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home page events castle tours SCA Castle Tour Of Annandale & Cumbria - Feb 2005


SCA Castle Tour Of Annandale & Cumbria - Feb 2005


February


Lunelly Tower
Lunelly Tower

LUNELLY TOWER

Location - OS Map 79 (NO 197 824)

Dumfriesshire: about 4 miles east of Lockerbie, on minor roads north of B7068 east of Bankshill, north of the Water of Hill.

Brief History

Not much remains of a 16th century tower house. There was an earlier stronghold on the site. The lands were the property of the Corrie family but passed to the Johnstones in 1516 and they built the tower.


Kirkconnel Tower

Kirkconnel Tower

KIRKCONNEL TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 192 752)

Dumfriesshire: To north-west of Ecclefechan, on minor roads west of B725, at Kirkconnel.

Brief History

Very little re mains of a 16th-century tower house except one fragment of the formerly vaulted basement with a gunloop. It was a property of the lrvings, who moved here from Kirkconnel, near Sprinkell, in 1609. Kirkconnel Hall is a modern mansion, and now used as a hotel. Other refs: Ecclefechan Hall.


Bonshaw Tower - Dumfriesshire

Bonshaw Tower - Dumfriesshire

BONSHAW TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 243 720)

Dumfriesshire: About 5 miles north-east of Annan, on minor road south of A74 at Kirtlebridge, just south of Kirtlebridge.

Structure

A late 15th or early 16thcentury tower standing high above the Kirtle Water a mile south of Kirtlebridge, well built and substantial. Oblong on plan it rises three storeys to a parapet, with garret above, and has a basement course, as at Stapleton, Comlongan, etc., with a long flat gunloop in each wall. The door is within a modern porch to the east, with SOLI DEO HONOR ET GLORIA inscribed above. A mural passage leads into the vaulted basement, into which the turnpike stair rising in the north-east angle slightly encroaches. There is an unpleasant prison within the thickness of the south-west angle, with a ventilation flue but no window, measuring just over eight feet by four. In the basement vaulting is a hatch opening into the Hall on the first floor. This is a good apartment with a nine-feet-wide fireplace, four windows, two having aumbries in the jambs and one provided with stone seats. There is another aumbry with an ogival-arched head. The second floor chamber, no doubt the master-bedroom, is similar but has a garderobe. The garret above is modern, the roof-pitch having been lowered. The individual corbelling of the parapet is unusual in having a machicolated opening above each shot-hole on three walls and another over the entrance.

Brief History

Bonshaw was considered to be a place of some strength in the 16th century and has long been the seat of the Irvine or Irving family. William de Irwin or Irvine was armour bearer to Robert the Bruce, and granted Drum in Aberdeenshire as reward for long service. Bonshaw was sacked in 1544 by the English, but twice successfully it withstood sieges by Lord Maxwell in 1585. The Georgian house adjacent to the tower is also in the ownership of the Irvings.


Woodhouse -Tower

Woodhouse -Tower

WOODHOUSE TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 251 715)

Dumfriesshire: About 5 miles north-east of Annan, on minor road just south of A74, just north of the Kirtle Water, just south of the railway line, at Woodhouse.

Structure

Woodhouse Tower is a ruined 16th century tower house of the Irvings, much of which collapsed in the 19th century, although part was restored/consolidated in 1877. The remaining fragment contains a stair, probably added as part of the Victorian consolidation. This stair rises directly to the top of the tower. The original tower was formerly of three storeys and an attic. The vaulted basement has two gunloops, and the castle had a courtyard, traces of which remain. Other refs: Wardhouse Tower.


Stapleton Tower

Stapleton Tower

STAPLETON TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 234 688)

Dumfriesshire: About 3 miles north-east of Annan, on minor roads north of B6357, about 0.3 miles south of Scotsfield.

Structure

Now standing distinctly bare and gaunt in the centre of its park, three miles north-east of Annan, Stapleton is an oblong medium sized tower of the early 16th century. A large modern mansion was attached to it, but this was completely demolished in the 1950s, leaving the old tower little more than a shell. The walls however remain complete, and in places reach 12 feet thick.

There are four storeys beneath a parapet with modern crenella tions, carried on a corbel-table rather more elaborate than is usual. This consists of a course of three-membered small individual corbels with a continuous course beneath. There are open rounds at all angles. The roof has gone, but probably it would originally have been gabled, within the parapet walk, to contain the usual garret storey. The entrance is in the south front, by a round-headed doorway cut through the splayed plinth, and guarded by a long gunloop to the west and a circular shot-hole to the east. The basement is vaulted, its fireplace being modern as is also the window in the west wall. This opening has weakened the wall and has damaged the vaulting. The turnpike stair rises in the south-east angle. Windows are enriched by dog-tooth ornamental surrounds, as is an empty panel-space above the door. The remainder of the interior is now entirely gutted. It is sad to see a house which was lived in not many years ago reduced to this state but better this than that the old tower should have been demolished altogether along with the mansion.

