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NEW 18 June 2011 — Updated with photo and short video of Gordon Millar as he renovates the castle.
Torwood Castle and Tappoch Broch

About TORWOOD Castle NEW 21 June 2011
About TAPPOCH Broch
TORWOOD — Directions & Map

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15 minutes

Torwood Castle

castle view


planTor = Hill
Torwood = Wood on the Hill = Keltor (from Gaelic caille-tòrr)

Torwood Castle

Torwoodhead Castle and Torwoodhead Mansion, are names that have previously been given to the building we know today as Torwood Castle in Stirlingshire, Scotland.

Described by Historic Scotland as,

"An example of the type of mid-sixteenth-century residence that had a first-floor lodging consisting of a hall and chamber as its principal accommodation. It is of L-shaped plan, with the principal lodging in the rectangular main block that runs from east to west . . . The wing and stair tower were externally more richly treated than the rest of the castle, though they appear to be of the same date."




The above may well be accurate but my eyes suggest another possibility that I intend to investigate further.

I see an original Tower House with shot-holes all round for deploying weapons at kneecap height.
The much larger long building, running east to west, with the Great Hall and lodgings, looks to me like it was added at a later date when the original Tower House was converted to a grand staircase.
The long building is not surrounded by shot-holes so your kneecaps are safe.

This radical thinking could get me excommunicated from the Falkirk Local History Society or at least raise a few eyebrows.

Old proverb — it is safer to remain silent and appear ignorant than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Much of who owned the castle and when is covered in the video so I won’t repeat it here.

date stoneThe castle has been dated at 1566 as this is the date on a carved stone found in a dry-stone wall about one or two hundred metres from the castle. Assuming it did belong to the castle, is it the date of the extension or the original Tower House?

The long wall that runs north from the big tower is certainly later and in very poor condition — keep well away from it, especially during high winds. This was the west wall of a courtyard to the north of the castle.

drawingThe courtyard also had ancillary buildings as well as an entrance gate in the north wall. If there was also an entrance gate in the east wall of the courtyard, then the old roman road would have gone diagonally through the courtyard (SE to NW) as it headed from Camelon to Stirling.

This course is shown on the latest OS maps but I don’t know how certain they are of the actual location — it does seem the logical route for a Roman Road.

small tower‘The Re-entrant Doorway’ in the Tower (that’s a door in an inside corner to you and me) would, I think, have been in the centre of the east wall of the Tower House and topped by the panel for the coat of arms — nice and symmetrical — but it has been compromised by the addition of a smaller tower to house a Service Staircase.
The main door now looks like an insignificant tradesman’s entrance.

wellWhen Gordon Millar took up residence in the castle around 1960, a huge amount of debris had to be removed from the ground floor. Another excavation over several years, removed the debris from a Well that is about 3 metres square and cut through solid rock. The excavation stopped at about 5 metres deep though I don’t think they had reached the bottom.

Oddly, they never came across any water. Could this ‘Well’ have been a dungeon? It is covered over for safety reasons and is certainly not worth risking life and limb for a nosey.

water transfer troughwater spoutWherever the Well actually was, the water had a rather neat route to the kitchen. A trough opening in the north wall of the long building is where you emptied the bucket of water.

It flowed through the wall and out a spout next to the kitchen where hopefully someone had remembered to put an empty bucket.

Next to the trough is a small shallow hole with an angled slab where human excrement, from the first floor toilet, landed — to be cleaned up by peasant and shovel.

grand hallGordon Millar bought the castle from Carron Iron Works who presumably purchased Torwood Estate from the Bolton’s of Carbrook around 1914. Gordon dedicated the last 40 years of his life to repairing and renovating the castle. He financed the project from his personal meagre earnings and was permanently scrounging stone or anything else that might help the renovation.
His use of modern cement mortar is not considered ‘sympathetic’ these days.

Historic Scotland makes the following comments:
". . . there has been a range of conjectural modifications and insertions at the hands of a recent owner. In addition the main stair has been reconstructed in concrete and the recent work has used cement based mortars . . . it would lend itself to restoration with relative ease though a number of the more inappropriate recent modifications would probably have to be reversed. However, the planning of the castle means that there are a relatively small number of large spaces within the castle, which could be challenging for modern use."

It’s all very well talking of ideals but if the huge sums of money to realise those ideals are not forthcoming, I would rather see cement mortar saving a building than have it degenerate into a pile of rubble.
Gordon Millar’s efforts have at least temporarily fixed the structure but what of its future?
Prior to his death in 1998, Gordon Millar agreed to set up the Torwood Castle Trust.
The purposes of the trust are to consolidate and reinstate Torwood Castle for the benefit of Students of Architecture, History, Archaeology and Art.

The layout of this sixteenth century building is not ideally suited to current building requirements, either domestic or business.
One interesting idea came from a friend in Torwood Village — she suggested it could be a museum. This would tick a lot of boxes but would still cost a huge amount. The recent global financial crash has necessitated cut backs everywhere. I cannot imagine money being made available for Torwood Castle in the immediate future but I have no knowledge of how the systems of grants etc work.

roman road mapsouth turreteast turretThere have been hints of an earlier castle in Torwood — possibly the late 1200’s when Wallace and Bruce were making their names.

Although Tappoch Broch is the highest point in the area and commands the best view of all approaches, it was not chosen for the site of Torwood Castle.

I suspect the castle’s location was chosen because it sat right on the main road (Roman Road) from Falkirk to Stirling and still had good views of the approaches from the east and south where any enemy (English Army) would be likely to appear as they crossed the river Carron at the ford of the Hills of Dunipace.

The Tower House did have an observation turret looking east but it has long since collapsed.

