Smailholm Castle


Reconstruction by Andrew Spratt
Variously referred to as Smailholm Castle and Smailholm Tower, all that remains is the tower. The tower was once the centre of a thriving settlement. The west courtyard was originally home to a hall and a kitchen, though in the 1650s the hall was replaced by a house. Outside the barmkin wall would have once stood cottages, stables and cattle enclosures, and traces of some of them can still be seen on the ground. There would also have been a mill, on the site now occupied by Sandyknowe Farm to the south east of the tower. The millpond still exists.

Smailholm Tower is a peel tower that stands around five miles west of Kelso in the Scottish Borders. Its dramatic situation, atop a crag of Lady Hill, commands wide views over the surrounding countryside. The tower is located just west of Sandyknowe farm and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Scotland.

Smailholm Tower was originally built in the 15th century or early 16th century by the Pringle family. Followers of the Earl of Douglas, the Pringle (anciently spelt Hoppringle) family had held the lands of Smailholm from the early 15th century, and managed part of Ettrick Forest for their feudal superior.


Smailholm Tower was designed, in common with all Scottish peel towers, to provide its occupants with protection from sporadic English raids.


In 1645 the tower was sold to Sir William Scott. The Scott's built a new house in the West Courtyard. This remained in use until the early 1700s, when the family moved to a more comfortable and less exposed house they built a few hundred yards to the south east at Sandyknowe.

Smailholm heart  








Note: George Pringle was appointed Master Ranger of the Tweed Ward and David of Pilmuir Ranger. Robert Pringle of Wrangholm (North West of Smailholm) took over as Master Ranger from George. David continued under him as Ranger. But David later obtained the western half of Smailholm probably from George in the 1460s. Cristopher J Trabraham (Historic Buildings & Monuments) states 'On the question of the date of construction of the Tower, I do agree with you that a post-1455 date seems highly suspect ... all the bits and bobs of evidence would seem to endorse your view that we have in Smailholm a towerhouse from the early 15th century'. He goes on to say how similar Smailholm is to the Douglases' own residence in the Forest - Newark Castle in almost all respects other than scale and he does not think the two are coincidental.



Contributed by James B Pringle, trustee of the Clan Pringle Association: George Douglas squire and master ranger of the Tweed ward with David Hoppringill of Smailholm the ranger continued his support for Douglas and he (George) and his son Thomas lost their lands of Philiphaugh ln 1460/1, which were granted to Murray.



See also:
•  Pringle of Whitsome
•  Borders Tower Houses


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