Hollows Tower from Gilnockie

Gilnockie’s Hollows Tower;

Armstrong Clan UK



The Tower is closed for essential maintenance  and will be open later in the summer.

If you wish to visit the Tower in the future please 

Contact; arm.clan@sky.com

for further information.

You can, of course, do a close up visit to the exterior only at any time.

Hollows Tower from Gilnockie RB Armstrong

Hollows Tower ca 1883 ink drawing from Gilnockie Castle (Gardens).

photo 1897 Hollows Gilnockie Tower

An early photo from 1897.


Tower stays about the same in 1965     and in colour with roof  2010.

Canonbie, Gilnockie Tower c.1965Gilnockie Tower Walter Baxter 16 April 2010

Photo from 1897 Gilnockie-Hollows Tower similar to 1883 ink drawing.

Gilnockie Castle (Garden);

Hollows Tower from Gilnockie RB Armstrong

As in the Robert Bruce Armstrong ink drawing, Gilnockie Castle is also referred to as ‘Gilnockies Garden’ (image repeated for comparison).

Gilnockie Castle referred to as Gilnockie Garden

Gilnockie-Hollows Tower view angle



Given the view angle it shows RB Armstrong’s ink drawing to be rather accurate.

The History of Liddesdale, Eskdale, Ewesdale, Wauchopedale and the Debateable Land: By Robert Bruce Armstrong, Volume 1 page 254
Robert Bruce Armstrong
D. Douglas, 1883 – “Debateable land” (Scotland) – 280 pages


Shows Gilnockie Tower (note; shows another tower, but not at Gilnockie Castle-Garden site,  so it is not the castle)

Gilnockie known as Johnnie Armstrong.

Above map seems to show a tower called Gilnockie, where the location is different than but close to Gilnockie Castle-Garden so it is felt that this could bring about this confusion insertion;

Gilnockie Tower – Clan Armstrong Trust

Gilnockie/Hollows Tower is one of the finest and best-preserved examples of a reiver’stower house or ‘pele’. It is now cared for by the Clan Armstrong Centre but …
Reference is made to Hollows Tower and Gilnockie (Johnnie Armstrong) Castle;
Hollows Gilnockie Johnnie
Gilnockie of Johnnie Armstrong would be a home of resident which Johnnie Armstrong would have owned. If Hollows Tower is visible from the garden of Gilnockie, then Gilnockie and Hollows would be two localities which were near each other as the map, and ink drawing shows. Gilnockie Castle  (Gardens) given the closeness, to Hollows may not have been always the fortress which Johnnie Armstrong of Gilnockie Castle (Garden) would have used, likely a mote and bailey previous to the time of Johnie Armstrong.  Likely referred to as Gilnockie Castle because there is a tower which Gilnockie built nearby, and destroyed with Hollows Tower built from the stone. Hollows Tower with another tower as Gilnockie Tower is listed on map, but likely when Gilnockie Tower was destroyed Gilnockie’s tower at Hollows was soon built. Note that Gilnockie Castle not a tower, but a mote and bailey castle which was much more earlier piece of archaeology, and only name Gilnockie Castle because it was near Johnie Armstrong’s tower at Gilnockie. It is felt that Gilnockie’s Garden is a better name for the castle locality, to felt to be in ruins at the time of Johnie Armstrong who used the stone to build a tower at Gilnockie.
It should be noted that in the US, Hoover Dam after president Herbert Hoover is also known as Boulder Dam because of it’s locality near Boulder, Nevada, USA.
Mark Elliott   7/17/2016 rewriting 8/18/2016

Gilnockie Castle pillar marker;

