Tinnis Castle, Drumelzier, Peeblesshire, Scottish Borders
The dreich day, with low mists hanging, only added to the atmosphere of our recent visit to Tinnis Castle (Dun Meldred), location 17 on The Merlin Trail. Instantly recognisable from the road, the commanding rocky knoll on which Tinnis Castle once stood, with the jagged remains of the later 15th/16th century castle, looms out of the surrounding hills. It is pretty impressive!
The name Tinnis derives from ‘Thane’s Castle’, reflecting the Angle occupation in the 9th century. Before that, the stronghold was known as Dun Meldred, a palisaded hill fort on the knoll, which is where Merlin was given hospitality (under restraint) on his way to meet St Mungo. There is evidence of a settlement on the lower slope.
Less than a mile north east of Drumelzier, in the Tweed valley, the later castle was built on top of the earlier Iron Age and early medieval palisaded fort – of which quite substantial remnants of boundaries and ramparts remain. The position was unrivalled, with a steep drop to the valley below on three sides; the pre-built natural defences were worth taking advantage of!
The castle was later blown up around 1592, in a family feud… The Tweedie family, in residence, were feared for their aggressive, formidable, abusive and corrupt behaviour. That many of the sizeable fragments can be seen scattered some distance from the knoll confirms that the castle was demolished using explosives.
The route takes you along what appears to be the turfed outline of an old road, which climbs up the north-west side of the knoll before returning around the north-east towards the summit. This was most likely the main access to the castle, from which the defenders would have had a fine view of the approaching enemy! There is certainly the feeling of walking in the footsteps of those who have walked here before. Whilst the south east ridge is so steep that no fortifications were needed on that side, the slope of the old road is gentle enough to have allowed wheeled vehicular access.
The National Record of the Historical Environment tells us that, ‘All the masonry appears to have been constructed in local whinstone rubble excellently bonded with lime mortar’ and that the external walls would have been somewhere in the region of between 3’3” in the north west to 4’6” thick elsewhere. There is still some evidence of the circular towers, so it is well worth a visit, even for little legged ones!
Even through the mist, we could make out that the views on a clearer day would be spectacular! Its prominent position over the Tweed Valley certainly made it worth defending.
Directions (from Moffat):
Just before Drumelzier village hall, take a small road to the right (marked with a small P sign) which leads to a car park on the left, where you’ll see the Merlin Trail board. Go through the beech hedge arch, over the bridge and walk up past the house and garden to a gate. Keep to the left through the gate and follow the wall around the hill until you see the knoll and solitary tree in front of you. Continue along the path to the top of the hill.
Keep dogs on a tight lead you are walking through open ground with livestock.
Solitary, ancient ash on the route to Tinnis Castle
Heather, Lichen and Blaeberry clinging to the hillside
The Dun Meldred Board
To find out all about Merlin and Dun Meldred, visit the Merlindale page on the Merlin Trail website.
Have you visited Tinnis Castle, or any other locations on the Merlin Trail? Do let us know how you got on, and even better, share your photos with us!