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Clackmannan Tower

A Scheduled Monument in Clackmannanshire East, Clackmannanshire

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Latitude: 56.1079 / 56°6'28"N

Longitude: -3.7604 / 3°45'37"W

OS Eastings: 290616

OS Northings: 691963

OS Grid: NS906919

Mapcode National: GBR 1L.M16H

Mapcode Global: WH5QF.6RL0

Entry Name: Clackmannan Tower

Scheduled Date: 30 June 1921

Last Amended: 17 March 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM90073

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Clackmannan

County: Clackmannanshire

Electoral Ward: Clackmannanshire East

Traditional County: Clackmannanshire


The monument is a medieval tower-house, built in the later 14th century and further developed in phases during the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries.  The footings of a forecourt wall and the slight traces of a defensive ditch survive to the east of the tower, together with the remains of associated garden features on the south side of the tower and a substantial level platform to the north.  The tower is prominently sited 55m above sea level on top of King's Seat Hill, 300m west of the burgh of Clackmannan, with extensive views south over the Forth and north towards the Ochil Hills.

The tower is a roofed and substantially complete medieval tower-house although it contains some re-instated fabric deriving from repairs that followed the collapse of a large section of the east wall in 1950.  The tower-house is L-plan on form; the original 14th century building was rectangular and was heightened with a wing added in the 15th century.  To the south are garden terraces and a square enclosure which was probably a bowling green.  To the north and west is a substantial platform which may represent the remnants of a building platform, an outer courtyard or additional garden features.

The scheduled area is irregular, as shown on the map, covering the upstanding features of the tower, associated earthwork features around the summit and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive as shown in red on the accompanying map.  The scheduling specifically excludes, but extends up to, the post and wire fences to the east of the monument, and to the west and south, it excludes the modern fences, to allow for their maintenance and upkeep. The monument was first scheduled in 1921 and amended in 1935, but inadequate area was included to recognise all of the nationally important remains: the present amendment rectifies this.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

Cultural Significance

The monument's cultural significance has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument is a medieval tower-house that is mostly complete despite the re-instatement of the east wall in the 1950s following a collapsed cause by mining subsidence.  It retains much of its original architectural and structural detail, including vaulting, window dressings, window seats, door surrounds, carved fireplaces, staircases, parapets and roof gables.  These features help document the tower's extended development sequence and are an important component of the monument's significance.  The scientific and systematic study of the monument, both upstanding fabric and buried archaeological remains, would allow us to develop a better understanding of the overall chronology of the site, including its date of origin.

The significance of the tower is accentuated by the survival of associated garden features and an outer enclosure/building platform.  Although these features have been reduced to earthworks, their overall plan and relationship to the tower are discernible.  The monument has the potential to enhance our knowledge of the relationship of the tower with later buildings and garden features, which are believed to date to a late 16th/early 17th century remodelling of the castle.

There is significant potential for survival of buried features or structures.  References to Clackmannan in Royal charters and writs from the 13th and early 14th century suggests that there may have been a castle predating the earliest phases of the masonry tower and a view of the castle from 1758 shows a ditch surrounding the tower, parts of which seem to have survived as late as 1795.  Late 18th century and early 19th century views also document the existence of a large late 16th century mansion house to the west of the tower.  This was demolished after the death of the last member of the family in 1791 and is not shown on the first edition ordnance survey map (1866) but evidence of this structure is likely to survive as buried remains.  There is also potential for survival of deposits such as pits and middens that can be expected to contain artefacts and environmental remains.  These can provide information about daily life and economy, diet, trade and exchange, and the use of foods and artefacts in expressing social status.

Contextual Characteristics

Tower-houses are a widespread but diverse class of monument across Scotland.  They became a popular form of residence with the Scottish nobility and lairdly class during the 14th century perhaps influenced by David II building a tower house at Edinburgh Castle from around 1367.  The influence of David II's tower at Edinburgh may be particularly significant at Clackmannan, as the site was granted by David II to his kinsman, Sir Robert Bruce in 1359 and the first phase of the tower appears to date from shortly after then.  Tower-houses continued to be the chosen architectural form for the residences of Scottish elites throughout the late medieval and early post-medieval periods. Tower-houses provided a degree of security but were also a means of displaying wealth, social status and martial knowledge.