Gilnockie Castle

 Canmore-Gilnockie Castle

Gilnockie or Hollows Tower, Gilnockie Castle

Geograph; Gilnockie Tower

Another map showing locality of castle at same spot;
Hollows Tower, Gilnockie confusion
Hollows Hole House Tower
Hollows House Tower, has basically the same meaning as Hole House Tower.
Kinmount, tower which  kin live on mont higher elevation;
Kinmont Willie, kin to those of Gilnockie, and Harelaw Towers.
John, Will, Hector Armstrong
Kin mount kin of Gilnockie and Harelaw
Note; Graham tower called The Mote is likely, built from former motte and bailey castle Liddel Strength.
The motte may be to high in elevation, to have water in it, but likely filled up from many years of  River Esk flooding over its banks.
Gilnockie's castle which stone was used for first tower at Gilnockie.
 Given layout;
Layout Gilnockie, Hollows, Hole House, Tower, Castle, Bridge
Added; 8/30/2016 needs further in the field inspection by an archaeologist,  to give verification to which locality had a mote and bailey  castle.  The island on the River Esk likely becGause of flooding, the signs would likely not show. If the one listed on map shows strong signs of a motte; would accept map as being correct, because this would follow patterns of Liddel Strength, and Liddel Castle.
Chronicles of the Armstrongs;
by Armstrong, James Lewis Published 1902
door-stone of Gilnockie Castle built inot Gilnockie Bridge
An example of an ink drawing of the stone which may have been needed to build Gilnockie Bridge;
Likely a closer depiction of early Gilnockie Bridge;
It should be noted that Robert Bruce Armstrong, one who used drawings to document, other drawings in the day, the one above especially was likely used like visitor photos, are used to attract tourist. Feel above drawing really distorts the bridge, and likely was the creation of the artist.
Below is felt to be a closer depiction, but do not feel that landscape is as accurate as Robert Bruce Armstrong’s; THE HOLLOWS TOWER FROM GILNOCKIE’S GARDEN.
Map shows dual arched bridge,  with island bush similar to drawing below.
Gilnockie Tower at Hollows (3)
Looking upstream.
 7/20/2016 MSE
old photo Gilnockie Bridge
Looking downstream, old photo has similarities to 1813, ink drawing, but does not show stone masonary.  added 8/23/2016
Wiki info;
 Gilnockie Castle
The site now known as Gilnockie Castle lies near Canonbie at the east end of Gilnockie Bridge, which crosses the Esk in Hollows, just 500 m to the south east (NY386782). Today, only an earthwork remains, and there is some doubt as to whether a tower stood there, although it is possible that the earlier tower destroyed in 1528 was located there. It is associated with Johnnie Armstrong, Laird of Gilnockie.

7/22/2016 MSE


Gilnockie Tower was originally known as Hollows

Hollows or Gilnockie Tower

Canmore; Gilnockie Tower

Associated Castles; Hollows Tower

Scottish Places; Gilnockie (Hollows) Tower

Border Reiver History Hollows Tower

Gilnockie Tower Hollows Canonbie

7/22/2016 MSE

Gilnockie’s Castle;

Cameos from English History, Volume 4 Gilnockie Castle

Leading to;

Johnie Armstrong’s Last Goodnight.

But when John he went from Giltknock-hall,
 the wind it blew hard, & full fast it did rain,
  Now fare thee well thou Giltknock-hall,
   I fear I shall never see thee again.


Armstrong-Goodnight (1)

At Gilnockie Castle (Garden);

Gilnockie Castle 1784 on rock encomppassed by the water of Esk

Gilnockie Castle 1784 on rock encomppassed by the water of Esk.

Gilnockie cast surrounded by Esk at Hollows.

Gilnockie castle surrounded by Esk at Hollows.


To Bill, Gilnockie is a “Phantom Castle,..

7/23/2016 MSE

Gilnockie Castle (Hall & Gardens);


It is felt that now Gilnockie Hall, is in reference to Johnie Armstrong’s Tower at Gilnockie 8/18/2016

John Armstrong the chieftains castle referred to as; Gilnockie’s Garden, where a ruins to and older castle is, and also referred to Gilnockie’s Castle, since both are in the vicinity of Gilnockie Tower of Gilnockie. It is like he acquired a nearby castle in ruins, which he used stone from likely the hall of this castle to build a tower at Gilnockie (gilknocky geological locality) .

Glenockie Armstrong NH 1885 (1)

The Granite Monthly – Volume 8 – Page 191

THE ARMSTRONG CLAN.—GEORGE W. ARMSTRONG. THE OLD MILFORD SPRINGS HOUSE AND STABLES. VOL. VIII. Nos. VII., VIII. IT is a source of great profit and pleasure to study the characters and lives of those individuals who stand …

Glenockie Armstrong NH 1885 (2) Glenockie Armstrong NH 1885 (3) Glenockie Armstrong NH 1885 (4) Glenockie Armstrong NH 1885 (5)


Likely location of Gilnockie’s Castle-Garden;

note; and old castle ruins owned by Gilnockie, and turned into his garden.


Motte and bailey castles were in ruins at the time of Johnie Armstrong.


Coming to a conclusion that Gilnockie’s Garden, given RB Armstrong’s drawing has to be down on the River Esk, and Gilnockie’s Castle a ruins supplied building stone for Gilnockie’s tower at Gilnockie, rebuilt at Hollows, and Gilnockie Bridge, east end near where Gilnockie  Castle is marked on most maps.

Note; mill and mill dam built after Gilnockie Castle.

