Borthwick Castle, Midlothian is set in a position to guard the road south to the Borders from Edinburgh. Borthwick, a massive structure in ashlar towering some 80 feet high with low wings spread either side, has been called the 'Greatest keep in Scotland'. It certainly has a good claim to be regarded as the most complete example of its type. Sir William Borthwick, 2nd of Borthwick was granted a licence to build a castle in 1430, but an earlier fortification on the site had existed called the Mote ( i.e.'motte', as in motte and bailey, rather than moat) of Locherwart. The new licensee set to with a will: a huge central block arose topped with a triple row of corbels under a parapet, its wall being deeply indented on one side between bartizans in a pattern similar to that of Bunratty Castle, Co Clare. One side no longer has corbels, having been demolished by Cromwellian forces after the royalist 9th Lord Borthwick had capitulated on 18th November 1650, and never fully restored.
A protective circumvallation was added studded with defensive bastions and towers. There was also a drawbridge at the end of which a twin gate and portcullis further impeded unauthorised entry. The circular tower adjacent to this is still standing. As with many castles of the period the entrance to the keep was at first floor level. The great hall has a splendid barrel-vaulted ceiling culminating in a blunt but discernibly ogival point. The fireplace here is of the canopy type, tapering upwards, more familiar in France than in the British Isles. It rests on double columns on each side.
In early June 1567, Mary Queen of Scots arrived at Borthwick with her third husband Lord Bothwell. Her opponents laid siege to the Castle, and Bothwell swiftly and rather ungallantly decamped. In order to follow him, Mary was obliged to escape dressed as a man.
John Borthwick 13th Of Crookston, of the cadet branch of the family that eventually established right to the peerage, bought back Borthwick Castle in 1813. It had been sold soon after the death of the 9th Lord Borthwick in the late 17th Century.
At present the Castle is run as a Hotel, and is much used as a wedding venue.