Ancient Monuments

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Thirlestane Castle, old castle 510m SSW of Thirlestane

A Scheduled Monument in Leaderdale and Melrose, Scottish Borders

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Latitude: 55.718 / 55°43'4"N

Longitude: -2.6941 / 2°41'38"W

OS Eastings: 356495

OS Northings: 647389

OS Grid: NT564473

Mapcode National: GBR 92MB.J3

Mapcode Global: WH7W4.LJBW

Entry Name: Thirlestane Castle, old castle 510m SSW of Thirlestane

Scheduled Date: 31 December 1977

Last Amended: 31 August 2015

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM4035

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Lauder

County: Scottish Borders

Electoral Ward: Leaderdale and Melrose

Traditional County: Berwickshire


The monument is the remains of Old Thirlestane Castle and an area around it where associated buildings and enclosures formerly stood. The castle dates probably from the 13th to 15th centuries. It comprises an oblong tower with a secondary stair block to the SW. The S wall of the tower and the stair block survive as unroofed structures, standing two to three storeys high. To the W of the tower, the footings of two near-parallel building ranges are visible as low, grass-covered banks. To the S of the tower, two sub-rectangular enclosures are visible as low, turf-covered banks, and a larger, irregular enclosure lies N of the tower. A curvilinear bank to the S represents a potential kiln site. The monument stands 190m above sea level, occupying ground that slopes gently to the ESE. It is overlooked from the NW, but stands immediately above a steep scarp down to the Boondreigh Water, which lies about 200m to the ESE.

The oblong tower measures 10m WNW-ESE by 7.3m transversely, with walls a little over 1m thick, constructed of random rubble occasionally brought to courses. The S wall stands about 8m high towards the SE corner. The stair tower measures 4.4m by 3.5m and stands to about 7m in height. The lower floor of the main tower appears to have been vaulted. There are two window apertures in the S elevation of the stair tower and one in the S elevation of the main tower, with some red sandstone dressings surviving. There are building ranges some 8m WNW of the tower and 25m to the WSW; the former measures about 25m NNE-SSW by 5.5m transversely, the latter about 23m N-S by 5.5m transversely. To the S of the tower, two enclosures are bounded to the SE by the scarp slope down to the Boondreigh Water; they measure about 32m N-S by 30m transversely and 60m E-W by 35m transversely. The enclosure to the N measures at least 100m E-W by 50m transversely. The form of the banks suggests most were stock enclosures rather than defences.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. On the W side, the scheduling extends up to but excludes a drystone dyke with post-and-wire fence. The monument was first scheduled in 1977, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance because it has significant potential to contribute to our understanding and appreciation of late medieval and post-medieval domestic fortified dwellings, their construction, maintenance, development and abandonment. The tower is associated with the earthwork remains of two ranges of buildings to the W and enclosures to the N and S, where well-preserved buried archaeological remains can be expected. The combination of features here is rare and can enhance understanding of the estate centre of a locally important landowner. The monument would have been a prominent feature in the landscape when occupied and remains an evocative ruin. Documentary records enhance the interest and potential of the monument, providing information about the Maitland family who lived there. Our understanding of the character and function of tower houses in eastern Scotland would be diminished if this monument was to be lost or damaged, particularly because it provides a rare opportunity to compare a tower house with the associated buildings and enclosures in its immediate vicinity.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT54NE 11. The record includes a bibliography.


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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