During the middle ages when wars raged on between England and Scotland, the inhabitants of the borderland suffered casualties and devastated livelihoods. In addition to the rampaging armies, the lands were also plundered by a group of raiders called the Border Reivers. In order to protect and defend themselves, the local people who lived along the borders, made tower houses with fortifications which are called bastle houses. They are two-story houses with strong walls made of rubble and boulders that measured a meter in thickness. The ground floor of the house was made to house the owner’s livestock while the upper floor was for the people. The upper story could be reached by a ladder that the inhabitants pull up at night or in danger. Today, Northumberland has up to 200 known remaining Bastle houses in Tynedale, Redesdale, Liddesdale, and even farther south in Allendale. Most of them stand in isolation while others are camouflaged among other farm buildings. Here are some bastle houses that you can visit in Northumberland.
Catton’s Housty Bastle house
The Housty Bastle house is located on a high point above the mesmerizing, country village of Catton located near Hexham. The construction could be dated all the way back to the early 17th century. This is an important historical point as it proves that even though England and Scotland became unified in 1603, people who reside in the area at the time still felt the need to protect themselves from danger. The Housty Bastle house is surrounded by picturesque countryside and beautiful landscape.
Allendale’s Nine Dargues Bastle house
To reach the remains of this old, bastle house, visitors go through a strip of country lane. A weatherbeaten notice board greets the bastle house’s guest declaring that the Nine Dargues Bastle house was once considered to be renovated as a youth hostel. However, the stone remains and the growing trees within the property suggest that the plan has been abandoned for a long time. The walls are crumbling while the roof is already gone making it exposed to nature. Guests can walk through and explore the house.
Tarset’s Black Middens Bastle house
Visitors have to drive through a marvelous view of the English countryside passing by Bellingham and reaching the 16th century Tarset which is found near the Kielder Water and Forest Park. The Black Middens Bastle house was in ruins before it was restored and cared for by English Heritage societies. The area surrounding the house were forests used beforehand as hunting grounds for the royals and as an accessible route used by Scottish men during their raids.
Hill House in Tarset
It is fortunate that this historic house survived the ravages of time. The Hill House property contains the remains of the bastle house – a rectangular building and some founding walls. Some ruins of the building’s old entrances and enclosures are also seen on site. Hill House would have faced the wondrous view of the Tarset Valley in the west, east, and north side.