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The Scottish Castles Association
Preserving the Past for the Future

SCA member Alastair Maxwell-Irving publishes his second book on The Border Towers of Scotland


This volume is devoted to the architecture of the surviving towers in the West, Middle and East Marches of the Borders, from the River Cree in the west to the North Sea in the east, regardless of whether they are complete and inhabited or in various stages of dereliction. Unlike the first volume, which dealt solely with the West March, describing in detail both the towers and the families associated with them, this volume concentrates primarily on the architecture of the towers, with only passing references to their families.

Border Towers 2

'The Border Towers of Scotland 2' is devoted to the architecture of the surviving towers in the West, Middle and East Marches of the Borders

As a prelude, there is a short introduction describing how the towers evolved from the earliest defensive towers in the Middle East, some 4000 years ago, to become the great towers or tower-castles that became the stronghold of choice in Scotland from the middle of the 14th century onwards. The tower-house, however, was not so much a natural development, as an economic compromise for the families who were virtually bankrupt after, first the Wars of Independence and later the disastrous battle of Flodden.

The book has 494 pages and more than 1650 illustrations (comprising photographs of towers and architectural details; measured plans; old pictures, drawings and etchings; and location maps)

The first half of the book describes the towers in roughly chronological order, dealing first with the great towers of the 14th and 15th centuries, and then the lesser towers of the 16th century, together with the urban strongholds, bastle-houses, pele-houses and peles of the latter period. Nearly 200 of these strongholds are described, some in considerable detail, while others, now in an advanced state of decay, only merit a passing mention. Later chapters relate how some of the towers were developed in the 17th century, while others were superseded by more modern houses and mansions. Then in the 19th and 20th centuries, a revival of interest in these ancient buildings has led to many of them being restored as family homes.

Border Towers2 inside

Kirkhope, Drumlanrig and Elshieshields Towers feature in Alastair Maxwell-Irving's new book

The second half of the book is devoted to detailed descriptions of the many features that went to make up the towers ― from the barmkins and gateways, entrance doorways, yetts, and basements with their gun-loops and prisons at ground level, to the parapet-walks, turrets, watch-towers, and beacons at the top. In addition, there are sections on ancillary features, such as kitchens, furnishings, outbuildings, masons’ marks, gardens, deer parks and fish ponds.

The initial print run will be limited to 500 copies in buckram hardback with a laminated dust wrapper

There are maps for each March, showing the locations of the various towers; an extensive bibliography; a glossary; and a comprehensive index to all the principal subjects.

The book has 494, A4 pages and more than 1650 illustrations (comprising photographs of towers and architectural details, mostly in colour; measured plans; old pictures, drawings and etchings; and location maps). The initial print run will be limited to 500 copies in buckram hardback with a laminated dust wrapper.

How to order

You can have a copy of the book posted to you, or you can collect one by arrangement with the author direct, for £55 per copy (plus postage and packing at cost for postal orders). To order a copy you can contact Alastair by email - click here.


Date posted: 04 Mar 2015Last updated: 04 Mar 2015


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Comments found: (1)
Comment by: Stephen Trinder on Tue, 25th Aug 2015, 4:01 pmRef id: 61

Another amazing book by this author this time giving the surviving towers. How can I get a copy?

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