquair House


A blue glow of China and tea ware eminates from this and the cabinet below



An ingenious silver filigree gizmo that would have been inserted into the spout of a teapot catching the tea leaves before they fell into the cup


View of Victorian dollhouse showing afternoon tea being prepared with activities on the upper and below stairs levels


Close up of a miniature tea being readied for guests


Charlie visited but alas not Rabbie


Left, Robbie Burns and on the right, Bonnie Prince Charlie, who most definitely was hidden and protected during his stay at Traquair House in the turmoil of the Jacobite uprising.


Is it possible that Scotland’s beloved bard sipped from a china cup with the Laird and Lady of Traquair? Robert Burns is said to have visited St. Ronan’s Wells, the mineral spring at Innerleithen which is not far from Traquair House. Would he have been invited for tea? While it is possible, I think it’s not likely. When Burns wasn’t farming or performing duties as the excise man, he was being lionized and celebrated in the Edinburgh homes of aristocrats and noblemen such as Lord Glencairn. Mary Ravenscroft, the wife of Charles Stuart, 7th Earl of Traquair, kept a journal during the late 18th Century and made no mention of a visit by Burns, which she surely would have done were he to have graced their home with his dignified presence.

The current Stuart family is active in all aspects of Traquair House keeping it as a living piece of history. When we visited, Catherine Stuart, the 21st Lady Traquair was giving a tour to a group from Sweden. If you find yourself in Edinburgh I highly recommend a short jaunt (29 miles) to the house. There is much to see and while there might not be a fancy tea, you can steep yourself in the richness of Scotland of the past.


The end of a busy day, Catherine Stuart, the 21st Lady Traquair leaving the House