Smailholm Tower

RS Home

Smailholm Tower is situated in the Borders region of Scotland, 7 miles west of Kelso, 10 miles east of Melrose, 6 miles east of St Boswells off the B6404 road. The road up through Sandyknow Farm to the Tower is rough in places.

Smailholm Tower is open 1 Apr to 30 Sept: Daily, 9.30am to 5.30pm. Last entry 5pm with a small entrance fee. 1 Oct to 31 Mar: Closed. Postcode: TD5 7PG

Tower Map 21 Large Images Website

Large Click On Map for the area Towns and Top Attractions.

The image top is from the Car Park looking up to Smailholm Tower. There is a short hike up a trail to get to the Tower that is like hill walking, so walking footwear is recommended.

Smailholm Tower was built in the 1400s or 1500s by Clan Pringle, who were friends of the Earl of Douglas.

Clan Douglas was the most powerful Clan in Southern Scotland, with their main castles being Hermitage Castle 36 miles southwest of Smailholm, and Tantallon Castle east of Edinburgh.

The main rivals of Clans Douglas and Pringle were the Percy family on the English side of the Border, Dukes of Northumberland, with their mighty castles at Warkworth and Alnwick. Henry Percy (Hotspur) was the most famous of this family.

The England - Scotland Border was established in 1237 by the Treaty of York, roughly what it is today. The area each side of the Border was one of the most dangerous places in the the British Isles, due to cross Border raids.

Smailholm is a typical Tower House built throughout Scotland from the 1100s to 1600s. Most Scottish Clans had long running feuds with neighbouring Clans. Most Clans would have a Tower House for the head of the family, with smaller buildings around for other members of the Clan. This would help prevent the head of the Clan from being murdered.

Only a few of the mighty Clans, such as Clan Douglas, had large Castles. The head of the larger Clans normaly worked for the King, and related to the King through marriage.

Along the Borders, most of the fighting was with families across the Border in England, although some with other Scots Clans as well, even between different factions of the same Clans. The English fortified houses were referred to as Bastilles. Raiding parties along the Border were known as Border Reivers.

Clans from Scotland and Families from England, would often cross the Border to steal Cattle and Valuables, murdering anyone that got in the way.

1543, 1544 and 1546 - Smailholm Tower was attacked by English forces at a time King Henry VIII of England was sending troops into Scotland in an attempt to preasure the Scots to have the infant Mary Queen of Scots mary his young son, a time known as the Rough Wooing.

1603 - King James VI of Scotland became King of England. With James then King of Scotland and England, he put an end to the Raiders along the border by prosecuting offenders, and taking land off Clans and Families that continued to break the law.

1645 - Smailholm Tower was sold to William Scott, ancestor of the famous novelist Sir Walter Scott.

1700s - the Scott's move into nearby Sandyknow Farm, leading to the Tower falling into ruin.

1771 - Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh, later Sir Walter Scott. He had a bout of Polio in 1773, leading to him often being sent to live with his Grandparents at Sandyknow Farm, in an attempt to help his illness. The young Scott played at Smailholm Tower.

1800 - the first of Walter Scott's Ballads was published, with one of the earliest, The Eve of St John, about Smailholm Tower.

1800? - inspired by the success of Walter Scott's ballads, the Scott's of Sandyknow carried out work to make the ruins of Smailholm Tower safe.

1831 - the famous artist William Turner visited Walter Scott and Smailholm Tower, where he made a number of Sketches. Some of these Sketches, and Watercolours from the Sketches, are now in Art Galleries around the world.

1950- the last owner, Earl of Ellesmere, gifted the Tower to the State to be restored as a tourist attraction.

1980s - Smailholm Tower was restored to operate as a museum for Historic Environment Scotland, now displaying model people showing the history of the Tower, and information on Sir Walter Scott.

The top third floor has a stone vault, supporting a stone flag roof. Turf was laid on top of the roof in 2011.

Parapet walks run along the north and south sides of the Tower with great views around, and down to the car park.

The Tower is surrounded by the remains of a stone wall, within the wall can be seen the ruins of outbuildings and a small chapel.

  RS Home







Smailholm Tower Photos