Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

SCA Castle Tour To Berwickshire - Apr 2005

Ashiesteel House

Ashiesteel House


Location - OS Map 73 (NT432 351)

Borders: About 3 miles west of Galashields, on minor road south from A72 about 1.5 miles south west of Clovenfords, south of the River Tweed.

Martin Coventry (1995): Standing in the grounds of a former hospital. Ashiesteel House incorporates a rectangular 17th century tower house. The house was enlarged and altered on at least four occasions, the last in Victorian times when it was given corbiestepped gables and dormers. It was a property of the Russells, but was later the home of Sir Walter Scott from 1804-12. It was here that he wrote The Lay of the Last Minstrel, The Lady of the Lake, Marmion, and part of Waverly.

Rhymers Tower

Rhymers Tower


Location: - OS Map 73 (NT572 383)

Borders: About 3 miles north-east of Melrose, west of A68 in Earlston, south of the Leader Water, behind garage.

Martin Coventry (1995): Not much remains of a small 15th-century keep, formerly with a vaulted basement. It is associated with Thomas Learmonth - True Thomas or Thomas the Rhymer a 13th-century poet and seer who, in his youth, reportedly spent seven years in fairyland, after falling asleep under the Eldon Tree, where he met and kissed the Queen of the Fairies. Returning older and wiser, he was famed for his predictions, over the remaining seven years before he disappeared altogether. In the 14th century Earlston was a property of the Purves family. Other refs: Earlston Tower.

Mike Salter (1994): Behind a garage at the SW end of the village of Earlston is one wall remaining of a late 16th century tower about 7.4m wide over walls 1.2m thick. There is evidence of a low cellar, a vaulted loft above, and a hall over the vault.




Location - OS Map 73 (NT 579 371)

Borders: About 2.5 miles north-east of Melrose, on minor road just west of B6356, just east of the Leader Water, at Cowdenknowes.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Cowdenknowes, once a very famous Border stronghold of the powerful and warlike family of Home, stands in a strong situation on the east bank of the Leader about a mile south of Earlston. The existing buildings constitute the remains of a large castle on to which has been grafted extensive modern work. The present house consists of a 16th-century tower (as in sketch) attached only by a modern wing to the mansion house proper, part of which also dates from the 16th century.


There are re mains of another tower about 30 yards to the south, on the steep slope of the river-bank, and from these detached portions it would appear that the original castle had been an extensive establishment on the 'courtyard' plan, with main block, flanking towers, and curtain walls. The tower, as illustrated, is oblong on plan and rises to four storeys in height, its basement chamber being partly below ground level, owing to the sloping nature of the site. The walls are of rubble, with dressed quoins or angles, and 3.5 feet in thickness. The parapet which crowns the north and south walls only, is however of dressed stone, and apparently dates from a slightly later period than the rest of the tower. The corbelling on which the parapet is projected is of late type, and is provided with quatrefoil-shaped gun-loops. In the centre of each wall, above the corbelling, are large empty recesses, with ornate sides, that on the east wall being surmounted by the date 1554, obviously re-cut. This date appears to be too early for the top storey, but no doubt applies to the rest of the tower. Under the first-floor west window, now built up, is a circular gunloop. At ground level on the north side is a large modern doorway, now the main entrance to the mansion, to which the interior of the tower, at this level, serves as a vestibule. Above, a turnpike stair, with an inward projection, rises in the south-east angle. The main house has been greatly altered and extended, but the basement is original and consists of a main block, with five vaulted chambers, and two small wings projecting eastwards. That to the north-east also contains a vaulted apartment, entered from a doorway, now built -up, in its south wall, and bearing a decorative panel containing the initials S.I.H. in monogram, for Sir James Home. Above first-floor level the walling of this wing is projected slightly on a course of corbelling, over which runs the inscription 'FEIR GOD. FLEE FROM SYNNE AND MAK FOR YE LYFE EVERLASTING'. The small south-east wing is a stair-tower, entered by an ornate doorway, over which are the initials S.I.H. and V.K.H. and the date I574. Of the old tower to the south, only the basement and semi -subterranean chambers remain, but an interesting feature is the two dungeons, the first reached only by a hatch in the floor of the main basement, and the second by a trap-door in the floor of the first. Fearsome places. A pleasant and peaceful place now, Cowdenknowes had an unenviable reputation for the barbarism and cruelties of its Home lairds. As witness the ancient rhyme: Vengeance! Vengeance! When and where? Upon the house of Cowdenknowes, Now and ever mair! Home of Cowdenknowes, during the vexed reigns of Mary Queen of Scots and James VI, was one of the foremost supporters of the Protestant lords. He was prominently involved in the Raid of Ruthven when James was kidnapped and held prisoner at Ruthven Castle for ten months.