Localities for mills are picked where on can obtain the greatest drop, to get the greatest amount of power to operate the mill. Though the river may drop the land beside the river may not creating a high bank or cleft. added MSE 9/12/2016

Likely in the past the water level was high, and therefore the locality was surrounded by water (motted). With the stone being utilized in Gilnockie Tower and an early bridge, there were likely very few stones left at the locality. . Over  five hundred years, of flooding know remnants of Gilnockie’s Castle-Garden-Hall-Mansion would likely not be left at locality.

7/25/2016 MSE rewrite 8/18/2016

The castle at Gilnockie has a natural geological mote in the water of the Esk. rewrite 8/18/2016

Motted on the Liddel Water;

Holehouse Liddesdale Blaeu 1654 map

Should be noted when Holehouse Tower.

Gilnockie Hollows Liddel Strength

Liddel Strength (The Mote/Moat) south of Gilnockie-Hollows Tower.

Liddel Strength (The Mote-Moat)

Liddel Castle near Castleton formally named Castle Town, but after a New Castleton-Newcastleton appeared Castleton became Old Castleton.


It is indirectly from Liddel Castle, with Castle Town, likely built to the east with stone from the ruins which the parish of Castleto(w)n Parish of Liddesdale  acquires its name.

Liddle Caste with Castle Town east

On the Hermitage;

Hermitage Castle on the Hermitage Water has a motte.

Hermitage Castle is moated

7/25/2016 MSE

Naming Sequence;

Castle and old mote and bailey; to become known as Gilnockie’s Castle, but since it was in ruins at the time of Johnie Armstrong of Gilnockie, it is more appropriately, called Gilnockie’s Garden (RB Armstrong). Stone from the castle was used to build a tower at a geological locality, called gilknocky; high on a bank and bordered by the river Esk and a ravine. So the tower built out of castle stone, at Gilnockie was referred to as Gilnockie Tower, and from his estate at Gilnockie, Johnie Armstrong obtained the name Gilnockie. His Gilnockie tower was destroyed, so Gilnockie rebuilt at a place near a hollow/sink-hole, and this was called Hollows, Hollas, and Holehouse Tower. Hollas, a form of hollow, hole, and also likely moved from the borders to Kentucky, Tennessee, southern Indiana, where the word hollar is a rounded out valley. Since the tower belonged at first to Gilnockie, it was known as Gilnockie’s Tower, which became Gilnockie Tower, since the original at the Gilnockie locality no longer existed.

Soldier Hollow; Nordic cross country skiing venue during Utah, USA olympics;


Hollow likely meaning a hollowed (out) region or hole.


The Esk was dammed for a mill, and the fortified entry of the castle was used to build Gilnockie Bridge (corrective rewrite 8/18/2016).

The Dumfriesshire Companion Haig Gordon

The alternative argument is that this really is Hollows and that the original Gilnockie (motted castle) was an earlier structure on the other side of the river. Nigel Tranter, the great chronicler of Scotland’s fortified houses, is adamant: ‘This building is sometimes mistakenly called Gilnockie Tower (unmotted rectangular), the foundations of which in fact survive not far away.’ Whatever its correct name may be, the tower is associated with the notorious gang leader Johnnie Armstrong whose reign of terror throughout the Debatable Land was finally and brutally ended in 1530 by the personal armed intervention of King James V.

Nigel Tranter, makes a good point, and it is felt it the foundations of the original Gilnockie Tower exist they should be searched out an found. The geological locality of gilnockie may be a place to start.

On the map;

Johnnie Armstrong of nearby Gilnockie then Hollows Tower

Map is from a highly reputable resource the Hawick Archaeological Society of 1923


There is a Gilnockie Tower which Nigel Tranter could be referring to, not east, or in the Esk where Gilnockie Castle is located near, and could have foundations as shown on map of Gilnockie Tower, nearyby Hollows Tower. Though the map shows a Hollows and Gilnockie Tower, it is felt the placement on the map, is a approximation.

Nigel Tranter, the great chronicler of Scotland’s fortified houses, is adamant: ‘This building is sometimes mistakenly called Gilnockie Tower, the foundations of which in fact survive not far away.’

7/25/2016 MSE

Tentative Conclusion;

Needs added and on ground research;

Gilnockie Castle once stood upon a rock, eincompassed be water of the River Esk, at what is now Hollows.

Gilnockie Castle once stood upon a rock, encompassed by water, and on the east side of the River Esk, at what is now Hollows.

On the west side of the River Esk an orignal tower was built by Johnie Armstrong known as Gilnockie. The tower was known as Gilnockie’s Tower or just plain Gilnockie Tower.

