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Drumcoltran Tower

Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Drumcoltran Tower

Classification Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Drumcoltran Tower; Drumcoltran Castle; Drumcoltran Steading

Canmore ID 64930

Site Number NX86NE 2

NGR NX 86959 68297

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Dumfries And Galloway
  • Parish Kirkgunzeon
  • Former Region Dumfries And Galloway
  • Former District Stewartry
  • Former County Kirkcudbrightshire

Archaeology Notes

NX86NE 2.00 86945 68295

NX86NE 2.01 NX 86950 68291 (adjacent) farmhouse

(NX 8695 6829) Drumcoltran Tower (NR)

OS 6" map (1957)

Drumcoltran Tower dates from the 16th century and comprises a rectangular block, 34 ft E-W by 26 ft 8 ins transversely, with a projecting staircase wing, 15 ft 3 ins by 8 ft 4 ins. The staircase wing may be secondary.

The tower, used as a farm store, is connected to a house to the W by a passage.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887; RCAHMS 1914, visited 1911; V G Childe and W D Simpson 1954

Drumcoltran Tower (MOPBW plaque) is of outstanding architectural importance and has been restored by Ministry of Public Buildings and Works (MOPBW). It is no longer connected to the nearby building.

Visited by OS (JP) 17 July 1969.

Scheduled as 'Drumcoltran Castle (Tower)... the 16th-century towerhouse of Drumcoltran, and a small area of ground associated with it.'

Information from Historic Scotland, scheduling document dated 19 December 2002.


Publication Account (1986)

Its domestic duties long done, this tower quietly stands guard over the farmstead which has grown up around it. A fortifIed house of vernacular character, it probably always has had a close association with farming and the land, and its immediate successor, a two-storeyed farmhouse of mid 18th century date, stands next door. The tower is a plain, no-nonsense affair with few decorative frills, somehow embodying the virtues of probity and austerity inscribed in Latin on a panel above the door: 'Keep hidden what is secret; speak little; be truthful; avoid wine; remember death; be pitiful'. It is laid out on an L-plan. The projecting wing contains the stair, and incorporates a gun-loop ascribable to c 1570; inside, however, there are indications that this wing is an addition to an oblong tower of perhaps, mid 16th century date.

The walls are rounded at the angles, such a form being easier and cheaper to construct with small rubble and pinnings. Most of the window-openings were enlarged In the 18th century. The parapet has a plain straight cope and is projected on moulded corbels. A stairpassage to the open wall-walk is contained within aturret which spans the re-entrant angle.

The 16th century interior was re-arranged and subdivided in the 18th century. The main vaulted cellar on the ground floor has a kittchen fireplace whose surround was re-assembled from parts of the original hall fireplace. A slop-sink drains through the south wall. The first floor originally comprised one room, the laird's hall, heated by a large fIreplace in the east end wall; smaller fireplaces were formed to match the smaller sub-divisions. The complex arrangement of openings and passages around the entrances to the first and second floors hints at an earlier layout before the addition of the stair wing. The second floor was originally sub-divided into two main (bed) chambers, each with a fireplace and a latrine; the external base of the latrine vent can be seen in the centre of the south wall at ground level.

The lands of Drumcoltran lay within the lordship of Kirkgunzeon, the superiority of which in 1550 passed from the Lords Herries to the Lords Maxwell. The lairds of Drumcoltran were a minor family of the same name, and the probable builder of the tower around 1570 was Edward Maxwell (d. 1609), second son of Edward Maxwell of Hills. The mortgaged lands of Drumcoltran passed to the Irving family in 1668 and remained in their possession until 1799. They were no doubt responsible for most of the alterations to the tower and the construction of the later house.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Dumfries and Galloway’, (1986).


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