Clackmannan Tower is a fine and largely complete example of a tower-house that was constructed in the 14th century and augmented and updated until the 17th century.  There is particular interest in the way the older architectural characteristics of the tower were combined with later features when it was adapted in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries. The early tower has similarities with other contemporary large towers such as Crichton (scheduled monument reference SM13585, Canmore ID 53601) and Craigmillar Castles (scheduled monument reference SM90129, Canmore ID 52109).  However, at Clackmannan, the later work to adapt the older makes an interesting contrast to sites where tower-houses were transformed into full courtyard castles.  At Clackmannan, changes were made without a complete re-ordering, leading to awkward circulation.  This contrasts with the much more costly work of William Crichton and then the 5th Earl of Bothwell at Crichton Castle.  There is also potential to compare the tower with Alloa Tower (listed building reference LB20959, Canmore ID 320380), less than 2km to the west, and Castle Campbell (scheduled monument reference SM13611, Canmore ID 48229), some 10km to the northeast, both of which also saw alterations to adapt the accommodation in response to changing domestic requirements, the aesthetic preferences of owners and the continued need for such residences to demonstrate the power and status of their occupants.

Clackmannan Tower would have been, and to an extent remains, a very imposing building in the landscape, occupying a prominent location above the Forth.

Associative Characteristics

The castle, although potentially an early royal castle, has a long association with a single family, the Bruces of Clackmannan.  In 1359 King David II granted Clackmannan to his kinsman, Sir Robert Bruce, and the early work within the north tower probably dates from shortly afterwards.  Henry Bruce, the last of the male line died in 1772, but his widow, Lady Katherine Bruce, lived on in the tower and mansion and entertained Robert Burns there on the 26th August 1787 'knighting' him with the supposed sword of King Robert I.  The estate was sold after her death in 1791 and the tower was not reoccupied.

The monument reflects varied influences on Scottish architecture over at least two centuries.  The massive late 14th century tower reflects contemporary society and the need for security as well as an imposing residence.  The later refurbishments such as the archway over the east door demonstrate the influence of the Renaissance and of classical ideas. The monument is a romantic and striking feature of the landscape, especially given its hilltop location.

Statement of National Importance

The monument has potential to add significantly to the understanding of medieval castles, their architecture, construction, maintenance, development and abandonment.  The upstanding tower retains its structural and decorative characteristics to a marked degree, incorporating many significant architectural features.  The monument is particularly important for understanding the development of noble residences in the late medieval and post-medieval periods.  The monument's importance is further accentuated by the evidence for associated gardens and enclosures, which is a relatively rare survival.  There is also high potential for the survival of important buried archaeological evidence, including traces of a potential earlier castle and a later associated mansion house, as well as artefacts and environmental evidence that can enhance our understanding of the daily domestic life of the inhabitants and their society and economy.  The monument would have been a prominent part of the contemporary landscape during its occupation and remains a significant landmark.  The castle is known to have been the home of a single family for over 400 years, and documentary records can enhance understanding of the castle and its functions.  Our understanding of the form, function and character of castles in Scotland would be diminished if this monument were lost or damaged.



Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 48302 (accessed on 22/07/2016).

Allan, D undated. Tower of Clackmannan (engraving).

Ewart, G 2000a. Clackmannan Tower, Clackmannanshire, watching brief. Discovery and Excavation in Scotland.

James, A 2015. Clackmannan Tower, Clackmannan, Clackmannanshire; Archaeological Geophysical Report. AOC Archaeology Report 51405.

Ordnance Survey. Perth and Clackmannan Clackmannanshire Sheet CXL.5 (Combined) Survey date: 1861 Publication date: 1866.

Ordnance Survey. Clackmannanshire 140.05 (includes: Clackmannan) Publication date: 1900 Revised: 1898.

NSA 1834-1845. The new statistical account of Scotland by the ministers of the respective parishes under the superintendence of a committee of the society for the benefit if the sons and daughters of the clergy 15v Edinburgh.

RCAHMCS 1933. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eleventh report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the counties of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh.

RCAHMS 1978b. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland. The archaeological sites and monuments of Clackmannan District and Falkirk District, Central Region. The archaeological sites and monuments of Scotland series no 1 Edinburgh.

Sime, John Rev. 1840. Detail of Chimney piece in south room on third floor and plans of first, second, third and fourth floors and battlements of Clackmannan Tower in MEMORABILIA Edinburgh.

Stevenson, J B 1985a. Exploring Scotland's heritage: the Clyde estuary and Central Region, Exploring Scotland Heritage Series Edinburgh.

Stevenson, J B 1995. Glasgow, Clydeside and Stirling, Exploring Scotland's Heritage series, ed. By Anna Ritchie Edinburgh.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Clackmannan Tower
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Related Designations

Designation TypeListed Building (A)StatusRemoved


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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