Originally written for suite101.com and published 31/05/09.
Vying with Castle Campbell for the position of tower house with the most impressive view on the Tower Trail. Clackmannan Tower is situated on Kings Seat Hill on the outskirts of the town of Clackmannan, overlooking the Forth Valley. Legend has it that the wife of the last Laird knighted Robert Burns with the two-handed sword of Robert the Bruce.
History of Clackmannan Tower
The Bruce family had a long association with Clackmannan, with many local legends revolving around King Robert the Bruce – Lookabootye Brae in the town itself comes from a tale of the search for a glove lost while out hunting. The Bruces held the position of Sheriff and Forester of the Sheriffdom of Clackmannan hereditarily, as Clackmannan was a royal hunting ground.
His kinsman David II granted the lands of Clackmannan to Sir Robert Bruce in 1359 and the earliest part of the tower is thought to have been built shortly afterwards. However, it is believed that during the reign of Malcolm IV (1053-65) there was a royal residence on the same site, as a charter from 1250 mentions a castle on the site, which is presumed to be the origin of the hill’s name.
The building was raised to tower height during the 15th century and a taller south wing with a crenellated parapet walk and a ground level entrance were added around the same time. There were attempts to modernise the tower during the late 16th century and a new mansion was built to the west.
The tower remained with the Bruces, even as they fell on harder times until the death of Lady Catherine Bruce in 1791, at which point both tower and mansion were abandoned. The estate was bought by the Marquis of Zetland but never returned to use and by 1841 the house had been demolished with only a small section of the courtyard wall having survived into the present day.
Restoration of Clackmannan Tower
Accounts from the 1960s (Nigel Tranter, The Fortified House in Scotland: Volume Two, Central Scotland, 1962), report the interior to be in fairly good condition. Also that the ground and first floors of both parts of the tower have vaulted ceilings, the main Hall to have a fine 16th century fireplace, and that the roof boasts both a small belfry and brazier for a warning beacon.
There was a major structural collapse of the eastern part of the tower in 1948, caused by subsidence from the nearby mine workings. The tower came into the custodianship of Historic Scotland during the 1950s and considerable restoration work was undertaken to preserve the tower from further decay. It is therefore to be hoped that the tower will be opened to the public more extensively in the near future.
Getting There and Visiting Clackmannan Tower
The tower lies on the outskirts of Clackmannan town, just a short distance East along the A907 from Alloa in Clackmannanshire. Parking is available, however, it should be noted that Tower Car Park it is situated at the Mercat Cross in the town, which while worth a look in its own right, remains a fair walk away from the tower.
Visitors should cross the road and walk up the hill past Clackmannan Parish Church, the tower is again signposted from the top of the street. As previously implied the tower is not currently open to the public on a regular basis, however during Doors Open Day access is available.