Ancient Monuments

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Inshoch House, tower house 70m NNW of

A Scheduled Monument in Nairn and Cawdor, Highland

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Latitude: 57.5878 / 57°35'15"N

Longitude: -3.7806 / 3°46'50"W

OS Eastings: 293646

OS Northings: 856700

OS Grid: NH936567

Mapcode National: GBR K81N.T2V

Mapcode Global: WH5H7.WKW0

Entry Name: Inshoch House, tower house 70m NNW of

Scheduled Date: 1 September 1934

Last Amended: 9 March 2007

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM1234

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: tower

Location: Auldearn

County: Highland

Electoral Ward: Nairn and Cawdor

Traditional County: Nairnshire


The monument comprises the ruined remains of a Z-plan tower house built during the second half of the 16th century and the remains of associated activity surrounding the building. It is situated 5 km to the E of Nairn and within 3 km of the S shore of the Moray Firth at 40 m above sea level. The monument was first scheduled in 1934 and subsequently rescheduled in 1998, but the scheduling contained inaccuracies: the present rescheduling rectifies this.

The rectangular core and earliest element of the tower house lies roughly E-W with the larger of two round towers containing accommodation at the NW corner. The second, smaller tower is located in the opposite SE corner (giving the house its distinctive Z-plan footprint) and contained the stair to the first floor. The stair to the upper floors was carried in a turret in the return of this second tower and the E wall. The house was subsequently replanned with the addition of a sub-rectangular extension to the W. In some places the walls still stand to their full height, though in others, such as the SE tower and the kitchen range, they are reduced to less than 2 m and are largely hidden by collapsed rubble. The original quality of the building is apparent in extensive use of finely cut dressed stone.

The area proposed for re-scheduling is sub-rectangular on plan, to include the remains described and an area around them within which related material may be expected to be found, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The above-ground elements of the well immediately to the S of the castle and the machinery associated with the well are specifically excluded from the scheduling.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's archaeological and historical significance can be expressed as follows:

Intrinsic characteristics: Inshoch is a good example of a 16th-century tower house, built on a modified rectangular plan with two round towers giving it a distinctive Z-shape in plan. Archaeological investigation has not been undertaken to confirm the presence of a barmkin, adjacent buildings or activity such as agriculture, however, it is reasonable to suggest that remains of these may exist here. The tower house survives as an upstanding, ruined building with elements of the walls, towers, internal structure and architectural detail such as corbelling, staircase detail, fine stonemasonry and jointing intact. In all facades, some architectural detail survives above ground level and in situ. The immediate surrounds to the building contain the dislodged masonry components in the form of rubble heaps.

As well as displaying features common to this style of tower house, Inshoch displays very individual expressions of taste, design and building skill, developed from the Z-shaped floor plan. This coupled with at least one phase of re-modelling highlights the monument's relative rarity and distinctiveness. The two towers (in the NW and SE corners) are circular in external plan, however, the larger of the two, in the NW, is big enough to support an apartment, in square plan. The building's footprint was extended to create a larger public space and a substantial kitchen area and with this an external stair was added. The detail of the stonemasonry has been commented on by several researchers and is still visible in situ and among the rubble remains. The monument has good potential to add to our understanding of later medieval defended domestic settlement and, specifically, the construction, use and re-use of tower houses and the importance placed on them in the sequence of medieval rural landscape development.

Contextual characteristics: This monument is an example of a widespread class of late medieval defended domestic architecture, seen across much of Scotland. The majority of tower houses are based on a square or rectangular footprint with distinctive styles emerging according to design, function and situation. L-, E-, T- and Z-shaped forms are notable, with Inshoch belonging to the Z-shaped floorplan style. Tower houses were relatively common because they were successful as functional, defensive retreats, as focal points for social activity, and as expressions of power, wealth and local control. Inshoch belonged to a wider rural landscape where small scale agriculture, hunting, animal husbandry and woodland management were largely controlled from these defended homes. The buildings, enclosures and walls associated with these activities are likely to have been in close proximity to Inshoch but are not visible on the ground.

Associative characteristics: Antiquarian and more recent research suggest the original ownership of Inshoch. The original owners, the Hays of Lochloy had the tower house built with several moulded features bearing their name. The association of Inshoch to the Lochloy estate apparently continued and in more recent times, confirmed by the original scheduling of 1934. Such tower houses have a place in the national consciousness as romantic ruins.

National Importance

The monument is of national importance because it survives as a good upstanding example of a domestic defended home, built, lived in and re-modelled by a family who expressed their wealth in building size, style and adornment. The monument reflects a specific and individually modified type of tower house and retains much of the stonemasonry and construction work that exemplified a very skilled architect-stonemason. It represents a centrepiece for local rural development and smallholding starting in the late 16th century. Antiquarian and later interests in the monument have produced useful supporting documentation. Its loss would reduce our potential to add to our knowledge of this type of tower house.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NH95NW 3; Highland SMR as NH95NW0003.




RCAHMS 1978, THE ARCHAEOLOGICAL SITES AND MONUMENTS OF NAIRN DISTRICT, HIGHLAND REGION, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series No 5, Edinburgh, Society of Antiquaries of Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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