Smailholm Tower

Smailholm Tower

Smailholm Tower Details

  • Access: Historic Scotland
  • Condition: occupied
  • First build century: 15th
  • Closest To: Kelso, Melrose
  • Grid Ref: NT638347
  • Last use century: 21st

The Smailholm Tower is a prominent landmark in the Scottish Borders, mounted proudly on top of a volcanic plug of rock between Melrose and Kelso. Most probably built by the Pringles in the 15th century, the Tower was accompanied by a small courtyard enclosing most of the crag upon which it is built, which later houses a substantial stone house.

The tower had a single entrance on the ground floor, and the staircase serving all floors is built within the thickness of the wall. Each floor consists of a single main room, with a small chamber in the north-eastern corner. Rooms were lit with small windows, and heated by a single fireplace in the upper floors. The topmost floor of the Smailholm Tower contains a mystery, as it unusually has wallwalks on the northern and southern sides, but the gables of the tower prevent this to east and west. Low doors lead to the twin wallwalks.

Smailholm Tower and the Pringles were repeatedly targeted by English raids during the mid 16th century, leading to the strengthening of the defences, but ultimately the Tower was too small and cramped for life in the 17th century and beyond, leading to the Pringles moving to Galashiels, and debts led in 1645 to the sale of Smailholm to the Scotts, to whom they were related by marriage. By about 1700 the tower was abandoned in favour of the farm below, where Sir Walter Scott was brought as a child.

The Tower is a Historic Scotland property and houses a number of displays including a reconstruction of the tower and courtyard, and an exhibition about Sir Walter Scott and his ballads.

Official Historic Scotland page

HES Canmore database entry