Johnnie Armstrong of nearby Gilnockie then Hollows Tower

Map; Hawick Archeological Society of 1923.

The original tower of Gilnockie on west bank of Esk, was destroyed and he built another one using stone from the previous tower to the north, near a hollow/hole in the ground. Newer tower at this hollow, since the older one was no longer there but by foundations, which needs verification was know as Gilnockie’s tower or just Gilnockie Tower.

Text may indicate older stone then the Gilnockie-Hollows structure was used in rebuild; It should be noted the newer tower at Hollows was first own by and called Gilnockie’s Tower or Gilnockie Tower.

Since it is felt the stone from the ruins of an old mote and bailey castle in the river esk, was used to build a tower on the west bank of the Esk next to a ravine at a place called Gilnockie (Gilknocky), and this stone was reused to build Gilnockie’s Tower at the hollow (hollas)/hole, it would be interesting to figure out the date of the spiral ornamentation on the door sill.

spiral of door sill of Hollows Tower


As one can see the stone has been worn since the nineteenth century drawing in RB Armstong’s in his History of Liddesdale.


The Prehistoric Rock Art of Southern Scotland

To responding to;

Nigel Tranter, the great chronicler of Scotland’s fortified houses, is adamant: ‘This building is sometimes mistakenly called Gilnockie Tower, the foundations of which in fact survive not far away.’

In response to above; It is felt that from the original Gilnockie Tower, could have been easily destroyed in battle, but the stone where still good and removed to build a replacement Gilnockie Tower at Hollows (at a hollow).

Hollows, old spelling, is hollas, is a hole as in Holehouse.

Hollows Tower, Gilnockie confusion

As one can see publications from 1812 to 1906 the tower which is referred to as Hollows-Gilnockie is being referred to as Holehouse Tower;

(also a reference to Hollows, and Gilnockie’s Garden is made)

Gilnockie's Garden the Tower of Holehouse 1906 Holehouse Tower Scotland The Lowlands Dulau, 1887


Internet Archive BookReader – Chronicles of the Armstrongs;. The BookReader requires … by Armstrong, James Lewis. Published 1902. Topics Armstrong family.

Chronicles of Armstrong Hollows (1)

It is felt after Gillknocky Tower (Hall) burned a tower was built by Gilnockie at a sink-hole called a hollow/hollas;

Border Reivers from the 13th to the 17th centuries. A history-Hollows Tower

It is probable that John Armstrong moved from Liddesdale to Eskdale sometime early in the sixteenth century. It is almost certain that Hollows Tower, just south of Langholm, was built between 1525 and 1528, probably in 1526. Johnnie Armstrong was the brother of Thomas Armstrong of Mangerton, Laird of Mangerton, chief of the..

It is felt that Gilnockie Castle (Hall) on a rock in the east side of the River Esk is a wooden motte and bailey castle, as opposed to a stone tower and that is why it could burn. Likely why stones towers where build by Johnie Armstorng called Gilnockie because the stone tower would not burn.

Example of parts of a motte and bailey castle the door being of stone was one of them. So it is felt the door of Gilnockie Castle (Hall) likely survived the fire and was used in Gilnockie Bridge. Though today’s Gilnockie Bridge is likely updated, and this stone may not of been retained for use in it.

Example of ruins of motte and bailey castle. As one can see the parts most likely wood did not survive.


It is felt after Gilnockie Castle was gone and a tower was used by Gilnockie, this region of the castle ruins was referred to as Gilnockie’s Garden. The rock to build Gilnockie Tower is thought to be taken from the hall of the ruins, which would be nearer the west bank which Gilnockie Tower at Gilnockie was first built. This is why it is felt that Gilnockie Tower at Gilnockie geological formation is referred to as Gilnockie’s Hall. The fortification stone for the door on the east, because less river to cross, was left after Gilnockie Tower at Gilnockie was built left over rock of the east castle entrance was used to build Gilnockie Bridge. . Remnants of the rock of the old castle ruins for the entry on the east side may still exist on the east bank of the Esk, making one think that this was the old location of the main castle. 8/19/2016

Chronicles of Armstrong Hollows (2)

Holhous (Holehouse) known today as Hollows-Gilnockie Tower of 1597 is the stone tower which stood in 1597.

Chronicles of Armstrong Hollows (3)

7/26/2016 MSE


It is still felt the name of the latter built mill Hollows Mill was influenced by Hollows Tower.