Brief History

It was a property of the Irvings, but passed to the Grahams. There was some dispute over ownership, however, and in 1626 a Christie Irvine captured the castle in a surprise attack.


Hermitage Castle

Hermitage Castle

HERMITAGE CASTLE

Location - OS Map 79 (NY 497 960)

Borders: About 5 miles north of Newcastleton, on minor road west of the B6357 at Hermitage, just north of Hermitage Water

Structure

One of the most impressive and oppressive of Scottish fortresses, Hermitage Castle consists of a 13th century courtyard and large 14th century keep of four storeys, around which has been constructed a massive castle. The keep had small square towers added at three of the corners, and the entrance was at first-floor level and defended by two portcullises. In the 15th century a new rectangular wing was extended from the main keep. The walls are pierced by small windows and splayed gunloops. A timber gallery projected around the whole building, the holes to support the joists still visible. The entrance leads into the central courtyard, but the buildings within are very ruined.

Brief History

The property belonged to the Dacres, who had a castle here in the 13th century, but passed to the de Soulis family, who strengthened the castle. One of the family was a man of ill repute and said to dabble in witchcraft. Many local children were apparently seized by Soulis and never seen again. The local people, according to one story, eventually rebelled and Soulis was wrapped in lead and boiled in a cauldron at Ninestane Rig (a stone circle about 1.5 miles north-east of Hermitage), although he may actually have been imprisoned in Dumbarton Castle for supporting the English. The family were forfeited in 1320.

The castle passed to the Grahams, then by marriage to the Douglas family. William Douglas, 'The Knight of Liddlesdale', was prominent in resisting Edward Balliol in 1330s. He seized Sir Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie, however, while at his devotions in St Mary's Church in Hawick, and imprisoned him in a dungeon at the castle and starved him to death. In 1353 Douglas was murdered by his godson, another William Douglas, after he had tried to block his claim to the lordship of Douglas.

In 1492 Archibald, 5th Earl of Angus, exchanged Hermitage for Bothwell with Patrick Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell. In 1566 James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell was badly wounded, in a skirmish with the Border reiver 'little Jock' Elliot of Park - the latter was shot and eventually died - and was paid a visit on his sick bed by Mary, Queen of Scots. Mary and Bothwell were later married, but after she fled Scotland in 1568, he escaped to Norway. Bothwell was eventually imprisoned in the Danish castle of Dra gsholm until his death - his mummified body is said to be preserved there. The castle and title passed from the Hepburns to Fra ncis Stewart, Earl of Bothwell, then after he was forfeited to the Scotts of Buccleuch. The castle was partly restored in the 19th century.


Hoddom Castle

Hoddom Castle

HODDOM CASTLE

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 157 730)

Dumfriesshire: About 5 miles north-west of Annan, on minor roads north of B725, south of the River Annan, at Hoddom.

Structure

Hoddom (also recorded as Hoddam) Castle is massive 16th century L-plan tower house of four storeys and an attic within a parapet. To this had been added a 19th century mansion, which has since been demolished. The remaining castle consists of a main block and higher stair-tower. A corbelled-out parapet and bartizans crown the tower. The entrance surround is moulded, and there are remains of a courtyard, wall and dry ditch.

Brief History

The property was held by the Herries family in the 14th and 15th centuries, but passed to the Carruthers. Hoddom was built by the Maxwell Lord Herries, who acquired the lands in the middle of the 16th century. He demolished a chapel to build the castle, but later constructed a watch-tower on Repentance Hill as recompense. This may have been to appease his conscience, but more likely to appease the powerful Archbishop of Glasgow, whose chapel he had demolished. The castle was taken in 1588 and held by Douglas of Drumlanrig, but in 1569 Hoddom was recaptured by forces loyal to Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1570 the English captured and blew up the tower. It was rebuilt and acquired by the Murrays of Cockpool about 1627, then the Carnegie Earls of Southesk in 1653. It was sold to the Sharp family in 1690, who extended the castle with a wing by William Bum, but sold again, this time to the Brooks in 1878. It stands in a caravan park.


Repentance Tower

Repentance Tower

REPENTANCE TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 155 723)

Dumfriesshire: About 5 miles north west of Annan, south of the B725 at Hoddam Mains, on top of Repentance Hill about 0.5 miles south of River Annan.

Structure

Commanding a good view over the west part of the Border, Repentance Tower is a 16th-century tower house, square in plan, of three storeys. It has a parapet and a stone-slabbed roof. The walls are pierced by small windows, gunloops and shot-holes. Over the lintel of the entrance is inscribed the word 'REPENTANCE'.

