Floors Castle Fantasy

“Call me Guy.”

That is what His Grace, the Duke of Roxburghe, said to me with hand extended as I entered Floors Castle, his private home in the borders region of Scotland.


Built in 1721, Floors Castle is a beautiful Georgian country house overlooking the River Tweed. It lies on the opposite river bank to the ruins of Roxburgh Castle, once the strongest fortress in Scotland.   With its roofscape of turrets, pinnacles and cupolas, Floors is a bit like a romantic fairytale castle.

Indeed, my week there was a fairytale.

It was a rare treat to be living in Floors, as the Duke does not put his home up for hire as do other titled people within the UK.  Living at the castle and shooting on the grounds is reserved for family only.  Our friend used his considerable charm and persistence over the course of a year to wear down the Duke gradually and convince him to open his home to us.

The purpose of our trip was a pheasant shooting expedition. I am always amused that the English dress immaculately and rather formally to do the basest of tasks like shooting a gun. No American camouflage attire found here! The usual tie, tweeds, caps and sturdy boots were required, but this time we upped the fashion ante as the men donned hunting kilts for a day of shooting on the Duke’s estate.



The sporren takes on even more important role when strong winds are a factor. Jeff chose an otter style to do the job of holding down his kilt in just the right spot so that no “Marilyn Monroe moments” occurred in the field. For as any true Scotsman knows, there is no hiding beneath the kilt.


Then it was off to shoot pheasant in beautiful bucolic settings of rolling hillsides, wooded trails, flowing rivers, bracken berms, and grassy fields. I am a better shot with my camera than a gun and appreciated the glorious landscapes.




Jeff enjoyed the shooting, but I preferred watching the athletic and agile dogs spring into action and “work” in the fields.



After each pheasant drive, we would enjoy a rotation of delectable treats: chilled champagne with a shot of sloe gin, flasks of caramel flavored vodka, warm sausage rolls in flaky crusts dipped in spicy mustard, savory tarts, and thick chunks of flavored chocolate. I have discovered that shooting is much like skiing for me.  I excel in the après aspect of the activity.  Like the chalet lunches slopeside, the gourmet snacks in the field are my favorite part of the day.


The evening feasts were even more extraordinary than the sumptuous lunches.  Cocktails were served  each night in a small room originally used for the ladies to retire to their needlepoint after dinner while the men smoked cigars.  Here a well-stocked bar was assembled beneath paintings by Matisse.

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At dinner, jeroboams of rare wines accompanied gourmet dishes prepared by the Duke’s chef and served by his lovely staff.  We ate on priceless china in the formal dining room, warmed by a roaring fire in the massive hearth and surrounded by imposing ancestral portraits.


My new friend, Guy, was my dinner companion one night, and I discovered that the Duke shares my passion for hiking as we compared notes on trekking through the highlands of Scotland versus climbing the mountains of Jackson Hole and Mallorca.

After dinner, we would retire to the drawing rooms for port and cigars.  All so very civilized.  It was surreal to call the castle home and to settle into rooms with overstuffed deep-cushioned brocade sofas, priceless Belgian tapestries, and endless ancestral antiques.

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Yet amidst all this splendor were personal pictures of the Duke’s family and imperfect handmade pottery crafted by young hands, a reminder that though it is all fantasy for me this is a true “home” to the Duke and his family.

Going from fantasy to absurdity, we decided to rent the local skating rink one night for an evening of curling taught by two Olympic medalists.  Curling was invented in medieval Scotland and is a sport in which players slide polished granite stones on a sheet of ice toward a target area. Lots of “sweeping” is also involved.  This is the first (and probably last) time I will ever see Jeff hold a broom! The men were still in their hunting kilts for the event, adding a further element of the ridiculous to the entire enterprise.  I never thought I’d trade my days at the rink in Greenwich watching skirted Katie twirl for an evening in Scotland watching skirted Jeff curl!



We celebrated our last evening in the castle with a traditional Highland Ball.  The distinctive wail of a Scottish piper led us into the dining room for dinner.


The Clarity Cloot Ceilidh Band played a selection of Scottish dances, and we “reeled” according to the directions of the caller.  We may have looked the part in our tartan sashes and dress kilts, but we were a sorry sight on the dance floor as we attempted to perform the Circle Waltz, The Flying Scotsman and The Britannia Two-Step.  I think we had better luck in the fields than in the ballroom.



I strolled the castle grounds our last day, seeing only a glimpse of the 75,000 acres comprised within the estate.  Sheep and horses roam freely, providing a perfect pastoral adornment to the castle.

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On my way back to the castle to collect my things, a black Range Rover slowed along the drive.  A window rolled down, and the Duke leaned out to ask me how my day was going.  I told him we were regrettably getting ready to leave.  He said he had a dentist appointment in Edinburgh and wished me well.

Guy was off to the dentist and I was off to London. Amid the fantasy, reality always rears its ugly head.

Before leaving, we signed the guest book in the foyer.

Though I doubt we will ever again live in Floors Castle,

we will have left our mark!


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