Falkirk’s star attraction named top of the class

Tourism chiefs have given an historic Falkirk property five star status for the first time.

Bosses at VisitScotland now rate Callendar House as one of the best attractions in the country for its welcome, hospitality and service.

Officials celebrate the top accolade

Officials celebrate the top accolade

Falkirk Councillor Adrian Mahoney, spokesperson for culture, leisure and tourism, said: “Callendar House has had a good year with an increased number of visitors. The five-star award just tops everything off. I hope this latest accolade encourages more people to tour this wonderful mansion in the coming months. The house and surrounding parkland provides the chance of a wonderful day out for all the family and, of course, admission is free.”

Callender House, a grand French-style Chateau originally built as a Tower House 600 years ago, has defied the odds to become an iconic part of Falkirk’s history. In the 1980s its future was in serious doubt after ambitious plans to convert it into a hotel then conference centre failed and the council had to spend substantial cash to keep it safe and secure from vandals.

The grounds were granted by King David to Sir William Livingston in 1345. Alexander Livingston, the fifth Lord Livingston, was guardian of Mary Queen of Scots during her childhood and her marriage agreement with the French Dauphin was signed in Callendar House. His daughter Mary was maid of honour to Queen Mary, and Alexander, the seventh Lord Livingston and his wife Lady Eleanor, were entrusted by King James VI and I to look after his daughter Princess Elizabeth there when she was an infant.

In 1715, after the fourth Earl of Callender, James Livingston, was forced into exile, Callendar Estates were forfeited then leased back to his daughter Lady Anne Livingston who gave hospitality to Bonnie Prince Charlie before the Battle of Falkirk in 1746.

Everything was bought by Aberdeen businessman William Forbes in 1783. But in 1963, in a rundown condition, it was ‘rescued’ by Falkirk Burgh Council. Since 2011 the management of the house and grounds has been in the hands of Falkirk Community Trust, but most of the land is still owned by the Forbes’ company Callendar Estates.