Monday 20 July 2020

Smailholm Tower

Smailholm Tower

Smailholm Tower is a Peel Tower located near the village of Smailholm, about 9 miles from Melrose and 5 miles from Kelso. It stands on Lady Hill, near Sandyknowe Farm with a view over the surrounding countryside. It was originally built as a watch tower, of which there are many along the English and Scottish  The tower is most famously known for its association with Sir Walter Scott who spent much of his childhood at his paternal grandfathers home, Sandyknowe Farm. It is open to the public and provides a fascinating insight into the lives of borders families between the 15th and early 18th centuries. 

The tower is well worth a visit inside, (if it is not undergoing repairs, as it is in 2020-21 - check accessibility) as it has four floors in perfect condition, linked by staircases. From the upper battlements there are stunning views to be had over the surrounding countryside to England and other parts of Scotland. There is an information panel up there that details all the places that are visible (on a good day), including the Eildon Hills, the Cheviots and, apparently, Bamburgh Castle, some forty miles away.

One of the floors contains an interesting display of model figurines that depict characters and scenes from the folk ballads (known as The Child Ballads, as they were anthologised by Francis Child in the latter half of the 19th century) that inspired the youthful Walter Scott during his childhood visits to the tower. The one below is Thomas The Rhymer (see Rhymer's Tower). 

Smailholm Tower was built about 1450 by the Pringle family, a prominent local family who were the warders of the Ettrick Forest. The family lived in the tower until the late 1500's but had a torrid time, suffering at the hands of the border reivers and English soldiers. The tower was attacked on many occasions and cattle and horses stolen. In 1546 English soldiers attacked and sacked the tower, taking away prisoners and cattle. By the late 1500's the family had left Smailholm and moved to Gallashiels. In 1640 the tower was successfully defended against the English by Sir Andrew Kerr of Greenhead. 

In 1646 the Scott family of Harden, near Hawick bought the tower and estate. In the late 1600's they leased it to a kinsman called Walter "Beardie" Scott the great-grandfather of Sir Walter Scott. The Scott family rebuilt parts of the tower but after their move to nearby Sandyknow Farm it was abandoned and left to decay. In 1773, at the age of 18 months Sir Walter Scott, who was a "sickly" child was sent to live with his grandparents at Sandyknowe.  He spent much of his childhood and adolescence exploring the tower and bordering countryside, which the inspiration for his much loved works. 

View From The Tower

Thomas The Rhymer

Towers And Castles Nearby
  Greenknowe Tower
     Rhymers Tower
      Floors Castle

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