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Tuesday, 16 September 2014

The ups and downs of a Debateable Lands castle

IT WAS another glorious morning and we had seen too few of them this year not to notice.

KC wanderer Dec23
Whita Hill was white with snow as Wanderer set off on his ramble

It was nearly the day of the winter solstice when the early morning sun always rises directly through the crotch of an oak tree in front of my window.

Whita was clad with a cloak of shiny white snow as was the rest of the dale so I set off past the Pool Corner and up the Manse Brae which really should be given another name.

After the cemetery, I came across the remains or larachs of the Wauchope Castle which were hidden by debris, soil and bushes.

The ditches and mounds of the castle lay sadly between the Wauchope and the Becks Burn where the traces of a moat conjoin the two streams.

However, it is difficult to recognise the castle or fortifications standing high above the Wauchope.

According to John Hyslop in his book Langholm As It Was, the original castle was built by the Lindsay family in 1283 as a military fort.

By 1540 it was again in ruins but rebuilt by the Maxwell family (no, not Jimmy Maxwell) whose baillie was one Patrick Bell and whose daughter, one Bessie Bell, was christened in 1679 at Wauchope Castle.

Over the years and centuries there has been a profusion of forts, castles, bastles and towers in the Borders and nowhere are they recorded more than in the Debateable Lands. There, these dwellings were a protection against the depredations of their neighbours and other clans during a period when Scots fought English, English fought Scots and Scots fought Scots.

I left the road and turned up the Becks Burn into a marshy and boggy area which, fortunately, was frozen but still soft in places.

On the eastern slopes there appeared an enclosure or a dam but with no indication about its use.

The late Jean McVittie told me that their family had farmed at Hallcrofts and she said that the larachs were those of a former Meal Mill where their ancestors always had their grain milled.

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