Martin Coventry (1995): Once a powerful stronghold, Cowdenknowes consists of a 16th century towerhouse of four storeys and a corbelled-out parapet, formerly with a courtyard and flanking towe rs. To this has been added a mansion, dating from the same century. The walls are pierced by gunloops. The property was owned by the Homes, and an older castle here, which was mentioned in 1493, was apparently destroyed at the beginning of the 16th century. Home of Cowdenknowes was a supporter of the Protestants at the time of Reformation, and in 1582 was involved in the Raid of Ruthven, when James VI was imprisoned in Ruthven Castle for six months. The house is still occupied, but had passed from the family by the 19th century. The Homes were apparently a cruel lot. 'Vengeance! Vengeance! When and where? Upon the house of Cowdenknowes, now and ever mair!' Perhaps justified considering the two pit prisons. Other refs: Sorrowlessfield.

Mike Salter (1994): A tower dated 1554 measuring 6.5m by 5.4m forms part of the entrance hall of the present house, once a seat of the Earls of Home. The tower has a spiral stair in a square well projecting into its rooms. The parapet has a moulded top and is carried on corbelled coursing with a decorative frieze above. Extending SE of the tower but separate from it is a wing 27m long by 6.5m wide with on the eastern side a turret with a doorway and two gunports at the north end, whilst a stair-wing with another doorway dated 1574 and a blocked gunport lie further south. On the river bank 27m to the SE of this in turn is a detached building with vaulted cellars and a pit prison. These ancient parts form a most curious and difficult to comprehend layout.

Whitslaid Tower

Whitslaid Tower


Location - OS Map 73 (NT 557 446)

Borders: About 1 mile north of Coldstream, on minor roads from A697, north of, the River Tweed, west of the Leet Water.

Martin Coventry (1995): Whitslaid Tower is a very ruined rectangular 16th-century tower house, formerly of three storeys. The basement was vaulted. It was a property of the Lauders or the Maitlands, but in the mid 17th century was held by the Montgomerys of Macbiehill. Other refs: Whitslade Tower; Whiteslade Tower.

Mike Salter (1994): Three sides survive of a 15th century tower of the Maitland family. It measured 11.4m by 9.3m over walls 2.1m thick, but the north wall has gone. Straight staircases rising from a former entrance near the NE corner connected a vaulted basement and two upper storeys. In the 17th century the original open wall-walks were replaced by an attic. There is a latrine shoot in the west wall near the SW corner.

The Hirsel

The Hirsel


Location - OS Map 74 (NT 829 407)

Martin Coventry (1995): The Hirsel, a 19th-century mansion of the Earl of Home, includes work from the 16th century and possibly earlier. The Homes moved here after their castle, of Hume, was destroyed by Cromwell's forces in 1650. The house was greatly altered and enlarged several times in the 19th century, by William Burn about 1815, and David Bryce about 1858, and is still owned by the Earl of Home. While the house is closed to the public, the garden is open and there is a museum and craft shop.

Mike Salter (1994): The south end of the huge mansion forming the seat of Lord Home is a much altered three storey 17th century range. It has a wing overlapping its south corner beyond which is a tower which may be late 16th century. Another west facing wing at the north end of the 17th century part has an entrance now forming a window.

