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Castle UK Blog 2011 March PageThe blog page, a place where I can record and then archive my monthly updates and what's new in our hunt for castles UK.
This months Scottish castles, towers, mottes, bastle and a Burgh wall, are from Peeblesshire and Selkirkshire.

February was Scottish 5 day castle hunt time, back to Craigiebield House Hotel, Penicuik near Edinburgh and the Kirklands Hotel, Kinross, it was a good 30+ castle hunt, with days in Edinburgh and St Andrews.
The castles listed below are from the journey up and back and that's the great thing about Scotland, last time we went to Melrose and got loads of castles, this time Selkirk only 5 miles south-west of Melrose but there's loads more castles.
Had a good day around Prestonpans, getting wet visiting the Jacobite battle site of 1745 and lots of castles in the area. Next day we found another couple of towers in Edinburgh, did a bit of shopping and I even bought a new parka after getting wet the day before. The highlight of the day was going to the real Mary King's Close, which is buried deep beneath Edinburgh's Royal Mile and is a secret warren of hidden streets, that has remained frozen in time since the 17th century but for hundreds of years the true story of the Close remained untold until now. In the company of an expert guide, we had Stephen Boyd a wine and timber merchant in 1635, you can explore this unique site and experience what it was really like for the people who lived, worked and died here. It lasted over an hour and the guide was very good, it's a must do next time your in Edinburgh.
We had snow over night, so it was Fife castle hunting snow time when we headed for Kinross, with 4 good castle walks under a clear sky and a fresh wind, I was so glad of my new parka. I had a bit of trouble map reading, when finding Downhill Castle, turning the map this way and that, it must be over there by the tree line but I can't see it and it's a fair walk I said. As always the castle spotter was true to her name and said it's not that big building behind you just up there on that hill is it? sheepishly I opened the gate and we set off. The next and last day we went back to St Andrews picking up castles on the way, there's good shopping for the spotter and we both love the castle. In the visitors centre, I got my scarf fast in the zip of my new parka and I wasn't a happy bunny, the spotter wouldn't help she said I was being a baby and went to look round the castle, in the end it was scarf or parka, so I cut the scarf up to free it from the zip. On finding the spotter, this time we both went down the mine and counter-mine, it's the best way to end another great hunt.
Happy days, Chris.

Click on the pictures, for more information.

