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Plora Tower, tower house, garden terraces and associated structures, 335m south west of West Bold Farm Cottages

A Scheduled Monument in Tweeddale East, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.616 / 55°36'57"N

Longitude: -3.0161 / 3°0'58"W

OS Eastings: 336097

OS Northings: 636290

OS Grid: NT360362

Mapcode National: GBR 73CH.TN

Mapcode Global: WH7WK.M3YJ

Entry Name: Plora Tower, tower house, garden terraces and associated structures, 335m SW of West Bold Farm Cottages

Scheduled Date: 27 June 1972

Last Amended: 9 September 2020

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM3157

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: garden

Location: Traquair

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Tweeddale East

Traditional County: Selkirkshire


The monument comprises the remains of a tower house complex, with associated outbuildings and garden terraces. The tower house survives as the collapsed remains of its ground floor, with the other buildings surviving as a few courses of stonework, overgrown with vegetation. To the north-east of the tower house is a single building platform and to the west is a corn drying kiln. Further west beyond the kiln are the footings of a set of rectangular buildings. The complex is located on the lower northeast slopes of Plora Craig above the Plora Burn.

The principal component is a group of buildings which occupies two sides of a courtyard. The tower stands at the north-east end of the north-west range and appears to have measured around 10m by 7m overall with walls around 1.3m thick. Much of the south-east wall has been removed, perhaps by quarrying. The other buildings of this group are more fragmentary. The south-west side of the courtyard is occupied by a building of two main apartments, measuring about 16.5m by 6m overall, while a third building, measuring about 12m by 6m overall, returns at right angles from the north-west end of the south-west range to join the south-west all of the tower.

An old roadway runs through the remains from north-east to south-west, and between this old road and the modern track that bounds the settlement on its south-east side there are three terraces. At the south-west end of the middle terrace there are the remains of a rectangular building measuring about 7m in width and 8m in length; the north-east wall has disappeared, and the building may originally have been longer. These terraces are probably garden terraces. To the south of the site is a dry channel of an old stream or lade.

Around 46m south-west the main complex of buildings there are the remains of a corn-drying kiln. A considerable part of the kiln chamber remains but is filled with debris. The present maximum diameter of the chamber, which is in the shape of an inverted cone, is 3.2m; the flue was on the south-east side. Immediately above the kiln, a small platform has been formed in the hill-side. To the north-east and uphill of the tower house is at least one other building platform and another rectangular building survives around 20m to the west of the corn drying kiln.

The scheduled area is irregular. It includes the remains described above and an area around within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. On its south side the scheduled area extends up to but does not include a modern forestry/farm track.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The national importance of the monument is demonstrated in the following way(s) (see Designations Policy and Selection Guidance, Annex 1, para 17):

a.  The monument is of national importance because it makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the past, or has the potential to do so. The monument is a medieval tower house with an ancillary complex, including outbuildings, garden and corn drying kiln. This is a rare survival and the study of its form, construction and layout has the potential to enhance our knowledge of tower house complexes.

b.  The monument retains structural, architectural, and archaeological attributes which make a significant contribution to our understanding of the past. In particular the monument has the potential to increase our understanding of construction techniques, phasing and use of ancillary buildings and areas around medieval tower houses.

c.  The monument is a rare example of a small rural medieval tower house complex with a formal garden and other features that are more commonly associated with larger, higher status tower houses.

d.  The monument is a particularly good example of a medieval tower house complex and is therefore an important representative of this monument type. Few other sites of this very modest scale have the cohesion of this tower house complex. This monument is therefore important in understanding class of monument.

e.  The monument has research potential which could significantly contribute to our understanding or appreciation of the past. The monument has the potential to contribute to our understanding of medieval and early modern social and domestic organisation, the development of medieval tower house complexes and the organisation of high-status settlements associated agricultural settlement within the Scottish Borders and throughout Scotland.

f.  The monument makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the historic landscape by providing insight into the layout of medieval tower houses and their ancillary structures and their place in the wider medieval landscape. This tower house is of particular interest as it was located within Ettrick Forest, a royal forest, which had a specific landuse development.

Assessment of Cultural Significance

This statement of national importance has been informed by the following assessment of cultural significance:

Intrinsic characteristics (how the remains of a site or place contribute to our knowledge of the past)

The monument survives as the remains of domestic and ancillary buildings located around Plora Tower and a series of terraces which are remains of a formal garden. The monument was surveyed by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland in 1959 (RCAHMS 1967, 263). A small-scale excavation at that time showed that the tower was constructed of rubble masonry with lime mortar, with walls around 1.3m thick. The tower and the other buildings have been reduced to turf covered walls and a modern forestry track has been created which cuts through the southern side of the complex. Above this modern track is another, earlier track which may be associated with the tower house. This earlier track does appear to overlay a building immediately to the south of the tower itself, suggesting it is not original. To north-east of the tower is at least one building platform and to the south-west are a corn drying kiln and another range of buildings. It is unusual to find such outlying building still extant; their survival adds to the national importance of the monument.