Etal Castle

Etal Castle


Location - Cornhill-on-Tweed, Northumberland, TD12 4TN

English Heritage: Etal Castle started out as a three-storey tower house, but its location near the border with Scotland made it vulnerable to attack. In 1341, the owner, Robert Manners, was granted a licence to fortify his home. He created a roughly square courtyard enclosed by curtain walls, with the tower house in one corner and a large gatehouse diagonally opposite and a tower at each of the other corners. The tower house was improved with the addition of another storey and crenellations. By the start of the 16th century the Manners were living elsewhere and the castle was in the care of a constable. In 1513 the castle fell to the army of James IV of Scotland during his failed invasion of England. James was killed nearby during the Battle of Flodden, when a hastily recruited army of 20,000 Northerners decisively beat his army of 30,000 Scots. In 1549 the castle was ceded to the Crown, possibly in an attempt to reduce the neglect of this strategic border castle. With the union of the English and Scottish crowns in 1603 Etal ceased to have any military purpose and the decay, which had already set in was allowed to continue unabated.

Hume Castle

Hume Castle


Location - OS Map 74 (NT 704 414)

Borders: About 3 miles south of Greenlaw, on minor road west of B6364 at Hume. Standing on a commanding position with line views over the Tweed valley.

Martin Coventry (1995): Hume Castle was first built in the 12th or 13th centuries, and was an important stronghold of the Home family. It was considered impregnable before the advent of gunpowder. The lands were held by the Home family from the 13th century, having come to them by marriage, and they were made Barons Home in 1478. The castle was captured by the English in 1547, although only after a stout resistance from the garrison led by lady Home - her husband had been killed the day before in a skirmish before the Battle of Pinkie. In 1549 it was retaken by Lord Home, her son, and the English garrison slaughtered. It was visited by Mary, Queen of Scots, in 1566, but in 1569 was again besieged by the English, with artillery, and within 12 hours had surrendered. The Homes were made Earls of Home in 1605. In 1650 the castle was surrendered to Colonel Fenwick, one of Cromwell's commanders, and demolished. The family moved to The Hirsel, and the castle was not rebuilt. The property passed to the Home Earls of Marchmont in the 18th century, and the castle, which by now was almost 'level with the ground', was rebuilt as a crude folly in 1794, incorporating the foundations of the old castle.

The verse: 'I, Willie Wastle, Stand firm in my castle; And a' the dog o' your toon, Will no pull Willie Wastle doon.' is believed to be from the siege of Hume in 1650, and was apparently sent in defiance by the keeper of the castle to Colonel Fenwick. Fenwick must have laughed. Other refs: Home

Mike Salter (1994): Fragments and foundations of a 13th century courtyard castle about 37m square with the SE angle chamfered off are incorporated in a folly with outsize merlons built c1770 for the last Earl of Marchmont. From this craggy hill-top the Homes could see much of the territory they ruled. They were descended from William, son of the Earl of Dunbar, who took the name Home from this estate. Sir Alexander Home was raised to a peerage in 1473. Under James IV he became Warden of the Scottish East March and Great Chamberlain. The Regent Albany executed Alexander, 2nd Lord Home and his brother for treasonable dealings with England in 1515. The castle was dismantled but in 1519 Sir James Hamilton of Finnart spent £690 on rebuilding it. Lady Home surrendered the castle to the Duke of Somerset in 1547 when her son captured at Pinkie was brought up before the walls, but Lord Home recovered his seat in 1548 after his followers scaled the walls at night. In 1557 Home Castle served as headquarters for Queen Mary of Lorraine when an invasion of England was intended but the Scottish nobles refused to cross the Border. A garrison 240 strong here was battered into submission after just one day by an English force under Drury, Marshal of Berwick in 1569. James VI made Lord Home an Earl in 1604. Colonel Fenwick bombarded the castle with mortars and took it for Cromwell in 1650, and it was then demolished. On the west side are the entrance and two loops with top and bottom roundels probably of c1519. At the NW corner is a latrine shoot, and there is a small round turret at the SW corner. In the middle is a fragment of a massive tower.

Thirlestane Castle

Thirlestane Castle


Location - OS Map 73 (NT 540 473)

Borders: Just north-east of Lauder, off A68, just south-west of meeting of Leader Water and Eamsdeugh Water.

MacGibbon and Ross (1892): This castle is situated in the vale of the Leader, about half a mile from the town of Lauder. It stands close to the right bank of the river, and is surrounded by an extensive and well-wooded park, beyond which rise the gently sloping and rounded hills of the district. The east end of the castle occupies the top of the steep bank, beneath which flows the small stream of the Leader, affording some protection on that side, while along the west the park appears to have been at one time u nder water, or marshy, and thus secured additional safety in that direction. The present edifice does not, however, seem to have been built so much for a place of defence as for a convenient residence. The original castle of Thirlstane stands about two miles eastwards, and is now in a state of ruin, having probably been abandoned in the seventeenth century, when the present house was built. It was a keep of the ordinary border type, and of small dimensions. There is a general supposition that the Lauder Fort built by Edward I. is incorporated with the existing Thirlstane Castle, but an examination of the plan and an inspection of the building does not confirm this idea. The original part of the present castle is designed on a very unusual plan where it is shaded black. The structure consists of a long narrow building, with four large rounded towers, one at each corner.

Accompanying each of these round towers is the stair turret in the angle, such as is almost always found in the Z and L Plans. In addition to these turrets, there are six circular towers along the walls of the main fabric, three on either side, in two of which there are staircases. This arrangement of plan is unique amongst Scottish mansions. There is an approach towards it in Elcho and Kellie Castles, but the arrangement of the tower and staircase turrets in these buildings is irregular, while here it is carried out on a symmetrical plan. The first or principal floor seems to have contained an ante-room, dining-room, drawingroom, and principal bed-rooms, with dressing-rooms in the round towers. The numerous turret stairs from this floor gave separate access to the bed-rooms on the upper floors. The total length of the castle measured over the towers is about 138 feet. The width of the central portion is about 33 feet, while over the towers the width measures about 63 feet. As the structure now stands, a broad flight of steps leads up at the west end of the castle to the first floor level of the ancient part. At the top of this staircase there is a grand terrace facing the west. An old entrance doorway, probably of the seventeenth century, still exists in the west end of the great oblong, facing the centre of the terrace. The old part of the building is divided into four apartments on each floor, which enter through one another after the manner of the period, and from which there are communications with the various stairs. On the ground floor these rooms are now used as a vestibule, with libraries beyond; while on the first floor they form a series of reception-rooms, ornamented in a style of richness and grandeur probably unequalled in Scotland. Pennant, in a passing reference to Thirlstane, speaks of it as having been "heavily stuccoed" by the Duke of Lauderdale in the time of Charles II., and the elaborate plaster-work of the ceilings bears out his statement. This work, like that at Holyrood Palace, is hand-wrought, and infinitely varied in design.

The two upper floors are used as bed-rooms. It will be observed from the Plan of the Top Floor, that the parapet walks running along the sides of the castle are unusually wide. This width is obtained by an arrangement of corbelling and arching between the various staircase and other turrets, which seems to have been constructed, partly at least, for that purpose. On the south side the parapet walk is carried entirely on arches, springing from tower to tower; while on the north side the same method, combined with that of intermediate corbels, is employed. These parapets are singular exa mples, there being no similarly constructed feature in any other Scottish structure. They seem to belong to the period of restoration or renovation by the Duke of Lauderdale.

The portions of the plan on either side of the great terrace at the west front are as old as the seventeenth century. This is obvious from the building itself, as well as from being shown in Slezer's work, published in 1693, and more fully in the edition of 1719. Slezer's Plan of Thirlstane (the only plan given in his work) shows an extensive range of buildings along the east end of the castle, projecting about 35 feet northwards from the towers by about 115 feet in length from north to south, with a wide courtyard extending eastwards still further. We doubt very much if this eastern wing, as shown by Slezer, ever had any existence, as there is not sufficient room between the castle and the steep bank of the river to contain all that he shows. Besides, his Views and Plans are inconsistent with each other. There have, however, been great alterations effected (of old date) on the building, both at the east end and along the sides-for instance, on the north and south sides the eastmost upper windows have had originally, the first a pointed and the other a round pediment, ornamented with lozenge patterns. These pediments are now partly concealed by the arches carrying the parapet walk.