The entrance, at first-floor level, is now reached by an external stone stair. The only access to the vaulted basement is from the first floor, and a timber stair climbed to the floor above. The second floor roof is vaulted, to support the heavy roof, and has a small fireplace.

Brief History

The tower was built by John Maxwell, Lord Herries, of nearby Hoddom Castle, in the mid 16th century. He demolished a chapel to build Hoddom Castle, and either because of his conscience or the protestations of the Archbishop of Glasgow, whose chapel it was, he built this watch-tower to give warning of English raiders. It withstood an English siege in 1570. A graveyard surrounds the tower.


Langholm Tower

Langholm Tower

LANGHOLM TOWER

Location - OS Map 79 (NY 361 849)

Dumfriesshire: Just north of Langholm on minor road west of the A7, just north of the meeting of Ewes Water and River Esk.

Brief History

Not much remains of a 16th cenury tower house apart from the remains of one gable.

It may have been built by the Armstrongs, but passed to the Maxwells. The tower was betrayed to the English in 1544, but recaptured in 1547 by the Scotts. It was later sold to Douglas of Drumlanrig and abandoned in 1725. There was another tower in the town of Langholm, the vaulted basement of which is built into one wing of the former Buccleuch Arms Hotel.

The battle of Arkinholm was fought nearby, where the Black Douglases were defeated by the forces of James II in 1455.


Brackenhill Tower - Cumbria

Brackenhill Tower - Cumbria

BRACKENHILL TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 4457 6948)

Cumbria: East of the M6, 4 miles east of Longtown on the north bank of the River Lyne.

Architectural Key Points

Evidence suggests that the site was inhabited prior to the construction of the 16th century tower and this could date from the 13th century or earlier, but archaeological surveys need to be done to establish what kind of dwelling would have been on the site. The date of 1584 is quite late for a tower to be built, so this would suggest that there was another building on the site. Brackenhill is an exceptional example of the fortified tower house of the Anglo-Scots border. It is a unique example of a Scots vernacular tower in an English setting and is remarkable for its state of preservation.

Arguably the best-preserved 16th century tower house in Cumbria, its external elevations are virtually unaltered from its original state. Whilst there were many towers built in the Scots vernacular tradition - most of those have ended up being officially Scottish once the border was drawn. So, Brackenhill Tower is unique in its intactness and extremely rare to be a tower in the Scottish style sitting on English soil. Whilst the tower's interior was recast in the mid 19th century, original features appear to have been preserved wherever possible. It is likely much awaits discovery behind the plaster.

Brackenhill Tower is a pele tower house. A small fortified building characteristic of the English Scottish border, intended for protection against raiders rather than to withstand a siege. The tower's walls are five feet thick and rise to forty feet in height. It has a double gabled roof and is surrounded by a corbelled and battlemented parapet. The land around Brackenhill Tower is in a good defensive position, with large ravines to the North and the South. No matter how rich or powerful a Border leader might become he needed a tower at least for his personal safety and to provide a rallying point and defensive centre for his dependants.

In the border regions of both Northern England and Scotland the tower house was adopted as a response to the absolute necessity for an owner to be able to provide effective and inexpensive protection for himself and his family during the turbulent times of the later Middle Ages when there was a perpetual state of conflict between the native Scots and the English invaders (and Scottish reivers coming the other way across the border!). Brackenhill Tower would be a meeting point for Richie Graham's clan to gather before a raid and a safe, defensive stronghold to return to. Their great virtue was their simplicity and strength. They were impervious to fire from the outside, or anything less than artillery or sustained siege. Pele towers were numerous across the border region. Their name derives from the fact that the original towers were built with palisade made up of "piles" or wooden pales, Although it was not common to build them of masonry until the sixteenth century, there are some much earlier stone examples in the 14th Century.

The date 1584 above the door would relate to the construction of the greater part of the fabric of the tower as its stands today. This was built by Richie Graham. Although some earlier material may have been re-used, none of the standing fabric seems to pre-date this. When the roof of the 1860 porch addition collapsed the Graham coat of arms was reexposed, clearly indicating this house was built and owned by the Graham clan. When first erected, its is likely that in additions to the self-defensive tower, earlier buildings like a kitchen range may have stood on the site and being enclosed by a wall, palisade and/or ditch. Further archaeological investigation may reveal this.


Bewcastle

Bewcastle

BEWCASTLE

Location – OS Map 86 (NY 565 747)

In 1092 Cumberland was annexed from Scotland by King William II of England, who built castles along the border to protect it. These were at Carlisle, Brough, and Bewcastle. Since 1066 when the Normans landed, the adaptation of Roman Forts into castles was much favoured, as there was a ready supply of building stone. Here at Bewcastle was a Roman Fort, with a deep and wide ditch. The Castle was destroyed in 1173. The Castle that we see today was built between 1361 and 1371 by John de Strivelyn, one of the King's generals. It was some 27 metres square, with buildings on all but the west side grouped around a small courtyard. The entrance had above it a large stone carved with de Strivelyn's coat-of-arms. This stone disappeared about 1823, and is now built into the wall of the barn of Demesne Farm, where it can still be seen. The castle was abandoned about 1401, when the occupants were taken prisoner by the Scots.

