Two historic fortresses to keep out raiders

Northumberland National Park is home to the remains of fine examples of a fortified Pele Tower and Bastle.

Tosson Tower can be found on the south side of Great Tosson. Woodhouses Bastle is found in the Parish of Harbottle.

Tosson Tower

The Tower was built in the 14th or 15th century as protection against the bands of raiders who attacked the borderlands. The Bastle was one of more than a thousand that sprung up in the border countries in the 16th and 17th centuries.

Tosson Tower in the Coquet Valley

Tosson Tower, a ruined pele tower near Rothbury in the Coquet Valley, Northumberland National Park, England

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.

Woodhouses Bastle

A bastle means ‘fortified farmhouse’ and comes from the French word ‘bastille’ meaning stronghold. Owners would take refuge from the raids from the Border Reivers and soldiers, housing livestock on the lower floor and living above them.

Horses next to Woodhouses Bastle

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 living area, an arched vault in the basement and a stone spout above the doorway, possibly used for pouring molten lead on enemies.

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.