Smailholm Tower is situated in the
Borders region of Scotland, 7 miles west
of Kelso, 10 miles east of
Melrose, 6 miles east of
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
Large Click On Map for the area Towns and
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
Smailholm Tower was built in the 1400s or
1500s by Clan Pringle,
who were friends of the Earl of 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
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
(Hotspur) was the most famous of this
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
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
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
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
1700s - the Scott's move into nearby
Sandyknow Farm, leading to the Tower falling
1771 - Walter Scott was born in Edinburgh,
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
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
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.