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Cardrona Tower is situated in a clearing within Cardrona Forest. The interior contains a barrel vaulted ground floor and open first floor, reached by spiral staircase housed within the wing. The tower should be viewed from outside; it is a hazardous structure and its door bears a locked gate.

Cardrona tower

This picture shows the remains of Cardrona Tower.

Cardrona Tower dates back to the mid-late 16th century, probably built by the Govan family. The land was later purchased by the Williamson family in the 18th century who built a new house to the east of the tower and it is thought that this is the time at which the tower house was abandoned.

Cardrona tower chambers

Today it survives as a roofless shell with a stair tower to the south-west side. The ground floor vaulted basement and the main first floor hall have remained intact and there are a number of original features; mostly doors, windows and pugholes which also survive. A large gable survives on the south-east side, indicating that the tower originally had a steeply pitched roof, and a large projecting stone on the south west exterior elevation indicates that there was probably either a parapet walk around the top of the tower or an additional corbelled turret on this side.

The hillfort on the summit above is also very interesting, although it has been obscured by the construction of a 19th century drystone sheepfold.

History of the lands of Cardrona

At one time the lands of Cardrona were known as Easter Hopkailzie and are first mentioned as Cardrona – so named after a British fort ‘Caerdronnach’ that existed over the brow of the hill in 1465.

Govans of Cardrona

Seventy years later in 1534, Malcolm Lord Fleming, granted the lands of Cardrona to William Govan. However, the Govans had been associated with Cardrona since the 14th century, as in 1358, the eastern portion of ‘Hopkailzie’ is mentioned in association with Laurence of Govan, Sheriff of Peebles.

It seems probable that they built their new tower house at about the time that they came into official ownership of the lands and copied the border peel towers that already existed along the Tweed Valley. The tower would have reflected their wealth and standing, and formed part of the defensive system at a time when Border raids were both common and bloody.

Into the early 17th century, the Govans of Cardrona are mentioned in several documents which reflect the turbulent times and the strict reinforcements designed to bring peace by James VI. For example, in 1607, there is a complaint by the Privy Council that James Govan, proprietor of Cardrona, had been slain in a feud by John Scott, brother of Walter Scott of Tushielaw and that Scott had still not been brought to justice. Another, dated to a similar period, reports a complaint from John Govan of Cardrona denouncing some of his neighbours as rebels for the non-payment of 1200 merks, the outcome of which was that the King’s Guards were ordered to apprehend them.

Williamson family

In the 17th century (ca. 1685) the lands passed into the hands of the Williamson family, namely John Williamson of Hutcheonfield. Financial problems appear to be the reason that the Govans sold the land:

 ‘…William Govan and his son, John, labouring under the embarrassment of sundry heritable bonds for borrowed money, were under the necessity of relinquishing Cardrona to John Williamson, a principal creditor, who, on assuming possession, discharged a variety of encumbrances on the estate.’

The Govans were to die out by the early 19th century.

At some point after their acquisition of the lands, the Williamson family built a new house on the lower ground nearby; hence it is probable that Cardrona Tower was abandoned at this point. An inscribed stone with the date 1686 is built into the later house, which in its present form dates from a further rebuilding in 1840 (Historic Scotland 2010). The house stayed within the family (they later became the Kers) into the 20th century.

Visiting Cardrona Tower

The exact location of Cardrona Tower is grid reference NT 300 378, and the tower can be found in Cardrona forest. Please note the tower is fenced off and not accessible.

All sites managed by Forestry and Land Scotland are open for you to explore. However, not all sites have paths or signage and some are a considerable distance from car parking. We recommend that visitors consult a detailed map and wear appropriate clothing.

Please follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and remember that historic sites should be treated with care and respect.

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