Bastle houses at Leadhills Estate

Leadhills Estate bastle houses are located at Glenochar, Glengeith and Glendorch and the Estate is pleased to have worked with the Biggar Archaeological Group towards their preservation.

What is a Bastle house?

A Bastle house is a defensive building dating back to the late 16th/ early 17th centuries. It is found exclusively in the border’s region between Scotland and England.

What is the history of a Bastle house?

They were the last defended houses in Britain and were mostly occupied by tenant farmers who were becoming increasingly wealthy. They feature prominently in the Border Reiving times when conflict between families amounted to kin feud. The period and activities are grossly mis-represented and romanticised by people like Sir Walter Scott, they were in fact brutal times.

What Glenlochar Bastle house would have looked like

What happens to Bastle houses now?

In England many are still occupied as houses and are therefore preserved, other prominent ruins are in state care. In Scotland one house at Nemphlar near Lanark has seen continuous occupation but is ruined beyond belief by recent alterations, another complete Bastle exists at new Abbey in Dumfriesshire.

In South Lanarkshire the Biggar Archaeology Group [BAG] discovered that they existed there and presently are the only people who have investigated and publicised them and their history in local and national terms.

What has the Biggar Archaeology Group done to date with the Bastle houses?

There are several on the Leadhills Estate. Glenochar has been created into a trail,  with its complete associated fermtoun on the site. Glengieth has not been excavated but it has been surveyed, while Glendorch has been partially excavated but not consolidated.

When the Glenochar Bastle trail was originally put in place, the sawmill at Leadhills Estate supplied and delivered the timber.

Nearby Wintercleuch and Smithwood; both in Daer valley have, like Glenochar, been excavated and the remains consolidated for their preservation. Glenochar, Wintercleuch and Smithwood have interpretation panels installed by BAG to explain them to visitors.

What are the plans going forward?

There are plans in place to upgrade the public trail to the Glenochar site by replacing timber on the route to make it safe for the visiting public. New full colour signage at the existing car park and en-route will explain to visitors what they are looking at.

The limited edition Glenochar booklet published for the opening of the Trail will be upgraded and published on BAG website to be freely available worldwide.

For more information on Biggar Archaeological Group, visit