Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The National Trust takes ownership of Alloa Tower

Alloa Tower is to be gifted to the National Trust by the Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust who rescued the once derelict tower. It is the first property that National Trust Scotland has acquired in seven years.

Alloa front

Alloa Tower: 14th century tower with 17th century fenestration and inserted door. Rounds original work

The National Trust Scotland has managed the tower since 1996, in partnership with the Clackmannanshire Heritage Trust and Clackmannanshire Council.

Alloa Tower, dating from 1368, is one of the greatest of its kind in Scotland. Situated in the town of Alloa, its future is secure after a history of vicissitudes. Home to the Erskines, Earls of Mar, the tower is all that remains of what was once an extensive mansion.

From a vaulted basement and 11-foot thick walls, it rises through four storeys to a parapet flush with the wall face and provided with rounds. An additional round is centred above the present door but the original entrance was on the opposite side at first floor level. The roof beams are contemporary.

The façade is distinguished by row upon row of large windows which appear out of place. These date from the 18th century when they were punched through the thick walling to allow more light to enter.

Internally the tower has been transformed and very little can be seen of the early work.

A tower house was passé in the age of Louis IV and from the late 17th century the Earl of Mar commenced a programme of additions to convert it into a château with formal gardens inspired by those of La Notre, gardener to the Sun King himself.

Alloa garden

Garden façade with views to the River Forth. The original entrance was here at first floor level

The 1715 Rebellion interrupted the work and Mar (or 'Bobbing John' as he is more commonly known) proved that his skill in the garden did not necessary translate to skill on the battlefield. He quit Scotland for France but never forgot his old home.

In 1800 Mar's great undertaking was ravaged by fire and replaced by a classical mansion. This did not agree with the tastes of the Victorians who transformed it into a Tudor mansion. Once again fire was to destroy the building. This time there was no reprieve and, in 1959, all was pulled down except for the old tower.

In 1988 The Clackmannan HeritageTrust was formed to rescue the by now derelict tower and, in 1996, it was opened to the public. The Clackmannan Heritage Trust have gifted ownership of Alloa Tower to the National Trust of Scotland in 2015.

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle

Added: 04 Jun 2015 Updated: 22 Jul 2015
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