The group of members and friends, met at BUITTLE PLACE, Dalbeattie, on the Saturday morning. We were hosted to the archaeological excavation that is being carried out within the grounds. This site contains the motte and bailey, plus later stone castle and fortifications of the famous Baliol's who became the Scottish royal family, and were key figures in the wars of Scottish independence. A tour and explanation of the remains of the ancient fortifications, was followed by a visit to the tower. The current owners are returning this deceptive structure to something of its former state. BUITTLE TOWER had been reduced to the status of a farm workers tenement. It has now been internally restored with an ongoing programme of external structural work planned. In its current condition, the roofline has been lowered onto the wallhead with upper structures removed. The barrel vault, vestige of a corner bartizan, outbuildings and remnant of barmkin wall give tantalising hints of the original building.
From Dalbeattie the group drove to DRUMCOLTRAN TOWER. This grand tower situated within a working farm, is under National care. The strong L-plan tower is in a good state of structural repair, and includes roof, caphouse, and wallwalk, but without internal flooring. The stair wing with the door in re-entrant angle being typical of its time. The heraldic panel above the door, and defensive shot holes by the door being further features of note.
After travelling back through Dumfries we visited LOCHARBRIGGS QUARRY, where we were hosted around the various work sites. We were given explanations of how the stone was quarried, cut to size and finished to customers requirements. There was much interest when we were shown the stone cutting and finishing machines. At the end of the weekend we would see some practical results of this work where Abbots Tower has used large quantities of Locharbriggs sandstone. Lunch of soup and sandwiches was taken back in Dumfries.
This was followed by a drive down to the Solway coast and nationally important CAERLAVEROCK CASTLE. This magnificent fortress is unique in its triangular plan, water filled moat and wonderful architecture.The façade of the main internal range of buildings always surprises new visitors. The coincidence of our visit and the Historic Scotland open day was a further bonus in that no entry fee was required. Leaving Caerlaverock the "castle spotters" in the group stopped to view the ruins of one of the two Isle Castles that exist in the area.
Our final destination of the day was COMLONGON CASTLE. Where we had planned to have the S.C.A. AGM and Dinner. Most of the group were staying overnight here, so the piper playing a welcome and the mulled wine reception were much appreciated. The tour around the castle was extensive with our host giving a graphic account of the history of the building. This large square tower is unusual in that two sides of the wallwalk are roofed in with the covered crenellations now forming windows. The Scottish Castles Association AGM and dinner was a great success with many members taking to their beds in the wee small hours.
Sunday morning saw the tour group assembling at LOCHHOUSE TOWER by Moffat. Here our hosts provided coffee and tea then guided us around the tower and its internals. Lochhouse is one of those unusual Border towers where the walls are step reduced in thickness externally as they rise upwards. Rounded external corners are a further feature here. Our hosts drew our attention to the drystane wall, which surrounds their flower garden. Close examination revealed that the original secondary Stringcourse of tooled red sandstone from above the corbelling, which originally supported the wallwalk, has been incorporated as horizontal ties in the garden wall. A reminder of times when Royal authority was attempting to counter the growth of strong families, by having iron yetts and wallwalks removed from defensive houses and towers.
Our next visit took us down through the A74/M6 motorway improvements to BONSHAW TOWER, here we were welcomed in the beautiful large house that adjoins the tower. Our hosts bravely provided tea and coffee for our large group, in their own livingroom. This was followed by a history of the family who have been in continuous possession of Bonshaw since its creation. An external corridor allows access to the tower avoiding exposure to the elements. We passed through this into the tower and were guided upward floor by floor and out onto the wallwalk where the unusually lowered roof allows the end gables to protrude. One gable has been modified to allow the incorporation of a church type bell. On leaving Bonshaw the local Tavern provided a light lunch of sandwiches.
Another cross-country dash took us to AMISFIELD TOWER, which amazed all who had not seen it before. Even those who were familiar with the various drawings, photographs and publications that show the tower, were impressed by the fine detail, complexity and general state of preservation. We were given complete freedom to walk in the gardens and to explore the floors, chambers, turrets and caphouses. Some areas of original plasterwork remain with clear traces of the painted decoration that has adorned the walls. We were also able to see evidence that for many centuries people have been inclined to leave their personal mark, name or comment by engraving the remaining plasterwork.
Our next and final visit took us back through Dumfries to NewAbbey and ABBOTS TOWER. Here we found a wonderful restoration project employing much Locharbriggs red sandstone. The project has rescued a small tower originally abandoned and damaged during the reformation and counter reformation troubles. Our host who has single-mindedly tackled the restoration with a small support group explained the recreation of the now almost complete structure. The story of the first delivery of the above sandstone and the disproportionate relationship of cost to quantity will be told some time in the future by our host. Meantime the excellent understanding reached between Locharbriggs management and our restorer has allowed this gem of a tower to near completion. Abbots Tower now stands as a compliment to both parties.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS