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Fortified against the Reiver raiders

Tosson Tower & Woodhouses Bastle

Tosson Tower & Woodhouses Bastle Show full screen Tosson Tower & Woodhouses Bastle

Two historic fortresses to keep out raiders

Woodhouses Bastle in Northumberland National Park by Ian Glendinning.

A dramatically-lit Woodhouses Bastle. Photo by Ian Glendinning.

A bastle means ‘fortified farmhouse’ and comes from the French word ‘bastille’ meaning stronghold. More than a thousand bastles sprung up in the border countries in the 16th and 17th centuries. Owners would take refuge from the raids from the Border Reivers and soldiers, housing livestock on the lower floor and living above them.

To stop invaders, the basement walls are one and a half metres thick. The original entrance high up the wall and a slit window have been blocked up, but you can still see the barred window.

You can look inside Woodhouses Bastle on our guided tour days. There is a winding staircase to the upper apartment, an arched vault in the basement and a stone spout above the doorway, possibly used for pouring molten lead on enemies.


Tosson2 (small)

The remains of Tosson Tower.

The remains of this fortified Pele Tower can be found on the south side of Great Tosson.

It was built in the 14th or 15th century as protection against the bands of raiders who attacked the border lands.

Tosson Tower’s huge walls are nearly two metres thick. Towers were built using small boulders, welded together with hot lime.

The vaulted basement would have been used for storage. On the first floor was the hall, heated by a fireplace used for cooking too.

On the second floor would have been the solar, the owner’s private quarters.

There may have been an attic above this and almost certainly an embattled parapet.

Getting There

Tosson Tower: Follow the main road from Rothbury across the bridge towards Hexham. Turn right up Cemetery Bank and at the top of the hill turn right again. Proceed towards Great Tosson following the road signs.

Woodhouses Bastle: To the west of Rothbury, just past Hepple, this building lies in the spectacular woodland of Holystone Grange. Park in car park in Holystone and take a short walk through woodland.

  • The infamous Northumbrian Piper, James Allan, was born at Woodhouses Bastle in 1734.
  • He was jailed for stealing a horse and died there in 1810.
Point of Interest

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Planning in the National Park

Northumberland National Park Authority is the statutory Planning Authority for the area of the Northumberland National Park. View our planning pages here.

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