Mary Queen of Scot's ghost and Old Hall Hotel in Buxton

A copy of one of the 16 entries that Mary Queen of Scots etched on a window while she was held captive in Buxton.

Bien que l'on aye tant dict de mal de moy        Although people have said so much evil about me
Bien que l'on aye mal juge de ma foy              Although people have misjudged my faith      
Dieu seul qui a de mes coeurs cognoissance    God alone knows the workings of my heart
Rendra un jour, clere mon innocence               Will one day make my innocence clear
Sa vertu m'attire                                              His virtue attracts me.
MR 1573                                                         MR 1573

"Just be careful if you feel anything on your neck tonight!" teased the man at the tourist information office when I told him that I was staying in "Mary's Bower", the room where Mary Queen of Scots was held under house arrest during her frequent visits to Buxton to bathe in the natural waters and seek a cure for her ailments. At the time, I laughed and didn't think anything about his comment. But now, alone in my chamber, I realize that I like having my head firmly attached to my neck. Studying the pictures of the ill-fated queen that decorate the walls, I consider the similarities between us: our first names are Mary, we both live(d) in France and we have both traveled to Jedburgh in the Scottish borders and Hermitage Castle, one of the eeriest places on earth.

As the sun sets, I try to calm my rising fears by listing the notable differences between Mary Queen of Scots and me. I'm not Catholic, there aren't any plots to place me on the throne of England and my sister's name is Beth...not Elizabeth. Plus, I don't speak six languages and spend my time etching messages, like the one above, on glass windows.

Rather than worry about Mary's ghost, I'm thankful that the receptionist at England's oldest hotel generously allowed me to have a very early check-in and gave me a booklet with information about Mary's etchings. According to the author, "The writings of 1573 and 1576 are poignant, angry, melancholic couplets often invoking judgement of God on her and her captors. The later couplet's and escutcheon in the 1580s are written when she still harboured hope that she would be released to rule Scotland with her son James, which of course never happened."

After an evening at the Gilbert and Sullivan Festival, I'm sure that I'll sleep soundly tonight. That is if I can just figure out why there are two towels placed at the end of the bed. I just hope that they don't have anything to do with severed necks, blood and Mary Queen of Scots.

Old Hall Hotel
The Square
Buxton, England.


  1. Welcome to England and particularly my beloved north. How amazing to think that Mary Queen of Scots actually stood in your room, where you might stand, looked out of the window and saw the same hills and used the facilities!.. such as they would be in 1573.

    I recognise the hotel as the place I stopped for lunch the last time I visited Buxton but couldn't remember the name of... and very nice it was too.

    Janet has left some tips on my blog about local places to visit for you.

    Hope you sleep well tonight. I am sure Mary would want you too. There are so many similarities I think she will be friendly.

    Meanwhile, all you can get on TV is the Olympics.

    Sleep well my friend.

    Love Denise

    1. Denise, It's easy to understand why its your "beloved" north. So many wonderful things about this part of England, particularly all the warm and friendly people. And funny, too!

      When you mentioned having had lunch in an old hotel, I suspected that it was this one. Stephane travels to Buxton frequently and your descriptions of it matched his.

      Although though a view of the surrounding hills would have been beautiful, Mary's Bower is in the old center part of the hotel and looks out on a small courtyard. Evidently, they built around it when they enlarged the hotel. I'm happy to report that they've updated the facilities since Mary's stay. What a luxury to have hot and cold running water!

      Thanks for telling me that Janet left some tips on your blog. They were very helpful. We're going to visit Lyme Park on our way back to Manchester on Sunday.

      As long as the British team is doing so well in the Olympic Games, there isn't a need to turn on the television to get updates! They made an announcement that your team had won some more medals prior to the start of the show at the Opera House last night!

  2. Even if it wasn't a particularly happy stay, how cool to be staying in the room Mary Queen of Scots slept in! I have a little charm of her monogram - I used to try to buy a charm representing every country I visited but I've more or less given up since it's surprisingly difficult and time-consuming finding them. Sleep well!

    1. Thanks, Gwan. I had a lovely night's sleep in Mary's Bower. I hope that you're having a good time in Amsterdam!

      My mother-in-law used to collect sugar spoons from every country that she visited and had the same problem as you. Her quests always took up major chunks of time whenever we went somewhere together but she has a nice collection of spoons that bring back good memories of her travels.

  3. So cool! I was a medieval studies and early modern history major at college, and seeing things like this is one of my favorite things about Europe!

    1. Mine, too! There's something about visiting an historical spot that creates a wrinkle in time and allows us to have a strong whiff of the past. There's a desolate stretch of road between Manchester and Buxton and it was so easy to imagine what life would have been like hundreds of years ago.

  4. Oh MK, I don't think they're towels. They are mats for your feet, to be placed on the sides of the bed, probably by your turn-down staff.

    I love the room. the thick walls, looks like sound sleeping.

    1. You mean that the towels weren't supposed to be used as neck protectors? Now, with the bright light of day, I feel so silly for having slept with mine wrapped around my neck last night! ;)

      But seriously, they probably are supposed to be used as feet mats. That makes a lot of sense. I just assumed that they were hand towels because there aren't any in the bathroom, only bath towels. No facecloths either.

      The room is wonderful. I feel so lucky to have stayed in it!


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