Portal:Scotland/Selected article/Week 43, 2011

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Smailholm Tower] from the north-west

Smailholm Tower is a peel tower at Smailholm, around five miles (8 km) 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 at grid reference NT637346, just west of Sandyknowe farm, and is now a Scheduled Ancient Monument in the care of Historic Scotland. In June 2007 it was awarded the maximum "five-star" status as a tourist attraction from VisitScotland, a rating bestowed on only eight other sites in Scotland. Smailholm Tower was originally built in the 15th century or early 16th century by the Pringle family. This family, originally spelt Hoppringle, who were followers of the Earl of Douglas, 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. The tower was attacked by English soldiers in 1543, 1544 and again in 1546, when the garrison of Wark Castle sacked the tower and carried off prisoners and cattle. The castle was successfully defended against the English in 1640, by Sir Andrew Ker of Greenhead. Smailholm was obtained by the Scotts of Harden around this time. The Scotts – ancestors of Sir Walter – rebuilt parts of the tower and barmkin. In the 18th century the tower decayed, following the family's move into nearby Sandyknowe. The last owner, the Earl of Ellesmere, handed the property into state care in 1950. It was restored in the 1980s, and now operates as a museum.