Seton Castle

Romance, History & Drama



Mary, Queen of Scots

Steeped in romance, history, and drama for over eight centuries and only ten miles from the captivating city of Edinburgh stands Seton - a hugely important piece of Scottish regal and architectural heritage. The grounds at Seton are known to have been a favourite place for Mary Queen of Scots to keep court, play golf and practise archery

The drama and importance of Seton Castle’s early history is matched only by the quality of its architecture. On this very site from the late mediaeval period stood the first Seton Castle, home of the Earls of Winton

Over the 15th Century Seton was several times attacked by Jacobite troops; indeed, it is recorded that in 1544, King Henry VIII troops on retreating South from Edinburgh, "stopped to burn Seton"

A sketch of the palace

Just a few years later, George, 5th Lord Seton built Seton Palace – a frequent retreat for Queen Mary.

Over the centuries, regular Royal visitors to Seton include James IV, chronicled to have visited in 1498, as well as Mary Queen of Scots, James V, James VI, Charles I and Charles II.

Signed document

On her return from France in 1561, Mary Queen of Scots kept court at Seton. Mary Queen of Scots and Darnley escaped from Holyrood to Seton after the murder of Rizzio in 1566.

It is alleged that on the 5th of April 1567 the Queen, in one of her migratory visits to Seton House, entered into a marriage-contract with Bothwell, which was written by Huntly, the Lord Chancellor, and brother of Bothwell's countess.

Mary Playing Golf

Mary Queen of Scots was accused by her enemies of playing golf and pall-mall (croquet) and taking part in archery competitions in the fields beside Seton Palace, just days after the murder of her husband, Lord Darnley, in 1567. This is the first recorded incidence of any woman playing golf.

"A few days after the murder she (Mary Queen of Scots) passed to Seton, exercising her one day right openly at the fields with pall-mall and golf"
- Earl of Moray

Winston Arms

Mary’s army camped at Seton on the nights before the Battle of Carberry Hill in June 1567

Seton was home to the guards of Lord Seton: his 200-strong mounted calvalry noted in various historical battles and events, such as the rescue of Queen Mary from the shores of Lochleven castle.

Wall sketch

James VI is recorded as having called and rested on a wall at Seton on 5 April 1603 en-route to claim the throne of England.

Charles I too spent the night at Seton en-route to Edinburgh to be crowned King of Scotland and England on 6th May 1633.

Palace ruin

In 1715 Seton Palace was destroyed by Jacobite troops and lay in ruins until the land and stonework was purchased in 1789 and Robert Adam’s Seton Castle created.

Robert Adam's Seton Castle

In an article by Sir Walter Scott on Seton Chapel, in Provincial Antiquities of Scotland, it is said: " They took their original name from their habitation, Seaton, the dwelling by the Sea/ in East Lothian." In this way the name came to be Seton, Seaton, or any one of twenty or so other ways of spelling the name, for there was no established spelling of any name by legal enactment at that time, each writer spelling any word as seemed proper to him from the way he heard it pronounced.

View the Seton Castle timeline.

Pre Restoration

Seton remained under the ownership of the Wemyss estate for over two centuries from late 1700s to early 2000s. Crucially this meant that the building and grounds retain their original features, albeit rather overgrown, cold, cluttered and in need of some love and attention to return it to its former glory whilst transforming it into a family home for today’s lifestyle.

View the pre-restoration photos in the gallery.