Our History

A very warm Scottish welcome to Carberry Tower Mansion House and Estate. A place of intimate grandeur and one of the great Houses of Scotland, Carberry Tower sits regally within 40 acres of private Estate parkland, just 7 miles from Edinburgh, at the gateway to Scotland’s famous golf coast in beautiful East Lothian countryside.

The first signs of settlement on the land were from Roman times, with a number of Roman coins and pieces of pottery discovered during the building of the House. Enjoying a long and celebrated history, the Estate was first mentioned in the 12th Century, when King David I of Scotland, granted the lands to the monks of Dunfermline Abbey to be used as a retreat, in recognition of their services to the Crown. By the 1400’s the original square Castle was under construction, with the first foundation stone being laid around 1480. And today, the magnificent entrance hall is indeed part of the original Castle keep, completed in 1500.

From 1541 until 1585, the lands were leased from the Abbey by Hugh Rigg - the King’s Advocate in Scotland. It is believed that Rigg advised the Regent Arran to change the position of the Scottish army during the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, as a way of strategically keeping English forces from overrunning Carberry. And on Carberry Hill, which can be seen from the south lawns and used to form part of the original Estate, Mary Queen of Scots surrendered to the English confederate lords on the 1st of June 1567, before being imprisoned in Linlithgow Palace. If you feel like a good walk, the ‘Queen’s Mount’ still stands on Carberry Hill, commemorating the incident. And as well being able to see remains of the original earthworks dug into the hillside for defence during the battle of Pinkie, there are also fabulous views over Edinburgh.

In 1587, after the Scottish Reformation, the lands and Castle were annexed by the Crown and new supervisors, the Maitland’s, were briefly appointed. However, on the 1st of April 1600, Sir Hugh Rigg received a charter from Queen Anne, wife of James VI of Scotland, granting him a further stay until 1659, at which point the Estate passed through a number of hands, until shortly after the Jacobite rebellion of 1745 – during which, on the 21st of September, Jacobite troops passed Carberry on their way to the famous battle of Prestonpans. In the heat of battle, the inexperienced government troops loyal to George II were outflanked in the face of a Highland charge by Scottish clansmen and a famous victory was won by the Jacobites.

By 1760 and in more peaceful times, the Fullerton family became owners and began the enlargement of the original Castle into a beautiful Mansion. John Fullerton’s niece then married William Elphinstone in 1774 and the house passed into the Elphinstone family in 1801, with further alterations taking place in 1819. William Elphinstone, the 15th Lord Elphinstone, succeeded to the Estate in 1861 and it was he who was largely responsible for the complete redesign of the Estate. A house of such importance and grandeur, necessitated the employment of a renowned architect to design and manage the next major phase of development and David Bryce, who had designed Fettes College in Edinburgh, as well as the fabulous Italianate Bank of Scotland building on Edinburgh’s famous Mound was appointed. William’s son Sydney, succeeded to the title of 16th Lord Elphinstone in 1893 and in 1910 married the late Queen Elizabeth II’s aunt, Lady Mary Bowes-Lyon in Westminster Abbey. Further enhancements and final flourishes, such as the beautifully panelled entrance hall and north library were then overseen by the renowned Scottish architect Robert Lorimer and by the early 1900’s, the magnificent Mansion was finally completed and stands much as you see it today.

Home to our very own family of roe deer, pheasants and other delightful wildlife, the beautiful gardens and parkland were established throughout the 1800’s. And as well as a considerable number of magnificent ‘Champion’ status trees – such as the glorious weeping beech tree on the south lawns, the splendid cedar of Lebanon on the approach to the mighty sequoia avenue, and the fabulous Montana pine by the western drive, we also have 35 varieties of fir trees – the most on any one Estate in Scotland.

Around the time the blockbuster film ‘The King’s Speech’ was set and during the late Queen’s childhood, she and her sister Princess Margaret often visited Carberry Tower to stay with their Aunt and Uncle. There are some fascinating photographs on our website of them both playing on the south lawns with their cousin Margaret, whilst being watched over by their father, King George VI and their mother Queen Elizabeth, who later became Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother. And as you’ll see when wandering through the House, a number of suites on the principal bedroom floor were used by the Queen Mother and the Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret when staying here during that period.

In 1961 the Estate passed out of the Elphinstone’s hands and for a good many years was used as a Christian conference centre where people from all over the United Kingdom came to enjoy times of gathering and fellowship. And then, following a £4Million refurbishment programme which began in 2007 and took almost 6 years to complete, for the first time in almost 60 years, Carberry Tower Mansion House and Estate is once again owned by a private Scottish Family who have been connected to the Estate since childhood. Indeed, the flag flying high above the Castle ramparts bears their family motto ‘A Deo Favente’ meaning, All God’s Favour.

The culture of the Household is therefore not only very personal, but also a reflection of their Family values. So, woven into the heart of life within Carberry Tower and their Estate, are values of honour, integrity, excellence, grace and respect - all permeated by a desire to build meaningful and lasting relationships. At the heart of that vision, is the creation of a warm and welcoming Home for guests to relax in whilst enjoying the fruits of the House. And to dwell, relax, feast and make merry – as has long been the tradition of this matchless place over the centuries.

As you’ll no doubt discover, there is a deep beauty and richness here, creating a sense of incredible wellbeing that pervades the soul. It is a majestic stately home in an unforgettable setting, which invites you to simply let go and surrender the cares of everyday life - which in itself, can be really rather transformational. So as our guests, we warmly invite you to share in the goodness and the glory of this beloved place and to allow our dedicated staff team to serve you with thoughtful consideration and attentive care - for though you may have arrived here as strangers, you will most certainly leave as our friends.