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The Seton Family  

The Palace of Seton

August 16, 2019


Seton Castle
Longniddry, East Lothian, EH32 0PG

Offers over

Key features

Robert Adam Masterpiece
Spectacularly restored to create superb family home and entertaining space
Site of Mary Queen of Scots preferred residence
Place of romance, history, and drama for over eight centuries
Beautiful Georgian interior imbued with designer materials & fittings
Four story mansion house linked to U shaped wings around parterre courtyard
Neoclassical Castle by Robert Adam in private grounds close to Edinburgh

About this property

Seton Castle is a fully restored, opulent but welcoming 13 bedroom family home surrounded by 13 acres of private gardens and parkland. It is the consummate romantic Scottish castle, updated to a superb standard for modern living.

The castle was built in 1789 by acclaimed architect and designer Robert Adam using the stone from Seton Palace, described as Mary Queen of Scots' preferred retreat. Seton Castle was Robert Adam's final project in Scotland and his light but masterful touch is in evidence in the beautifully executed ceiling plasterwork, curved oak panelled doors and dramatic bay windowed rooms. Castellated features such as slit windows and turrets are strikingly imposing from the outside but discreetly located in the numerous turrets thus allowing it to retain the feel of a grand family home when inside. Secret staircases, curved doors, curved walls, arched windows and hidden doors add to the charming sophistication of the architecture and design.

The unbroken ownership of Seton Castle by the Wemyss family from the late 18th century until 2003 served to freeze Seton in a protective time warp, ensuring the preservation of the elegant architectural detail created by Adam. Seton has been sensitively and richly refurbished to fit today's world, including the installation of a full security system, creation of a state of the art gym, playroom, huge double AGA kitchen, magnificent silk-lined dining room, extensive billiard room, traditional olde world bar, cinema, guest cottages, apartments and helipad.

In addition to the main seven bedroom castle, the estate includes three separate properties - The Darnley and The Bothwell are self-contained cottages each with a living room, kitchen, three bedrooms, bathroom and WC. The Hideaway is a delightfully romantic suite hidden at the top of a turret spiral staircase.

The working stables at Seton have been magnificently refurbished and include a foaling stable. Adjacent to the stables lies the generous coach house and the characterful Stable Bar - the castle's authentic private tavern, situated in the original tack room of the stable block.


The restoration project has been both exhaustive and faithful to architectural integrity: a two year long restoration saw a team of expert stonemasons, stone by stone, and using painstakingly sourced period sandstone and limestone, rebuild the castle's many chimneys and turrets as well as the sweeping rooftop parapets.

Internally, all services have been renewed, ceilings restored to their original beauty, the sweeping staircase lovingly reinvigorated, ironwork magnificently restored, dumbwaiter reinstated and 10,000-bottle wine cellar spectacularly brought back to life.

The installation of 17th century French oak flooring, modern central heating system, entertainment system and security system all sensitively installed hidden from sight help to give the home a most welcoming, warm and private appeal.

The castle's interior design offers a successfully eclectic mix of styles and influences curated by the current owners and include an array of silks, damasks, silk velvets, embroidered silks, jacquard velvets, jacquard linens, silk wall hangings, gilt detailing, with Scottish wools and cashmere adding elegant and warm touches to every corner.

Seton Castle is simply one of Scotland's most significant and ravishing buildings, with eight centuries of history. It is undeniably one of Robert Adam's finest achievements.
Jamie Macnab
Property agent
Local information

Seton is ideally situated within East Lothian, an historically-rich, green and beautiful part of Scotland. The Firth of Forth can be seen from the castle's north facing windows, as can the Forth Rail Bridge, Arthur's Seat and the city of Edinburgh.
Seton is within 12 miles of Edinburgh via the A1. There is a picturesque local railway station with regular trains to Edinburgh taking 20 minutes.
East Lothian is the home of the world's oldest golf club. Indeed, Mary Queen of Scots is documented as having caused scandal by playing golf at Seton in 1568 following the death of her husband Lord Darnley. The open championship course of Muirfield is a mere 8 mile drive from Seton.
East Lothian has long attracted field and water sports enthusiasts. The Firth of Forth offers spectacular kite-surfing while Belhaven Bay is very popular with surfers and there is sailing and coastal rowing at North Berwick. The region is also known for driven and walked-up game shooting, notably for grouse, pheasant and partridge.
The picturesque village of Longniddry, just 1 mile away, serves the local community with shops, restaurants and other services including dental and vet's practices.
Seton is ideally located for several of the best schools in Scotland, including Loretto School, just 4 miles away.
Additional information

Directions: From Edinburgh take the A1 dual carriageway east. Leave the dual carriageway at the exit signposted to North Berwick (A198). Turn right at the roundabout continuing on the A198 towards Longniddry. Seton Castle is set in the trees on the left hand side after about 1 mile.
EPC Rating = E



Real Estate
A Scottish Castle in Perfect Condition Is On Sale for $9.7 Million
Seton Castle, a country house designed by famed architect Robert Adam, has just hit the market.