The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland from 1455-60 (Burton 1884; 225 and RCAHMS 1957; 5) show that the monument has its origins in the medieval period. At that time, it appears to have been a stead with the Yarrow Ward of the Ettrick Forest known as 'Ploro' (Plora). One of the earliest cartographic depictions of Plora appears in Blaeu's Atlas (1654) which is based on a late 16th century map of Timothy Pont. The tower is named "Boll" in Blaeu's Atlas, however, it is clear from the location that this is Plora Tower. It would appear that the tower and the nearby settlement of "Bold" have been conflated into one feature. This map shows a formal garden around the tower and the existing terraces are likely to be the remnants of this garden. A depiction of the tower by A Archer (1838) shows a roofed tower with unroofed outbuildings. However, this sketch is not sufficiently detailed to provide clear evidence for the layout of the tower house and surrounding buildings.

Although the monument has been impacted upon by a later track, there are substantial areas which are relatively undisturbed. These include areas of the courtyard around the tower, within the formal garden and outlying structures such as the corn drying kiln and buildings. In these areas there is good potential for the survival of buried structures and archaeological deposits, artefacts and environmental information within, beneath and around the settlement. The buried archaeological deposits have the potential to provide information about the date, character and function of the different components of the monument, while any artefacts and environmental information such as pollen or charcoal, would enhance understanding of the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, as well as provide information about contemporary land use and environment.

Contextual characteristics (how a site or place relates to its surroundings and/or to our existing knowledge of the past)

Tower houses are found throughout Scotland and in great numbers in southern Scotland. Plora is of significance due to the survival of the surrounding ancillary structures and remains of a formal garden. Many tower houses would have had some or all of these elements around them, however, only a few examples now remain with upstanding features. Elibank Castle (scheduled monument SM6163; 3.5km east), although larger, may have had a similar layout as Plora: a 16th century document shows that Elibank had "house of stone and lime, with a hall, chamber, barn, cattle-shed, stable, dovecot, garden, orchards and beehives." Not all of these features can be identified at Plora, however the overall layout is similar. Other examples which offer some, but not all, of the components found at Plora from Scottish Borders are Neidpath Castle (listed Building LB13857), Kirkhope Tower (listed Building LB6720/ scheduled monument SM1728), Posso Tower (scheduled monument SM3167) and Whytbank Tower (scheduled monument SM13723). Notably all of these except Kirkhope have early examples of terraced formal gardens. The tower house complex at Plora is notable in this context as it is much smaller than these other examples. Plora is, therefore, a good example of a small rural tower house complex where the owners had aspirations that belie the modest nature of the site.

To the north-east of the tower house, are the earthwork remains of what may be a medieval settlement related to Plora and on record as "Bold". Bold may have served as the farm or 'ferm toun' for Plora Tower. At Posso and Kirkhope there are nearby modern farms which may have medieval origins and at Elibank the Ordnance Survey 1st edition map shows unroofed buildings to the west of the tower which are likely to be farm buildings.

Plora, Whytbank and Elibank are located within the Forest of Ettrick, a royal "forest" and under forest law. This was an early form of land administration, intended to preserve the area as a hunting ground for the King. These settlements began as 'forest-steads', which was a defined area of land that was let on an annual basis. The tower and complex are likely to date the 16th century when lands within the Royal Forest was being feud. This meant that powerful local families had heritable possession of land, allowing them to invest in the construction of tower houses.

Comparison with Whytbank, its ancillary structures and gardens with others within the 'Forest of Ettrick' and more widely in the Scottish Borders and other parts of Scotland could enhance our understanding of regional variations in tower houses in the medieval and post-medieval periods. It could add to our understanding of the structure of society and the form and nature of contemporary rural settlement. Study of the gardens could enhance our understanding of the development of formal gardens at high status sites in a local, regional and national context. Scientific study may add to our understanding of the type of horticulture practices, plant types and the spread and distribution of different plant species.

Associative characteristics (how a site or place relates to people, events, and/or historic and social movements)

There are no known associative characteristics that contribute to this monument's national importance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 53101 (accessed on 29/05/2020).

Burton, G 1884. The Exchequer Rolls of Scotland, Vol. VII A.D. 1460-1469. H.M. General Register House, Edinburgh. pp.225. Available online at (accessed on 03/06/2020).

Pitcairn, R 1883. Criminal Trials in Scotland from AD MCCCLXXXVIII to AD MDCXXIV. Available online at (accessed 03/06/2020).

RCAHMS 1957. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Selkirkshire. HMSO, Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1967. An Inventory of the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Peebleshire. Vol.II. HMSO, Edinburgh.

Maps and Sketches

Archer A 1838. "Peebleshire, the Plora, or Bold Castle" Available online at (accessed on 15/06/2020).

Armstrong M 1775. To the… Earl of March and Ruglen…. this map of the County of Peebles or Tweedale is… inscribed by… Mostyn Jno. Armstrong. Available online at (accessed on 10/06/2020).

Blaeu J 1654. 'Tvedia cum vicecomitatu Etterico Forestae etiam Selkirkae dictus, [vulgo], Twee-dail with the Sherifdome of Etterik-Forest called also Selkirk / auct. Timotheo Pont' in Blaeu Atlas of Scotland. Available online at (accessed on 10/06/2020).

Edgar W 1741. A new or correct map of the Shire of Peebles or Tweeddale/ survey'd by Will. Edgar 1741; R. Cooper sculp. Available online (accessed on 10/06/2020).

Gordon, R 1636-52. A map of the Clyde and Tweed basins. Available online at (accessed 10/06/2020).

Roy, W 1752-55. Military Survey of Scotland 1747-55. Available online at (accessed on 10/06/2020).


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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