Again, in Slezer's Views the four large round towers remain circular to the top, and are not corbelled out to the square, after the fashion so characteristic of the towers of Scottish castles. There can, however, be no doubt but that the square termination of the two eastern towers (as shown in the accompanying Sketches) is the original manner of construction. At Drochil and Kilcoy there occur examples of a similar mode of passing from the round tower to the square, the outline of the square upper part being kept partly within that of the circle, while it projects at the angles. That arrangement has been better carried out here than in the other instances referred to. As to the original finishing of the western towers, nothing can be definitely affirmed, as extensive alterations and additions have quite transformed that part of the castle. The great northwest tower having shown signs of weakness, it was entirely taken down during the alterations carried out by Mr. Bryce, and rebuilt on the old lines, and the whole upper part of the west front was remodelled at the same time that time also certain of the intermediate staircase towers (previously finished with gablets) were completed with square tops and conical slated roofs. There is a tradition of a chapel having existed somewhere about the north-west corner of the castle. In Slezer's Plan the wing added on the north-west is marked as the "Chappell". The full extent of the castle as it now stands is not shown on the Plans, the portions omitted being quite modern buildings.

The lands of Thirlstane have belonged to the Maitland family since the thirteenth century, and possibly an ancient fort may have occupied the site of the existing castle. The latter, however, was rebuilt by Sir John or Chancellor Maitland (created Lord Maitland of Thirlstane in 1590), and was no doubt much altered and embellished by the succeeding Earls and Dukes of Lauderdale during the seventeenth century. It has also, as above stated, been greatly enlarged during the present century, and is now one of the finest and best preserved of our ancient Scottish castles still inhabited.

Nigel Tranter (1962): The imposing seat of the Maitlands, Earls of Lauderdale, stands on the bank of the River Leader in an extensive park about half-a-mile north-east of the ancient burgh of Lauder. The building belongs to three main periods of construction, and the plan now forms roughly a letter T. The original house, built supposedly on the site of Edward First's Lauder Fort, in 1595, forms the leg of the T, running north and south, the great southern wing having been added mainly in 1670 and partly during the 19th century. The ruins of an earlier Thirlestane Castle stand about two miles to the east. The 16th century house was oblong on plan, with a circular tower at each angle, and four stair-turrets rising on corbelling in the four-entrant angles.

Also, an unusual feature, between the round towers on either side of the long main block, are three semicircular towers, those in the centre containing turnpike stairs. The two northern round towers are corbelled out to the square above second floor level, but those to the south have been altered to connect up with the later additions. The walls, built of the local small and warm red rubble, rise to three storeys and an attic. Above second floor level is a most unusual parapet-walk or gallery, carried partly on large corbels and partly on arches supported by the semicircular towers. This gallery, with its balustrated parapet, dates from the 17th century, and gives the house an especially interesting appearance. Most of the windows have been enlarged and the walls are well provided with small circular shot-holes. The dormer windows and the square turrets belong to the mid 19th century, at which date the castle was again greatly. enlarged. As usual, the interior has been much altered since the 16th century, but the arrangement remains much the same.

On each floor are four apartments, intercommunicating, and the towers contain small chambers. The first floor houses the dining- and drawing-rooms, with exceptionally fine decorative ceilings, and above are private rooms served by the many turnpike stairs.

The Maitlands of Lauderdale have. held these lands from the earliest known times-certainly since the 13th century. The twelfth Laird of Thirlestane, Sir Richard Maitland, the name was sometimes spelt Mautland, which may give an indication of the possible derivation was known by his judicial title of Lord Lethington (Lethington, now Lennoxlove in East Lothian which was also a Maitland property) and it is his son William who was Mary Queen of Scots' famous or notorious Secretary of State. The brother of the Secretary was also Secretary of State to Mary's son James VI. Sir John, became Chancellor of Scotland in 1587, after the famous trial of the Master of Gray, and three years later first Lord Maitland of Thirlestane. He it was who built the 16th century part of the present building. An astute lawyer, he seems to have had none of his brother's fatal flair for changing sides. His son became the first Earl of Lauderdale. The 17th century addition was erected by a later Maitland, who became the first and last Duke of Lauderdale, and whose chequered career is too complicated as well as too well-known, to be summarised here. Something of the man's boundless ambition however may be sensed when viewing the huge and almost overpowering 17th century stonework which he caused to be raised here when he was the uncrowned king of Scotland.