By James Tarmy
August 19, 2019, 3:00 AM EDT

See also, the article on the previous sale from February11, 2007 HEADLINE NEWS:  SETON CASTLE SOLD TO INTERNET ENTREPRENEUR STEPHEN LEACH
After two years on the market by the McMillans, the former Seton Estate was sold to Stephen Leach for 5 million pounds in 2007.  

By the time Stephen Leach and his family bought Seton Castle in East Lothian, Scotland in 2007, the property was at the tail end of nearly 800 years of aristocratic occupancy.

Originally the site of Seton Palace, the Renaissance structure played host to Mary Queen of Scots, who reportedly played golf on the palace grounds. But after the Jacobite rebellion, the building fell into disrepair. In the late 18th century, Alexander MacKenzie bought the property and hired the famous architect Robert Adam to build a new mansion. To do so, the palace was razed and its stones were repurposed in Adam’s new house.

Mackenzie died a few years after it was completed, at which point the “castle,” set directly on the palace’s site, was acquired by the noble Wemyss family, which then held onto it for more than two centuries. It was sold in 2003 to a developer who updated the property and put it back on the market.

When Leach moved in, he and his family were able to occupy a home built with stones that had been cut at the same time Dante was writing the Divine Comedy.

“We were looking for something of substance,” says Leach, a tech entrepreneur who started a series of companies with his wife Heather. “But before we bought it, if you told my wife or myself that we were going to own a castle, it’s pretty unlikely that we would have agreed with you.” After touring the house, “we fell in love with the place,” Leach says, and bought it for a reported £5 million (then about $10 million).

Twelve years later, the family has put it on the market for £8 million ($9.7 million), listing it with Savills. “We’re spending less and less time there,” Leach says. “It’s time to move on.”

Time Capsule

Because the house had stayed with the same owners since its construction, it was still something of a time capsule when Leach purchased it.

“We’re very lucky that the building was in the same family for 200 years,” he says. “It really has been unmolested.”

Adam, an architect credited with bringing neoclassicism to English country houses, designed the house inside and out, and many of his decorative elements are still in place.

In the dining room, for instance, are still centuries-old silk wall coverings. All of the fireplaces are Adam originals which, due to their value, is highly unusual, Leach says. “When you have a fireplace that’s worth more than the average two-bedroom flat, it’s difficult to justify having them in your living room. So that’s a credit to the previous owners.”

The doors are also original, as are the 18th century leaded glass window panes.

Nevertheless, after buying the home, Leach began a low-impact series of subtle renovations. He added a security system, wired the home for high-speed internet, changed the heating system, and restored plaster ornamentation.

“When we first purchased the property, we got a couple of very good stonemasons that were used to working with historic buildings,” Leach says. “They worked full-time for us for three years. We didn’t quite appreciate how much effort was going to be involved.”

The House

The result of those efforts is a nearly pristine, 18,196-square-foot mansion with seven bedrooms. (Three separate dwellings, including two stand-alone cottages, bring the property’s bedroom count to 13.)

Even though the house is designed to look like an old Scottish castle, “internally, it looks like a stately home,” Leach says. “It’s very sumptuous, and it’s very spacious.”

Visitors enter through a large, enclosed courtyard, which is flanked by two wings. The majority of entertaining rooms are in the main building; the dining, drawing, and morning rooms occupy most of the ground floor. The east wing has stables, a bar decorated to look like a traditional pub, a cinema room, and a three-bedroom detached apartment; the west wing, in turn, has an additional three bedrooms, a gym, and living areas.

There’s also something Leach calls a “hideaway,” where “if you go up a very small staircase, you’ll find yourself in a discreet little double bedroom with an en-suite bath and skylight,” he says. “You can see the stars.”

The house itself has a substantial footprint. “I think we were probably in the property for a month before we discovered an additional room we didn’t know we had,” Leach says. Because the house is divided into wings, “we like that we could close down a wing if there was no use for it.”

The Property

For such a large house, the size of its land— 13.5 acres— is comparatively modest, which Leach says was another major selling point. “We weren’t interested in a 500-acre estate that required an army to manage,” he says. “We didn’t want to deal with that, but we did want enough land and grounds to have a security threshold around us, and so 13 acres was perfect.”

The house is surrounded by fields, paddocks, lawns, and gardens. It has views that stretch to Edinburgh, which is about a 20-minute drive away. There’s also a small village called Longniddry a mile away.

Two of Leach’s four children have moved out of the house, and the others spend more time in Edinburgh, where the family has a townhouse. As a consequence, he says, “the time we’ve been spending in the castle is less and less.” They have other houses around the world, he says, “and there’s only so many places you can be.”


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