Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Preston Tower (Lothian) - Past and Present

Preston Tower is a 15th century L-plan tower house which stands in Prestonpans, East Lothian.

Preston 1900
Preston Tower photographed circa 1900

It was heightened in the 17th century when two storeys were added to its wall top. Normally a wing would be expected to provide additional space but a similar solution can be found at nearby Niddry Castle where a storey was added on top of the original battlements. This work is of high quality with fine details and, more's the pity, it's roofless.

Niddry Castle Extension
An early picture of Niddry Castle showing the extra storey (since removed) on top of the original battlements

An iron yett opens to the basement and pit-prison. The entrance to the vaulted hall at the first floor was reached by an external stair protected by a boldly corbelled projection at original roof level - useful for dropping unpleasant objects on unwanted callers.

The hall has a large fireplace and a mural chamber. A turnpike stair rises within the thickness of the walls, while another in the re-entrant angle at parapet level, gave access to the ruinous 17th-century addition.

Preston has a scorching hot history – quite literally – as it was set alight by the Earl of Hertford in 1545; by Cromwell in 1650 and accidentally in 1663 after which it was abandoned.

Today it is consolidated and is situated in beautifully maintained gardens with a well-preserved 16th century doocot a few strides away from the main tower.

Preston Tower Present
Preston Tower as it looks today
Preston Doocot Geograph
The well-preserved 16th century doocot in the grounds of Preston Tower

In 2016 the Scottish Castles Association awarded the Charles McKean Memorial Prize for Architecture to a group of students from Edinburgh University based upon their design for the proposed reoccupation and extension of Preston Tower. Click here to read more about their creative plans.

The Scottish Castles Association visited Preston in 2006 and again in 2017 .


Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Doocot at Preston Tower photo © James Denham (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Added: 28 Nov 2018 Updated: 10 Dec 2018
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