History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Walter Scott was sickly as a child, and in 1773 his parents sent him from his Edinburgh home to Smailholm, in the hope that the fresh countryside air would benefit his health. He was only 18 months old when he came to Smailholm, and he did not live in the tower, but in the nearby farmhouse of Sandyknowe, in the dell just below it. He was brought up by his grandfather and his aunt, brought up on stories of the countryside, of the tumultuous history of the Borders. These Border ballads, combined with the visual reminder of the romantic tower, affected Scott's imagination and helped inspire some of his most remembered writing. In his 1802 Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders he related some of these tales. There is an exhibition in the Tower about Sir Walter Scott's life and his association with Smailholm and the Borders region. Scott is buried at nearby Dryburgh Abbey.
Access is through Sandyknowe Farm, and there is a small parking area. Do come prepared with good footwear, as the ground can be muddy - you are essentially standing in a farmyard for a start! The exhibitions are fascinating, and there is a good audio tour (free when we visited). It won't take terribly long to visit; Smailholm is not a large house, but it certainly does present an interesting picture of what life was like in the turbulent Borders, when residents were always on the lookout for raiding parties.
NB. There seems to be some dispute about the date of Smailholm. Historic Scotland, who look after the site, call it 15th century, while many other sources refer to it as 16th century. I've gone with the official version in this article.
About Smailholm Tower
Address: Smailholm, Borders, Scotland, TD5 7PG
Attraction Type: Historic Building
Location: minor road off B6397 near Smailholm village, or off B6404, 6 m (10 km) NW Kelso
Website: Smailholm Tower
Phone: 01573 460 365
OS: NT638 346
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
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NEARBY HISTORIC ATTRACTIONS
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Mertoun House Gardens - 2.2 miles (Garden)
Mellerstain House - 2.9 miles (Historic House)
Dryburgh Abbey - 3.5 miles (Abbey)
Floors Castle - 4.5 miles (Historic House)
Greenknowe Tower - 5.1 miles (Castle)
Waterloo Monument - 5.2 miles (Historic Building)
Melrose Abbey - 5.6 miles (Abbey)
Kelso Abbey - 5.6 miles (Abbey)
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