Barnhills Castle

Barnhills Tower, Roxburghshire

Barnhills Tower (1)
Barnhills Tower (2)
Barnhills Tower (3)
Barnhills Tower (4)
Barnhills Tower (6)


SW of Barnhills Farm, 4 miles west of Jedburgh


Off A698



Barnhills Castle is a small very ruined 16th century stone rectangular tower house, founded by the Turnbulls. Overlooked by Fatlips Castle and built against the north bank of Craigend Burn.

The remains of ruined tower only stand to the height of the first floor. Its barrel-vaulted basement is pierced by gun-loops and two small windows, with a rough opening in the east wall indicating the position of the entrance. Inside there are traces of a short straight flight of steps within the thickness of the wall and in the south-east angle a newel staircase.

~ History ~

1545 ~ The English army commanded by the Earl of Hereford burns 'Barne Helles' tower during hostilities later referred to as the 'Rough Wooing' by King Henry VIII against Scotland.

1548 ~ The tower has been repaired and is among the border towers appointed to watch the fords of the River Tweed for further English advances into Scotland.

1604 ~ Hector Turnbull of Barnhills Tower, together with others of his family, are accused of cruelty, slaughtering several men. By refusing to answer the charges, he is denounced as a rebel.

~ The slaughter of the Governor of Bewcastle ~

Hector Turnbull, a renowned border outlaw, is finding his raids across the border increasingly restricted by the Captain and Governor of Bewcastle.

His men have repeatedly met increased resistance and driven back across the border. He decides upon a plan to rid him of the Governor.

He leads a particulary vicious and savage raid across the border into Cumberland, knowing there will be reprisals by the Governor as they make good their escape with their plunder. The Governor's response and pursuit is quicker than he expected, as he and his men are soon overtaken by the Governor's men riding hard to cut off their escape as they near their tower.

Hector is forced to escape on foot, taking paths riders are unable to follow. However, the Governor has set his bloodhounds lose after him and they are closing in fast. Isolated from his men, he calculates he will not make the safety of his tower before the hounds are upon him.So he decides to cut his arm and leave a pool of blood behind him to put the hounds off his scent.

This works, delaying the hounds sufficiently enough to enable him to escape through the towers gate just in time as the Governors men attempt to ride him down.

Hector had however given specific instructions to his men that the the gate should not be barred, but kept upon, allowing their persuers access to the courtyard beyond the tower. The Governor and his men ride through the gate into the courtyard convinced they had at last captured Hector and his outlaws. However, they soon find the gate behind them locked preventing their escape. The trap had been sprung. Hector by now had climbed his tower and was looking down into the courtyard, his men laughing and jeering at the Governor and his men. Hector encourages his men to then take pot shots at the Governors men with their bows as the the laughter turns nasty as their captives are unable to defend themselves. As the last of the Governors men falls to his knees, they are set upon by by Hector's men, using their swords and dirks to complete the slaughter. The Governor and his men plead for their lives but each in turn are despatched without mercy.