The Castle has had other owners and restorations since, but in 1604 was reported as being in much decay. In 1900 it was sold as part of Demesne Farm, and in 1968 the Castle was sold to a London property company with intentions of selling parts of it to Americans. This project failed, and the Castle continues to decay, with no one now own ing it. The place-name "Bewcastle" is derived from "Booth Caster". Caster is a name often used for Roman forts (e.g. Lancaster = Lune Caster), Booth meant much the same as it does now - a temporary dwelling. The castle is on private land within Demesne Farm, but permission to view from a nearby path may be obtained from the farm, who also supply a leaflet describing the history of the Castle.


Gilnockie Tower

Gilnockie Tower

GILNOCKIE TOWER

Location – OS Map 85 (NY 386 782)

Dumfriesshire: About 2 miles north of Canonbie, on minor road east of the A7, just east of the River Esk, by the bridge over the River Esk, near Hollows Tower.

Brief History

Little survives of Gilnockie Tower, a 16th-century tower house. This site is sometimes confused with Hollows Tower which stands just a few hundred yards away. A stone on the site carries a plaque, which draws attention to the strength of the site and the massive earthworks that protected the tower. The plaque states that much of the stone from the tower was used to build the road and bridge, which now encroach onto the site. It was a stronghold of the unruly Armstrong clan, who were said to be able to muster 3000 men. The tower was built in 1518, but burned by Lord Dacre, the English Warden of the West March, in 1523. In 1530 Johnnie Armstrong and 50 followers were summarily hanged on the spot, without trial, by James V after being tricked into joining the king on a hunting party, the event is recorded in an old ballad.


Hollows Tower

Hollows Tower

HOLLOWS TOWER

Location - OS Map 85 (NY 382 786)

Dumfriesshire: About 2.5 miles north of Canonbie, east of the A7 at Hollows on the west bank of the River Esk, near the site of Gilnockie Tower.

Structure

Strongly situated close to the road and the River Esk two miles north of Canonbie, this is a well-preserved tower of the 16th century. It is oblong on plan, with four storeys beneath the parapet and a garret above, with rubble walls six feet in thickness. The elaborate corbelling for the missing parapet still remains, and there have been open rounds at all angles. An interesting feature is the stone beacon topping the south gable, similar to that at Elshieshields. Splayed gunloops defend all except the east wall, which suggests that there was a courtyard to that side. The door is in the west wall and admits to the foot of the turnpike stair, which rises in the south-west angle and encroaches slightly on each floor. The basement is vaulted. The Hall on the first floor has a wide moulded fireplace flanked by two aumbries, and there are three windows, two having stone seats. The timber floors of the upper storeys have been restored.

Brief History

This building is sometimes mistakenly called Gilnockie Tower, the foundations of which in fact survive not far away by the bridge crossing of the River Esk. Hollows or Hole-house was a stronghold of the lawless Armstrong clan, and inevitably the centre of many a fray. This tower's predecessor was burnt down by Lord Dacre, the English Warden of the West March, in 1528. The property belonged to the famous Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie whom James Fifth executed so cavalierly, reputedly with thirty-six lesser Armstrong lairds.


Kirkandrews Tower

Kirkandrews Tower

KIRKANDREWS TOWER

Location – OS Map 85 (NY 389 719)

Isolated tower of about 1530-50 with Scottish features. Some remains of Barmkin wall. Still inhabited. Marked on 1552 map as 'Tom Greme', on 1590 map as 'Kirkander' and on 1607 map as 'Kirkanders'. House, formerly tower house. 16th century replacing earlier tower, for the Graham family, with 18th century and 20th century alterations. Thick red sandstone rubble walls on chamfered plinth with large flush quoins, corbelled parapets with projecting water spouts; steeply pitched gabled slate roof with gables and stone chimney stacks. 3 storeys, 2 bays. 20th century first floor door in roll moulded architrave, reached by 19th century external; stone steps; entrance to basement below has plank door and similar architrave. Small original window to left of entrance; 2 similar windows on 2 levels above have been blocked. Partly blocked 18th century openings, on 3 levels to left, with 20th century casements. Rear wall has large 18th century blocked window; 19th century window to left, other windows are 20th century. Interior has vaulted basement originally reached by trap door from first floor. Newel staircase in thickness of wall beside entrance.


THANKS TO OUR HOSTS


Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 3 – South West Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions
Mike Salter – The Castles of The Lothians and the Borders



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