The Garden Guide

Book: Gardening tours by J.C. Loudon 1831-1842
Chapter: Northern England and Southern Scotland in 1841

Thirlstane Castle

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Thirlstane Castle; the Earl of Lauder. After passing a number of gentlemen's seats possessing many natural beauties, but exhibiting very little good architecture or landscape-gardening, the absence of the latter easily ascertained by the isolated clumps and the want of scattered trees in the parks and lawns, we come to Lauder, close to which is Thirlstane Castle. The building is of great antiquity, and, besides one or two very ancient rooms, it contains a number which were richly finished in the Louis XIV. style, prevalent in the time of Charles II. These rooms are chiefly remarkable for their gorgeous ceilings, exhibiting wreaths of fruit, foliage, and flowers, in very high relief; arabesques of extraordinary combinations; and, in some of the rooms, domes raised in the centres of the ceilings, and painted in imitation of the sky, with gilt stars. The beauties of arabesque decoration are not generally understood. Many object to them because they are not natural, but it is their fanciful character which constitutes their beauty. Reason gives up the reins to the fancy, and we delight to be led about by that power into regions where every thing is not only new but strange. Nonsense in the midst of sense is often a relief to a mind kept on the rack, and arabesques are the nonsense of high art. Thirlstane Castle is undergoing extensive alterations and additions under the direction of Mr. Burns, and, when finished, will probably be one of the finest things of the kind in Scotland. A new kitchen-garden, and an extensive range of hothouses, have been formed under the direction of Mr. C. H. Smith, and they do him very great credit. The landlord of the inn at Lauder has travelled a good deal in America, and is very intelligent. It is always refreshing to meet with a man who has seen the world, but more especially when this is unexpected. The mind delights in being transported from the present time and the surrounding circumstances to other times and countries. Contrast of ideas is as effective in producing enjoyment, as contrast of form or of light and shade is in producing picturesque effect. In descending from the Lammermuir hills, we look down on the rich plain of the Lothians as on a map. Pass on the left some overpruned plantations of larches, and on the right a temperance hotel. An excellent inn at Dalkeith.