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Thursday, 4 April 2013

Sepia Saturday - A Border Castle Collection

Sepia Saturday encourages bloggers to record their family history through photographs.

No old photographs  this time, but some old ruins.  This prompt is right up my street and it has been difficult making a choice of what to feature, so I have focussed on my own area of the Border Country.

The Scottish Borders is the forgotten corner of Scotland, between Edinburgh to the north and the English border and Carlisle to the south.  This was the Debatable Land fought over by English and Scots in the 15th and 16th centuries  - the land of  the Border Reivers, with raids and counter raids by  prominent families of Scott, Armstrong, Turnbull, Elliot, Kerr, Pringle and many other distinctive names associated with the area.  So the area abounds with castles, peel/pele towers and ancient strongholds.

Hermitage Castle, near Newcastleton,  is set in an isolated part of Liddesdale, some 18 miles south of Hawick, close 'to the  Scottish-English border.  Be prepared to travel on single track roads, with passing places to reach this forbidding place.

The  castle was begun by an English lord, Sir Hugh de Dacre, and captured by  Sir William Douglas in 1338, one of Scotland’s most powerful noblemen,  He was an ambitious man who responded to the appointment by  King Daid II of Alexander Ramsay as Sheriff of Teviotdale by imprisoning Ramsay in Heritage Castle and starving him to death.
With a long history of bloodshed, Hermitage Castle also hosted a romantic, if somewhat scandalous, tryst. In October 1566, the 4th Earl of Bothwell, secret lover of Mary Queen of Scots, was badly injured in a skirmish with reivers. On hearing the news, Mary  rode out to visit from Jedburgh, a 25-mile  moorland rid
(Source of Text :  www.historic-scotland.gov.uk) .

The 65 foot high Smailholm Toweris a prominent landmark, west of Kelso. The Pringles, built the tower in the first half of the 15th century,  and it suffered repeatedly at the hands of English raiders.   It later passed to the Scott family and the grandfather of writer Sir Walter Scott, who found inspiration there for his "Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders"  

Newark Castle high above the Yarrow Water, south of Selkirk was also the setting for Sir Walter Scott's  ""Lay of the Last Minstrel" was set at Newark  with the lovely description:

"He passed where Newark's stately tower
Looks out from Yarrow's birchen bower". 

Thought to be a royal hunting lodge, Newark was referred to in a charter granted to Archibald,  Earl of Douglas in 1423.  It later fell into the hands of the Scotts of Buccleuch.  Last to live there was the Scott heiress Ann who married  the ill fated Duke of Monmouth, beheaded in 1685.

Still the Scottish Borders, but "castles" have moved on from being fortifications to stately homes as in the case of Floors Castle at   Kelso, home of the Dukes of Roxburgh,. It dates from 1721 with architects Vanburgh, Adam and Playfair all contributing to its design.  Now the regular setting for events, including an annual pipe band display in August.

I could not end this castle collection  without moving across the Border to  Bamburgh Castle  in north Northumberland.

In a dramatic setting, high above the coastline,   Bamburgh was once the seat of the ancient Kings of Northumbria and was attacked mny times by the Scots. After falling into disrepair, Lord Amrstrong in 1894  undertook its restoration.
Click HERE to take a tour of more old ruins  
Copyright © 2013 · Susan Donaldson.  All Rights Reserved


  1. I'm awestruck by all the castles and fortifications. They are beautiful and imposing, and I dare say some were the site of much bloodshed at one time or another. My Scottish and English ancestors might have been among them, who knows.

  2. Very interesting, thanks, and I learnt a new word too...Reiver...I shall definitely remember that as a useful word as the Scottish independence debates hot up !

  3. I am not having any luck coming up with a castle in my photo collection or in Atlanta. Sigh. Your's are fantastic.

  4. It's hard to envisage anyone living in many of those Scottish castles which lie in such stark, bleak landscapes. Perhaps they weren't always thus.

  5. The "fortifications" don't look like the type of place that one would want to live.

  6. I know Smailholm and Bamburgh from my holiday visits, but I'm not so familiar with the others and its always good to be educated. I enjoyed the literary references too.

  7. I especially like Floors Castle. That one is so beautiful. I'd love to see it in person some day and enjoy the pipers.

  8. I'm learning a lot already because of today's prompt. Wonderful pictures.

  9. I find castles fascinating.
    My cousin seems to think that we are related to Sir Walter Scott but I cannot find a link.

  10. They must have been freezing places to live in.

  11. Bamburgh is the nearest to us; I wrote about it in last year's A-Z challenge (http://bobscotney.blogspot.co.uk/2012/04/bamburgs-pink-lady.html)
    Newark looks familiar but I can find where I covered that. Great post and fascinating castles.

  12. All wonderful structures. I'd love to visit Scotland.

  13. Great castles Susan, most of which I've never seen. Those stark Scottish castles look so cold and forbidding. Which reminds me of one I could have used from Scotland...but I've already done one in Kent ;-)

  14. Many thanks to everyone for your comments on what was a great prompt to do. I could have featured so many castles but decided to focus on the lesser known Border area. I always have to laugh at films set in medieval castles where the women in particular seem to wear rather low cut dresses- they must have been frozen!

  15. A great introduction to this region of Scotland. My wife and I are planning a holiday in Britain this summer with an idea of a tour of Scotland and I will definitely add some of these.

  16. Your castles are magnificent. You have created the Scotland I see in my mind's eye. It seems like the most rugged and beautiful and romantic place.

  17. Ah, single track roads, scary stuff those! Wish I had had time to get down to the Scottish Borders when I was there. Your pictures are beautiful!


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