Aikwood Tower Wallpaper
Aikwood Tower, OS 73/NT 420-260 Selkirkshire Scotland, is this months wallpaper.
The picture was taken in February 2011 on last months castle hunt and the view of the tower is looking west from the garden. After getting a reply to my begging email (see below), we are good to our word and Aikwood is the wallpaper for March. It was hard to get pictures, not enough space to get back, the best/longest views were from the garden and its this view over the valley that I've used, it's not the best side, that's the main door but it does show that, the outside walls and windows have seen little alternation. I always have my monthly wallpapers on my computer and laptop and it looks great plus the Castle Spotter likes it and she's got a better eye for a picture than me.
Aikwood Tower
Aikwood Tower, OS 73/NT 420-260 Selkirkshire Scotland.
Is a rectangular mid 16th century stone tower house, founded by the Scotts of Aikwood. Of four storeys and an attic, its walls are pierced by gunloops and the original ground floor entrance in the north-west wall. The basement is vaulted and a wide turnpike stair leads to the first floor hall, a small 'laird's room' and the private chambers above. Standing on a bluff that overlooks Ettrick Water, in 1989-92 Sir David Steel renovated and restored the tower back into a dwelling house.
The site is privately owned and offers exclusive use, hotel or self catering accommodation, corporate events or a wedding ceremony venue. The view from the B7009 is restricted.
I came about this tower by chance when first planning the hunt, I was going to head north, then west on the A707 from Selkirk. I was looking for the centre of Selkirk on Google maps, like you do, walking up and down, having a look around, when I spotted a brown road sign to Aikwood Tower. Well you must be able to visit that one me thinks, so I Googled it and well now it's an exclusive use tower, so you can only view from the road. Opening this Spring, well this calls for my please can I come and look or begging email, to which I sometimes get a reply :-
Hello, we are in your area looking at Selkirk and Howden Mottes before moving on to Peebles, picking up castles, towers, etc for the website. Would it be possible to take some pictures of the outside of the tower to put you on my site, I see you are opening this Spring and I could make you my wallpaper of the month for March.
This time I got a yes but with builder on site looking inside was a no no but its good looking tower with little alternation. We are always glad to help people who are care for castles and this one will have boutique accommodation, all very 21st century, within a 16th century shell, just how good is that.
For me you can't own a castle, if you are lucky enough you can only care for it until it's somebody else turn and I must say that Lord Steel and his son Rory are doing a first class job of caring for this one.
Newark Castle
Newark Castle, OS 73/NT 421-294 Selkirkshire Scotland.
Is a 15th century stone keep and courtyard fortress, founded by Archibald, earl of Douglas. The castle replaced an 'auld wark' which stood to the east but its site is lost in the designed landscape of Bowhill House. Sited on a knoll, the massive rectangular tower house is of five storeys and a garret, with a corbelled-out parapet and two 16th century, two storey caphouses on opposing angles. It stands in the centre of a large 16th century quadrangular barmkin, defended by numerous late 15th or early 16th century gunloops and was flanked by a gatehouse and small rectangular towers.
The site is owned by the Buccleuch Heritage Trust and the castle must be viewed from the road. Bowhill Country Estate is open weekends and bank holidays April, May and June 10:00-5:00pm, the House and Country Estate are open daily July and August 10:00-5:00pm. House tours July 11:00-5:00pm, August 2:00-3:30pm, outside these periods the Country Estate is open for access only.
Well what a tower this is, it's just a pity more's not made of it, the barmkin wall needs some TLC and I'd pay good money to have a look inside the tower. We just drove on the Estate roads to it which I think is OK and there's a very good information board by the entrance, it was the best castle of this hunt.
Castle Hill Peebles
Castle Hill, Peebles, OS 73/NT 250-404 Peeblesshire Scotland.
Is a 12th century earth and timber enclosure fortress, founded by King David I. This royal castle stood on a steep-sided flat-topped natural mound, that occupies the neck of a promontory formed by the junction of Eddleston Water, with the River Tweed. In 1301-02 during the Wars of Independence, English troops under King Edward I occupied the castle, until it was taken and destroyed by the Scottish. Standing on the mound, is a church hall and in the late 19th century, the Old Parish Church of Peebles replaced an earlier church, at the east end.
The site is visible from the road.
You can't miss this site, the High Street goes to it, there's a wooden walkway to the site, across Eddleston Water but it was closed off when we were there. Many years ago we got to the back of the church, (can't remember now we did it) but there's nothing to see if you do, the best view is from the bridge. Peebles is a nice little town, with plenty of shops.
Selkirk Castle
Selkirk Castle, OS 73/NT 470-280 Selkirkshire Scotland.
Is an early 12th century earthwork motte and bailey fortress, founded by Earl David. Standing immediately north of Haining Loch, the slopes of a large natural mound were scarped and encased by a wide ditch to give defence. The motte stands on the north end of this royal castle, which was visited by King William, the Lion and Kings Alexander II-III. During the Wars of Independence, English troops under King Edward I occupied the castle, building a pele. In 1302, when the 'Pele of Selkirk' was taken by the Scots, a stone tower crowned the motte and a defensible pele enclosure of earth and timber encased the mound.
The site is visible from the road.
A view of the castle took a bit of finding, I never know why but this is one of the many castles, that are not marked on the Landranger maps. Castle Terrace comes to an end before you can't see anything but Lang Dykes is just off it and got my pictures there. Looking at the castle I could see a winding path, heading for it and next time I'm on that path.
Kirkhope Tower
Kirkhope Tower, OS 73/NT 379-250 Selkirkshire Scotland.
Is an early rectangular 16th century stone tower house, founded by the Scotts of Harden. In 1543 the 'villainous tower of Kirkhopp' was burnt by the Armstrongs but in the late 16th century it was rebuilt by Wat Scott of Harden. Of four storeys and a garret within a corbelled-out parapet, a rectangular bartizan and a caphouse crown opposing angles.
The site is visible from the road and I'm happy that this is a motte not a moot hill. It's very much like Newington Bagpath Castle Mound at Kingscote in Gloucestershire, only having half a ditch is strange but its been altered beyond its original form and the missing ditch could have been filled in a long time ago. Abandoned in the mid 19th century, the tower was a roofless ruin when in 1996, it was restored back into a dwelling house.
The site is visible from the road.
I think a path goes passed the tower which is private but it was to late in the day to try, so it was a long len picture again. A very good looking tower.
Howden Motte
Howden Motte, OS 73/NT 458-269 Selkirkshire Scotland.
Is a large medieval earthwork flat-topped motte, possibly founded by the Haldanes. An oval rocky knoll, which protrudes from the back of a ridge was encased by a wide rock-cut ditch and its slopes were scarped to give defence. The original entrance is at the west end, where the rock has been left uncut to form a causeway across the ditch. With no known history, excavation in 1957 revealed a stone floor and the post-holes of a timber palisade around the edge of the mound.
The site is visible from the road.
There's a track off the road, which passes the motte but we didn't feel like going, so I got my pictures from the road. We always enjoy hunting motte to put on the site.
County Hotel Peebles
County Hotel, Peebles, OS 73/NT 252-404 Peeblesshire Scotland.
Was possibly a 16th or 17th century rectangular stone two storey defensible farmhouse. With an 18th century facade, the present main block of 'The County Inn', is of three storeys, with four bays. At the east end, is a thick walled barrel-vaulted cellar, which was originally the ground floor of a bastle. In 1870, Peebles had six bastle houses still standing and this cellar could be the remains of one of them.
The site is The County Inn and is freely accessible in daylight hours.
This inn is on the High Street, so it's hard to miss. Didn't go in for a drink, so I don't know if you can see the cellar but I wouldn't think so.
Old Burgh Wall and Bastion, Peebles
Old Burgh Wall and Bastion, Peebles, OS 73/NT 254-406 Peeblesshire Scotland.
From 1570, the mason Thomas Lauder erected walls flanked by bastions and connected the burghs four existing ports. None of the ports have survived but two sections of the whinstone rubble wall, flanked on the angle by a circular bastion, pierced by gunloops.
The site is off Venlaw Road and is freely accessible in daylight hours.
Nice bit of town wall here and it's rare in Scotland which makes it even better.

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