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Explore Orchardton Tower

Located in the Dumfries and Galloway region of Scotland is a fascinating structure known as Orchardton Tower. Although there are numerous free-standing tower houses throughout Scotland, Orchardton Tower is unique in that it is the only one that is circular. It is also quite complete and makes for an interesting attraction for those travelling in the area.

What can you expect when visiting Orchardton Tower? The round tower is found in the north-east corner of the barmkin, a fortified enclosure. The ground-level door leads into a cellar boasting a vaulted roof. An external stair provides access to the tower itself. It is thought that the original stair was likely moveable and lead to the first-floor doorway. The entrance seen today was probably constructed in the 17th or 18th centuries and a permanent stair added. The tower structure stands at a height of 11m and a diameter of 9m, with a slightly tapered top. A spiral stair can be found within the 1.8m thick wall. The main room features a fireplace, carved lavabo, and windows with seats. There were once two more rooms above this one, but the wooden floors have collapsed over the years.

The history of Orchardton Tower extends back to the 1400s. It was commissioned by John Cairns shortly after his retirement in 1456 to his estates in Galloway. The tower later passed to the Crown in the year 1555, as there was some dispute over how the estate was to be divided. In 1615, the various shares of the estate came to Sir Robert Maxwell, the First Baronet of Orchardton. It remained the home of the Maxwells until 1785, when it was sold due to the 7th Baronet becoming bankrupt whilst trying to build a mansion nearby. James Douglas purchased the estate, including Orchardton Tower.

An interesting tale related to Orchardton Tower actually inspired Sir Walter Scott to pen “Guy Mannering, or The Astrologer”. Sir Robert Maxwell (not the one already mentioned), who was baronet in 1745, was wounded in the Battle of Culloden. He was captured and headed for execution in Carlisle. Amongst his papers he had his commission in the French Army; hence he was considered a prisoner of war and later shipped to France. After some time he made it back to Orchardton.

So why not pay a visit to the fascinating and unique Orchardton Tower and discover its history for yourself.


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