a little history of fatlips castle
how to visit
Fatlips sits high on the rocky crags, overlooking where the Teviot River merges with Rulewater, with panoramic views across to the Eildon hills, the English Border, and beyond.
Known under various guises such as Fatlips Castle, Minto Castle, Mantoncrake Castle, Catslick Castle, the Tower was once a Turnbull Clan Stronghold, before it came to belong to the current owners, the Elliot family.
The crags themselves have been in use for many years - evidence is recorded of an older Fort nearby to the existing tower possibly from the Iron Age. Fatlips has been called an icon of the Borders, resting on its rocky perch watching and protecting the valley below. It is a shame it could not protect itself from the vandalism it suffered over the years, and the passage of neglect over time.
Renovated by Robert Lorimer in the 1890's the Tower became a Shooting Lodge and Gallery. The crags themselves featured walks and pathways for people to explore and have picnics, which were a popular past-time in the Victorian era. The pathways are now overgrown but they do take you on an adventurous exploration round the hillside.
Thanks goes to John Rogerson, of Ancrum, for sharing with me an image of the crest and panelling of the ceiling of the main hall, thought to be the only image of it in existence. The ceiling of the main hall is now completely gone, so this image is of great importance, and will be online for your perusal shortly! John remembers going up there in the 1970's and seeing the cannon guns outside the castle and the yett in place in the doorway.
John also tells of a shed on the far side of the hill that housed horse-sleighs that possibly originated from Canada. One of these was a fine example of a trap made by Crole and Crole of Canada, with its only injury being one rotted shaft from a hole in the roof. The shed also housed a Native American canoe which had fallen into disrepair due to a leak in the roof and water running onto it.
He reminded me that there used to be a wooden chalet on the left side of the hill, which was used by the late Lord Minto's wife and many members of the public as a place for picnics. I believe it burned down, and no trace of it now exists.
Over the many years this site has been up and running I have met and been contacted by some amazing people, all with a love of this special place.
People love the castle for so many reasons. The current structure may not wholly originate from the Reiving time period, but this castle captures people’s imaginations. The view is relatively unspoilt, the walk through the woods closes off the modern world as the castle becomes a visible presence through the twists and turns of the path through the trees.
I grew up under Fatlips' watchful gaze and became increasingly saddened at its dilapidated condition and decided to do something to help. This website, and the Friends of Fatlips facebook page were initially created to raise the public profile of the castle as it was evident tax payers money would not be spent on this privately owned castle without there being a proven public interest in the place. Before the days of crowdfunding.
I gained a Masters degree in Heritage to learn more about the restoration process and campaigned, through the media, to historical organisations, and funding bodies to help save the tower. I used to meet people from all over the world to help them learn about the castle on their visit to the Borders, and all of the above was on an entirely voluntary basis, despite some bizarre and harassing accusations to the contrary - bullies and internet trolls know no bounds it seems!
I hope the story of Fatlips can inspire others to believe in the impossible and dare to have a dream despite the naysayers.
This castle casts its magical spell on each and every visitor, I implore you to visit the tower and feel a little of its magic leave with you.
The door to the castle is kept locked however the key is available from Thos. B. Olivers Garage in Denholm during working-day hours. It costs £10 for the key, £5 is given back to you on return of the key.
It's a steep walk, not suitable for people with mobility issues. Take a look at a virtual tours here and here. It takes from 40 minutes to over an hour to climb the hill.
Please share your photos, memories and comments on the Friends of Fatlips facebook page: