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The History of Melrose

The Peels and Towers of Melrose

For three centuries before the Union of the Crowns in 1603, raiding and reining, blackmail and smuggling, cross-border and between families, were ways of life for many Borders. For prestige and for the protection of their chattels against Border raids they built themselves tall towers within strong enclosures, the palisades or peels of the name. These towers were commonly in small groups for greater security.

Darnick, just two kilometres to the west of Melrose had such a group of three towers. Of these one has disappeared entirely, one, Fishers Tower by Fishers Lane, is totally ruined, but the third, Darnick Tower, well preserved and in comfortable private occupation, still overlooks the village.

Another group of three towers, Hillslap, Langshaw and Calmslie lie within 600 metres of each other some seven kilometres north west of Melrose in the muirland at the head of the Allan Water. Two of these towers are happily restored and in private occupation.

Smailholme Tower, nine kilometres east of Melrose is open to the public. This was the home of the young Sir Walter Scott and has an exhibition of the characters in his novels. The views from the battlements are stunning.

As late as 1535 James V (see Battle of Melrose) enacted that 'landit men duell and...upon the bordouris...Sall big are sufficient marmyn...of Stase and lyme' At about the same time, 1530 Henry VIII, King of England issued instructions 'to big mare pellis...for resisting of the Scottis men' So the stage was set for the Rough Wooing.