LEJOG 26 Sep : Innerleithen

The oldest inhabited house in Scotland

A leisurely start to our day off. Innerleithen is such a cycling town that it has several bike shops open on Sundays, we called in on Tweed Valley Bikes where their mechanic fixed a few niggly issues with our bikes for a tenner. The coffee house No 1 Peebles Road had fantastic reviews and is always busy with cyclists so this time I was keen to see what all the fuss was about. The coffee was mediocre and the brownie dry, disappointing.

We walked past the mountain biking centre, easily spotted by the mass of cars, the sport generates a lot of motor traffic from people driving their bikes to centres and using minibuses and trailers to get their bikes to the top of the trails. The path to Traquair House soon branches off and we called in at the cafe, sitting outside to eat.

This time we walked round the garden and trails, we had a tour of the house in 2015. At the time I was unaware of a possible family connection. In 1874, Jane Nithsdale married Thomas Crawshaw, a collier, both were illiterate which wasn’t unusual back then. Jane’s father was a quarryman, born in Scotland, who moved from Maryport to South Yorkshire, but it’s her grandfather Daniel Maxwell Nithsdale who is the interesting one.

The story is that Daniel was the illegitimate son of Lady Mary Maxwell and her uncle Lord Bellew. Mary died at 15, no cause of death was reported but the story claims that it was in childbirth and that Bellew took the infant to Ireland, where he had an estate and raised him there. Daniel was an army officer but rather hot headed and went into hiding in Galloway after killing a fellow officer in a duel. Later he moved the family to Maryport. The only official record that I’ve found is the 1841 census which shows him as an 87 year old schoolmaster, born in Ireland.

Lady Mary was the granddaughter of the Earl of Nithsdale of Traquair House who was imprisoned in the Tower of London as one of the prime instigators of the Jacobite rebellion. One of Daniel’s daughters married an eminent doctor, some of their children were given middle names of the others imprisoned with the Earl. They were hanged but the Earl escaped when his wife visited and smuggled in some women’s clothing for him. So there’s evidence of some sort of connection, and of literacy that was lost for several generations but no solid evidence.

Innerleithen to South Queensferry