Scheduled Monument

Drochil CastleSM1495

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Supplementary Information Updated
Secular: castle; tower
Local Authority
Scottish Borders
NT 16195 43489
316195, 643489


The monument consists of a large-sale fortified residence, with two parallel ranges of rooms set on each side of a broad central gallery to each floor, and with round towers at the diagonally opposite north-east and south-west corners. This combination of elements creates a unique double-pile layout of Z-plan form. It has been plausibly suggested that this double-pile layout may show debts to French prototypes.

The castle was almost certainly built by James fourth earl of Morton, whose initials are displayed on the fabric. He succeeded to the earldom in 1550, but building is not thought to have been started until after he became Regent of Scotland in 1572, and there is a 17th-century statement that it was begun in 1578. it is very likely that it was left unfinished at his execution in 1581.

The residence is built of rubble that would have been lime-rendered, with liberal use of sandstone dressings to the wall-openings, quoins, corbelling and architectural enrichment. The accommodation rose through four storeys presumably with garrets beneath the half-roofs over the two ranges, those roofs butting the higher walls of the central galleries. The ground floor was entered at the west end of the gallery at that level, above which rose the principal stair, in the form of a spacious spiral. This lowest level was vaulted throughout, and accommodated a capacious kitchen at the east end of the north range. At first-floor level the south range had a lodging of hall and chamber, with another chamber in the south-west tower, and there were three chambers in the north range with a fourth in the north-east tower. All of these chambers appear to have been provided with fireplaces and latrine closets.

The architectural decorations was restrained but handsomely contrived. Internally the most notable feature was the hall fireplace which had barely-sugar shafts to the jambs. Externally the chief decorative emphasis was above the main entrance, where there is a pedimented opening with detailing related to Morton's work at Edinburgh and Aberdour Castles. Also noteworthy externally is the decoration to the corbelling for the secondary stair turrets at the junctions of the main block and the north-east and south-west towers, and the redenting of the shotholes.

Although the present scheduling is limited to the footprint of the castle itself, a residence of such outstanding quality as Drochil would have been at the centre of what must have been an extensive wider landscape of courtyards, terraces and gardens. This wider landscape may never have been completed, though it is inherently likely that the first steps were taken in establishing its layout, and it must be assumed that there is archaeological evidence for this. In our present state of understanding it would not be possible to be certain about the full extent of this wider landscape. However, based on the evidence of the configuration of the immediately surrounding land, and of existing field boundaries, the scheduled area is to be extended to include those areas immediately around the residence itself, where some of the most important of the features directly related to the residence would have been located. The area to be scheduled is irregular, with maximum dimensions of 80m from east to west and 74.5m from north to south.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as a unique example of a major fortified residence in which a large-scale variant of the Z-plan arrangement is applied to an early example of double-pile massing. It gains added significance from the fact that it was built for the most important commoner of the time, James fourth earl of Morton, who was Regent of Scotland, and provides important information on the range of architectural ideas being explored in the highest circles in the late 16th century and on the ways in which those ideas might be adapted to the needs of the Scottish nobility. Although probably never completed, the residence would certainly have been intended to be at the centre of a complex of courtyards and gardens, and the monument has a further dimension of importance in the archaeological potential for our understanding of the relationship between a great house and its setting.



RCAHMS records the monument as NT14SE12.


MacGibbon D and Ross T 1887, THE CASTELLATED AND DOMESTIC ARCHITECTURE OF SCOTLAND, Vol. 2, Edinburgh, 221-6.

Buchan J W and Paton H 1925-7, A HISTORY OF PEEBLESSHIRE, Vol. 2, 320.

Douglas Simpson W 1951-2, 'Drochil Castle and the plan Tout vne masse', PROC SOC ANTIQ SCOT 86, 70-80.


About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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Printed: 26/05/2024 22:21