Tower Houses of Scotland aka Scotland’s Castles

“ABC!” he said to the women in front of him, with the tinge of a cockney lilt. We were all standing in little stone room utilized as the gift shop / lobby of yet another of Scotland Castles, Drum Castle, awaiting the tour to begin.

“ABC!!” he said louder to her back and pretty much all of us this time….

He was a handsome guy. Tall, lanky, pasty white. He looked black Irish to me, definitely a Brit. He had that haircut I love on men his age. Shaved on the sides long on the top, reminiscent of a 1930s style. It added to his boyish charm. His tone was playful.

His girlfriend or wife or whatever she was to him had her back to him (and me), but I could tell she was rolling her eyes as she paid the lady at the counter. His brown eyes twinkled, he was complaining but with mirth. The small crowd in the low ceilinged room was silent.

Having paid she slid by him and out the front entrance, leaving him with an audience staring at him in muted suspense.

“Another Bloody Castle!” he asserted, smiled broadly, swept the long piece of hair from his eyes swooping it back over his head and walked out the door to await the tour guide.

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Drum Castle. One of Scotlands oldest tower houses

They call them castles all over Scotland, but actually, they are tower houses. Referred to as castles, pretty much all over these days. Even by the National Trust of Scotland which owns and maintains many of the castles aka tower houses of Scotland today. These fortified estates were built with the defensive nature of castles in mind. If you know much about the history of Scotland, you understand the need of such castle like structures.

They initially appeared in the middle ages, mostly in Scotland and Ireland, later turning up in Spain, Italy and France. Built in more remote or mountainous regions, (which at the time was much of Scotland) where people were often left much to their own devices and raids of one’s home was common place.

Craigievar Castle (tower house) Scotland tower house
Craigievar Castle (tower house). A pink harled structure near Alford, Aberdeenshire Scotland. Photo by Elizabeth Whitener aka januarymoon 2017

The high middle ages was a time of great extremes in Scotland and seriously tenuous relations between many europeans. Great Britain changed allies more often than the king changed his hat. There was a rapid and sudden population increase, a mass exodus from the rural areas to the cities, endless wars, economic strife and then the plague aka Black Death… which is suspected to have killed upwards of 50% of the population. Things were a wee bit unstable. For Scotland, perhaps even more so.

Castle Fraser
Castle Fraser (tower house). The most elaborate Z plan castle and truly grand inside and out. Located near Kemnay in Aberdeenshire, Scotland

Tower houses were simply large homes, built to maintain the safety of those within, with limited man power or forces. They became popular with aristocrats for obvious reasons, and were often stark and foreboding on the outside while filled with the comforts of the wealthy inside. They popped up all over Italy, England and Spain during times of strife, but today Scotland seems to maintain some of the finest examples of such residences.

Some of the tower houses of Scotland are now owned and managed by National Trust for Scotland. Others remain privately owned. But there are so very many you can visit throughout Scotland that continue to be intact. It is so worth visiting as many as is possible.

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