You need not travel far in the Borderlands before you encounter evidence of past warfare and violence. Usually this takes the form of a fortified building, but not always. It may be a battlefield or a site of a skirmish.
Castles are numerous, especially in Northumberland, but to locate a real castle requires a little research, a castle looking much as it did when it was ready for action. There are more than a few of these left, however, and they are well worth seeking out and visiting. I have found Norham, Neidpath and Warkworth particularly appealing, but there are others. Some are reasonably complete, at least in part. Some are little more than a heap of stones, but they still have character.
Some castles are not
castles at all. They are stately homes ornamented with battlements,
towers, and occasionally even moats. Inside you will find a collection
of souvenirs from abroad expressing the wealth of the owner at that time
and his varying degrees of artistry and taste. They are worth visiting
provided you know what to expect.
Some of these
‘castles’ started life as strongholds, probably as a pele tower, and
were enlarged and engulfed later, usually by Victorian
structures. Take away the more recent additions and there would most
likely be little left but a heap of stones.
Once, there were many
hundreds of towers in the Borders. Most have been destroyed. Used, like
many of the castles, as quarries by later builders. They were usually
square and several storeys high. Some are still lived in, as at Elsdon
in Northumberland. Some, as previously mentioned, were incorporated into
larger more hospitable buildings. A few have survived largely as they
were, and, on the whole, thoughtfully restored. A splendid example is
Hollows Tower, near Canonbie, in Liddesdale. Two other worthwhile
examples are Smailholm, near Kelso, and Preston in Northumberland.
Bastles, the name
being from Bastille, are mini towers, sometimes lived in at the time.
They were mainly located in England and some survive. They are often
photographed with an outside staircase which was added later when the
troubles were over.
It is gratifying to
located a building in which your ancestors may have lived, even though
it is little more that a pile of rubble, At least the site’s still
there. Good hunting!