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Scottish Borders, Scotland

The Bear Gates of Traquair

The main gates have been locked since 1745 and will remain so until the Stuart Dynasty returns to the throne. 

The Bear Gates of the Traquair House—Scotland’s oldest continually inhabited house—have been locked since 1745 on the instruction they remain closed until the Stuart Dynasty returns to the throne. We may be waiting a long time.

The last direct male descendent of the Stuart Kings died in 1807, so it doesn’t look like the “Steekit Yetts” (that’s Scots for “stuck gates”) will be unstuck any time soon. All entrants to the fortified 12th-century house, from tourists visiting its microbrewery to the current 21st Laird (Lord) of Traquair, have to use the side entrance.

Many great houses and castles in Europe are approached by an impressive tree-lined driveway. The Traquair House had such a feature until the bear-topped gates at the end of the driveway were closed indefinitely behind “Bonnie Prince Charlie” Stuart as he rode away in 1745 to restore the Stuart Dynasty to the throne. This lead to the Bear Gates being given the nickname of “The Steekit Yetts.” 

The house has been owned by relatives of the Stuart Royal Dynasty—a dynasty including Mary Queen of Scots and her son James VI who became the first king to hold the throne of both Scotland and England— since the 15th century.

James VI’s great-grandson, James VII & II, was the last king of this dynasty. He was exiled from Britain for being Catholic and replaced by an imported Protestant king. Fearful of Catholic superpowers in mainland Europe, the English Parliament then passed laws to prevent any Catholics taking the English throne ever again.

This did not stop the exiled king’s grandson, Bonnie Prince Charlie. Charlie, who had grown up in Rome, landed on Eriskay (an island in Scotland’s Outer Hebrides) in 1745 and raised an army of clansmen who were sympathetic to his cause. They marched south through the recently United Kingdom to attempt to retake the throne.

It was during this advance that Bonnie Prince Charlie visited his distant cousin and staunch supporter, the 5th Earl at Traquair (also named Charles Stuart). It was this earl who ordered the gates at the top of the avenue to be shut after him until the Stuarts returned to the throne.

Unfortunately for the inhabitants of Traquair, Bonnie Prince Charlie and his Highland Army were defeated in the Battle of Culloden mere months later, and, though he escaped back to mainland Europe with his life, his dynasty never returned. 

Know Before You Go

Follow signs for Traquair House from the A72 road as it passes through Innerleithen. The Bear Gates and abandoned avenue are to the left of the entrance. The abandoned avenue ends in front of the house, which, along with its microbrewery dating back to the 1700's, is well worth paying the small entrance to have a look around.