Martin Coventry (1995): Thirlestane Castle is a 16th century castle, the oldest part of which is a rectangular tower house or block of three storeys, which had a large round tower at each comer. It was considerably enlarged in the 1670s with the rebuilding of the main block, heightening it to six storeys, and the addition of round turrets. Three semicircular towers along each side contain stairs, as do many of the turrets. Parapets are supported on arches running along each side. A symmetrical forecourt was also added, with three-storey wings, which were extended in the 19th century. The interior has been much altered. A fine 17th century plaster ceiling survives on the second floor, as do Baroque plaster ceilings elsewhere. The original castle of the Maitlands stood two miles away at Old Thirlestane. The present castle was built by Sir John Maitland, James VI's chancellor, but it was John Maitland, Duke of Lauderdale, a very powerful man in Scotland in the 17th century, who had the house remodelled in 1670 by William Bruce. Lauderdale was Secre tary of State for Scotland from 1661-80, but eventually replaced after the Covenanter uprising, which ended with their defeat at the Battle of Bothwell Brig. His ghost is said to haunt Thirlestane, as well as St Mary's in Ha ddington. Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed here in 1745 on his way south. The 19th-century extensions were designed by David Bryce. The castle is still occupied by the same family.

Mike Salter (1994): In the early 13th century Sir Richard de Mautelant (Maitland) married the heiress of Thomas de Thirlestane. The family originally lived at Old Thirlstane until they transferred to a splendid new mansion built by Sir John Maitla nd shortly before he died in 1595 whilst in office as James VI's Chancellor. Edward I is alleged to have built a pele on this site and a fort rather than a mansion is shown on the map of Lauderdale in Blaeu's Atlas of c1654, though this may refer to long vanished earthwork defences of either the 1540s or the 1640s. Sir John's mansion has a main block 10m wide by 34m long divided into four compartments. There are round towers with square caphouses on the northern corners. The towers on the southern corners are actually more like round cornered rectangles, that on the west having a wide staircase. There are other stairs in turrets in the re-entrant angles on the sides, the east turrets being bigger than those on the west. Each side wall has three round turrets now carrying later balustraded parapets. On the east side these are carried by arches between the turrets. On the west side both corbelling and arches are used. The parapets were added by John's grandson, who was created Duke of Lauderdale by Charles II: He enlarged the castle and inserted magnificent plaster ceilings in the state rooms. Further extensions and a court were added in the 1840s. Of that period are the square top turrets in the middle of each end wall of the main block and the existing dormer windows, whilst the NW tower was rebuilt in the 1880s.

Norham Castle

Norham Castle


Location - Northumberland 7 Miles west of Berwick on Tweed

English Heritage: Norham Castle in Northumberland is one of the most impressive medieval fortresses in northern England, but previous research has concentrated almost exclusively on the remains of the ruined keep, the walls and towers. However, in recent years a keen-eyed member of English Heritage's Conservation Team has become increasingly intrigued by patterns of grassy humps and bumps in the surrounding fields - were these siege works, or perhaps related to the castle in some other way? Prompted by this observation, English Heritage's Landscape Investigation Team has recently completed an analysis and detailed survey of these remains, and the research has shed important new light on the development of this well-known and much-visited castle. Perhaps the most startling of the discoveries to come from the survey has been the realisation that the medieval castle occupies the site of a much earlier fortification. This may be a prehistoric hillfort - perhaps as much as 3,000 years old. The discovery stems from the re-assessment of an isolated stretch of rampart - a massive bank and ditch - in a field to the south of the castle.

