Ancient Monuments

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Cockburnspath Tower, tower & ancillary buildings 390m north of Tower Farm

A Scheduled Monument in East Berwickshire, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.9211 / 55°55'15"N

Longitude: -2.346 / 2°20'45"W

OS Eastings: 378473

OS Northings: 669832

OS Grid: NT784698

Mapcode National: GBR NFK2.3Y3

Mapcode Global: WH8WG.YF0N

Entry Name: Cockburnspath Tower, tower & ancillary buildings 390m N of Tower Farm

Scheduled Date: 5 December 2013

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13317

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Cockburnspath

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: East Berwickshire

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument is the remains of Cockburnspath Tower, built probably in the 15th century and now visible as a ruinous tower standing two storeys high, with a basement level and ancillary range (or barmkin). The tower lies on the N side of Tower Dean, one of several deep ravines that cut E-W across north-eastern Berwickshire. The site lies about 100m above sea level. It is overlooked from the W and N by higher ground, but occupies a commanding position offering good views to the S over the Tower Dean.

Cockburnspath Tower is a keep of rectangular plan, measuring about 6.5m by 5.5m within walls averaging 1.8m in thickness. The NE wall stands around 12m high, with indications of an opening at each floor level, arched on the interior and square-headed externally. The SW wall stands only about 0.5m high and both the NW and SE walls are partially ruined. The fragmentary indications of a vaulted basement are still visible.

Some 3.6m NE of the tower is a wing of one storey containing two apartments and measuring some 13.5m by 5.79m over walls 0.6m in thickness. Another one-storey building, measuring about 21m by 5.5m within walls averaging 1m in thickness, has enclosed a courtyard on the SE side. It consists of three vaulted apartments with narrow loop-holes formed in the NE and SE walls. A few fragments survive of an arched doorway which gave access to the NE apartment from the courtyard. To the N of this ancillary range (barmkin), the gulley side on which the tower stands has been quarried away.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains of the castle and ancillary range and an area around them in which evidence for the tower's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the above-ground elements of modern post-and-wire fences and a stile and gate.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as an upstanding, late medieval tower that can make a significant contribution to our understanding of castles and high status dwellings in medieval Scotland. It represents an important component of both the medieval and contemporary landscape. Rare surviving features include a well-preserved ancillary range. In addition to the upstanding structure, there is good potential for buried archaeological remains that can provide information about the date and character of the tower's occupation, including evidence for daily life, trading contacts and economy. Documentary sources suggest that the tower was fortified by the 'Red' Douglases in the mid-1540s, possibly to repel English raiders. The tower has been associated with Ravenswood Tower of Sir Walter Scott's 'The Bride of Lammermoor'. The loss of the monument would diminish our ability to understand the form and function of medieval towers in the Scottish Borders and further afield, and their role in the expression of status.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the castle as NT76NE 2.


Carr, A A (1836) A history of Coldingham Priory, 105 (illustr). Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v: vol 3, 220-1 (plan), fig 154, fig 155. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS (1915) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Sixth report and inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of Berwick, Revision, 25-6, no 47. Edinburgh.

RCAHMS (1980b) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Berwickshire District, Borders Region, The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series, no 10, 56, no 485. Edinburgh.

Scott, W Guide Pictoresque du Voyageur 1838 en Ecosse, 55.

Thompson, A (1908) Coldingham Parish and Priory, 14-15.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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