The Pringles, who built Smailholm Tower in the first half of the 15th century, were a prominent Border family. The tower is 20m (65ft) tall, with walls 2.5m (9 ft) thick. An outer hall and kitchen were built in the courtyard protected by a barmkin, a wall designed to deter attacks from reivers (raiders) from across the border.
The five floor tower house had a single door at ground level protected by an outer wooden door and an inner iron yett (cross-barred gate). The bottom two floors were for stores, the upper three for living in.
In 1645 the tower was sold to Sir William Scott of Harden who leased the property to a kinsman, Walter 'Beardie' Scott. Walter's son Robert built a more comfortable house to the south-east of the tower. It was to this farmhouse that Robert's grandson, Walter Scott the historical novelist, playwright, and poet, came in 1773 aged just 18 months to recuperate from polio. Here he was taught to read by his aunt Jenny, and learned from her the speech patterns and many of the tales and legends that characterised much of his work.
The three upper floors in Smailholm Tower now house a permanent exhibition of costume figures and tapestries illustrating the link between Smailholm, Scott and his Minstrelsy.
- Near Samilholm village, 6 miles West of Kelso on the A6089 then follow the B6397 before turning on to the B6404
- Smailholm Tower, Kelso, TD5 7PG
- Historic Scotland. Open to the public. Admission fee.
- For further information visit www.historic-scotland.gov.uk