This particular earthwork does not belong to the medieval castle and seems more likely to be the remnant of a much earlier defence cutting off the side of the promontory most exposed to attack. In fact, the earthwork was first noticed in the 19th century and interpreted as a Roman fort, but this suggestion was subsequently forgotten. If we are correct in the dating of this rampart, then Norham could well boast the site of the largest Iron Age hillfort in Northumberland. The earthwork survey has also shed new light on the evolution and design of the medieval castle, finding evidence that it was probably far larger than has previously been realised. The survey showed that the castle possessed an additional enclosure on the outside of the outer bailey. The earthen defences of the enclosure have left much slighter traces than the strong masonry walls surrounding the inner and outer baileys, but their course can be traced extending into the field on the south side of the modern road running past the castle - or rather through it, as we now know. In the 16th century the castle was rebuilt to house artillery and the English Heritage investigation has revealed that a line of rude earthwork defences were built outside the castle during this period. The defences were probably designed to house more cannon.

Cranshaws Tower

Cranshaws Tower


Location - OS Map 67 (NT 681 619)

Borders: About 0.5 miles west of Cranshaws, on minor road west of the B6355, west of the Whiteadder Water, east of Cranshaws Hill.

Nigel Tranter (1962): Happed in the very lap of the southern Lammermoors about a mile west of Cranshaws Church, this attractive and interesting tower seems to date from the late 16th century. Oblong on plan, its most unusual feature is the rounded angles of the harled walling. Rising to 65 feet, it contains four storeys beneath a parapet, and a garret above. The original entrance would be in the west front, to adjoin the turnpike stair, which rises in the south-west angle. This is not housed in a stairwing or tower, but projects inwards, as in some other Border towers. A separate little chamber on each, floor occupies the remaining space alongside this projection, so that the main rooms are not L-shaped. The basement is unusual in not being vaulted, and formerly contained cellars, while the kitchen occupied an intermediate floor above, with the Hall on the second floor and sleeping accommodation higher. The stair does not end in the usual caphouse, but admits directly to the parapet-walk by a doorway in the west gable. The tower happily is in excellent preservation and is occupied. It was a stronghold of the great family of Douglas.

Martin Coventry (1995): Cranshaws is an altered rectangular tower house, dating partly from the 15th century, of four storeys and a corbiestepped garret within a corbelled-out crenellated parapet. It has rounded comers, and was surrounded by a courtyard with ranges of buildings. The entrance would have originally been beside the turnpike stair, which still rises in one comer. The basement was vaulted, but this has been removed, and the hall was on the first floor. The tower has been much altered inside. Cranshaws was a property of the Swintons from 1400 until 1702, when it passed to the Douglases. The castle is supposed to have had a brownie, which undertook all manner of chores. Having for a number of years gathered and threshed the corn, one of the servants complained that it was not neatly gathered. The next day the grain was found two miles away in the Whiteadder river, and the brownie abandoned the castle.

Mike Salter (1994): This is a well-preserved 16th century tower with rounded corners built by the Swintons, owners of Cranshaws from c1400. It passed to the Douglases in 1702 and became a seat of Lord Aberdour. The tower measures 12m by 7.8m and rises 16m to the top of the parapet around the fifth storey attic room. There are no vaults. The staircase takes up half the width of the east end, leaving space for small rooms beside it on each storey. The main rooms on the second and third storeys respectively were the kitchen and hall, the latter having a latrine in the thickness of the SW wall. The fourth and fifth storey main rooms have later been subdivided.


Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 1 – South East Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions
Mike Salter – The Castles of The Lothians and the Borders
MacGibbon and Ross — Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland

Added: 28 Apr 2005 Updated: 18 Apr 2022
Related articles (6)
  Member Comments

? You are not currently signed in. Please sign in below.Comment Rules

Add your comment

We'd love to hear your views. If you are a Scottish Castles Association member, please sign in below and share them with us.

(required field)
Please verify that you are not a robot.
Comments found: (0)

Presently, there are no comments posted for this record!

back to topTop

Our corporate members...

Visit our Skills and Trades Section