Part of an observation turret looking south still exists but the only thing that could be observed from it is the sloping roof (now gone) of the Great Hall extension.

My logic tells me that when you have selected the perfect location for your castle, it is likely to remain the perfect location when you build a replacement.
That is why I think an earlier castle would have been on the same spot as the current castle.

round foundationAlmost at the north-west corner of the courtyard and on the outside of the unstable wall is what could be the round foundation of a circular tower to enclose a staircase.
This staircase could have been part of an earlier Tower Castle but that is currently just an idea.

If indeed there was an earlier castle so close to Tappoch Broch, it does not take much imagination to work out where a lot of the stone from Tappoch Broch ended up. When this castle was ravaged by time or attackers, much of the stone may have been recycled into the existing Tower we see today.

As well as the history of Torwood and the mystery of the Blue Water Pool, I am researching the story of Gordon Millar.
Gordon did some research on the castle and I have heard that he reckoned the final demise of the castle was caused by a fire that started in the ground floor vaults where Flax was being stored. I cannot yet confirm if this is true or when it happened or if the castle was still in use as a dwelling house.

W. Grassom’s map of 1817 shows that Torwoodhead (Torwood Castle) was already a ruin. That is 251 years after the ‘date-stone’ of 1566.

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Tappoch (Tapock) Broch

broch profile

Colonel DundasThe Broch was excavated in 1864 by Colonel Joseph Dundas F.S.A. Scot. of Carronhall. You can read Colonel J. Dundas’s report here.

Called Tappoch (Tapock older spelling) Broch or Torwood Broch. Both names are correct but can be confusing.
Torwood, meaning the wood on the hill, is the highest point for several miles in any direction.
The Tappoch is the name given to the highest point. It's like a raised rocky bump forming the summit of the area. This bump is currently covered by a conifer plantation and the shape cannot be seen.
The Broch stands on the Tappoch of Torwood.

wide shot of brochColonel Dundas’s report does not mention the word Broch and the plans / drawings are titled a Tumuli (a mound of earth and stones over a grave) and Tumulus is the name recorded for this feature on the 1861 Ordnance Survey map.
He does not mention any surprise at finding no bodies or skeletal remains. He does refer to ‘the chamber’ and ‘the floor of the house’
Brochs are very common in the North and West of Scotland but almost unheard of this far south.

The Potty Chamber

small chamberOn the NE wall there is a chamber and there are interesting theories about this chamber.
‘Kitchen’ was one — I discounted that immediately as there was no sign of kitchen units or a gas supply.

It was not mentioned by Colonel Dundas or his draughtsman in 1864. This abomination is a modern addition — but when?

This chamber was not mentioned in the 1953 survey and is almost certainly the work of Schoolboys.

entranceThe Entrance

The entrance is a long low narrow passage of twenty feet in length. It is now full of large fallen stones and is not a sensible place to wander.

An intruder would have been forced to adopt a crouched and vulnerable posture to gain access.

A single defender could have kept back an army as she prodded with a long spear while sitting on a three legged stool — milking a cow with the other hand.

stairwellThe Stairwell

The stairwell was a means of internal access to the upper floors but today it simply looks like the Broch’s back door and is probably the least dangerous means of accessing the floor of the Broch.

As you climb the stairs that were originally in the cavity between the inner and outer walls, you now appear to exit on the outside of the Broch. This is because the outside wall of the broch was spirited away by crazed looking men with wheelbarrows a long long time ago.

I have heard rumours that stone is still being spirited away, now and then, by crazed looking dudes on quad bikes.

holes in wall cupboard

The Cupboards

Small openings appear to have been deliberately created in the wall as storage space or anchor points for timber framing within the Broch.

april growthjune growth

Best Time to Visit Tappoch Broch

Basically before the bracken gets established so before the end of May and preferably after a few days without rain.

Around mid May, you should see the Rhododendrons in flower and, with a bit of luck, the yellow flower will still be on the Gorse and the pretty lambs will be chopping about.

Other perspectives on Tappoch Broch
The Broch is popular with a lot of people. Some record their experiences. If I find any accounts that tickle my fancy, I will put the links below.

fatdogWhere the Fatdog Walks — A “RUFF” Guide to Wild Scotland

Ken Brown and his dog Maisie (stage name — The Fatdog), armed with a rucksack of Bonios, tramp the wilds of Scotland and Maisie writes a blog to record the events.
This is their walk to Tappoch Broch in winter.



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Torwood Directions and Map

The following information is as accurate as I can make it but is not offered in any professional capacity. Your safety is your responsibility.

A little jewel that is unknown to many locals far less tourists. Part of the ancient Caledonian Forest it may have been but Torwood is now a very small commercial plantation that is privately owned and ultimately will face the chain saw — see it while it lasts.

The short paths around Tappoch Broch have a magical atmosphere and would make a good setting for a scene in a Harry Potter movie. The paths are very uneven at parts and need extra care especially when wet.
The area is well graced with public right-of-ways. Some people do the same walks every few days, usually with their dog/s.

There are three basic routes you can use to approach Torwood Castle and Broch.

From Torwood Village (the shortest). Parking at the start of the path to the Broch or if there is a problem there, parking on Glen Road.
From Denovan. This is the route you would take from Denny or Dunipace.
From the Old Denny Road in Larbert (the longest). The public right-of-ways are all in pretty good condition but there will be muddy areas after rainfall.

I have labeled the relevant features on the following Google map. Public Right-of-Ways are shown in green

Scalable Google live map

You can select to show Google ready-made layers such as transport, pubs, hospitals, petrol stations etc.

View Torwood in a larger map

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