With just the foundations  of Gilnockie Tower the only thing left (in question, need site examination) of the first tower west of his castle on the Esk and south of Hollows also known as Hollas and Holehouse Tower, now became known as Gilnockie Tower; felt rock used to rebuild this tower was taken from the original Gilnockie tower at the geological formation of gilknockie.

Hollas Mote 1590 map

As shown by GBnames census mapped 1881 surname distribution; Hollas is interchangeable with Hollows, as a surname.  Region of Hollas Tower, Hollas and Hollows, can be considered old Nothumbria, which excesses during the time of surname adoption.

1590 map predates Blaeu 1654 map.

Hollas GB 1881 distribution Hollows GB 1881 distribution


many corrections and editing made 8/11/2016 MSE, likely more changes to come.

Writer at this date; 8/14/2016, feels that the stone in older structures of Gilnockie Castle after burning, and Gilnockie Tower not the one having been call Hollas, Hollows, and Holehouse, but is located.

It is felt there was a Gilnockie Castle on an island in the River Esk, and a Gilnockie Tower along the ravine which do not exist today, but a Hollows-Gilnockie Tower does.


Gilnockie Hollows Tower Castle (1)



Gilnocky Tower at Hollows;

It is felt that engravings of 1813, were done more to attract tourists than for documentary accuracy, like that of Robert Bruce Armstrong.

Border Antiquities of England & Scotland, Volume 1 Longman & Company, 1813

Gilnockie Tower at Hollows (1)

Gilnockie Tower at Hollows (2) Gilnockie Tower at Hollows (3)

Gilnockie Castle, which then stood upon a rock, encompassed by the water of Esk, Poetical Museum, Hawick 1784

Gilnockie in River Esk (1)Gilnockie in River Esk (2)

8/15/2016 MSE

Correction (8/17/2016)

Location of gealogical features of hollows and gilknocky.


geologic features hollows & gilknocky (5)

geologic features hollows & gilknocky (4)


hollows hollas hole(house)


Holehouse (Hollows), has hard blue inelastic low porosity limestone on top, and below a pores sandstone, clay which can easily be washed away creating a subterranean channel cutting through the meander, causing a hollows (sink-hole), where Hollows Tower;

The hollow, gilnockie-hollow-tower-with-sink-holesink-hole, gave easier access to blue limestone rock strata which would be quarried, and added to the tower. May need closer look to verify tower is limestone, because it could be sandstone or both.

The hole/hollow was quarried; it’s shape is not oval like a regular quarry, but is shaped like the out edges of a sink-hole have been quarried.

Gilnockie Tower column;

Gilnockie Tower sandstone limestone column

Greenknowe Tower having a distinctive red-orange, ferrous oxidated sandstone in it’s architecture,   quite distinctive from the white limestone, showing similar features of Gilknokie’s Tower at Hollows, but with a lot more sandstone in its construction.

Greenknowe Tower, Scottish borders, seen from the south-west.

Greenknowe Tower, Scottish borders, seen from the south-west.

For the corner stone on Gilnockie’s Hollows Tower, limestone was used on the tower. Given the higher compression strength but harder to cut, one can observe by shape an colouration, there is more limestone in the lower part of the tower than the upper part. So it is felt that stone was quarried from the hollow which is at first a sink hole of fractured limestone around its perimeter. to build Gilnockie’s Tower the hollow.

After the limestone had been quarried it did not retained its appearance as a hollow, and was referred there after as a quarry.


quarry and kiln Holehouse


In the above map there is a well. It takes a lot work to have a deep well, but in this case the well water is at the level of the water in the river, which is a very short distance down. This can be easily tested by drilling a new well and measuring the water level in it.

Map shows quarry separate from hollow (sink-hole).

The quarried limestone was put into the kiln as shown on map above to make a cement mortar.

Holehouse is;



Gilnocky built his first tower on a gill-knock next to a ravine from a hall (tower) on a moatlaw (mound in the moat), where the hall of the ruins of the castle he owned was at. Since no mortar was used in the construction, and it was just stacked limestone like the Hermitage Castle of today is, more wood was utilized in the construction, and the hall of the ruins of the castle elevated to a gill-knock and high horizon, next to a ravine and cleft.

With a nearby sink-hole a hollow, where the karstic, enviroment, with the subsurface hydrology, cutting through underlying, softer strata, in the meandering River Esk, much in a manner an ox bow is created and with four inches of this sedimentary strata being coal, in order to have a strong tower, from which Johnnie Armstrong, acquired his name Gilnockie, decided to have mortar utilized for his new place of residence referred to as a, a hollow, or a hollas, a form of the word hollar, which border people brought the the Appalachian Mountains of the southern United States, meaning a hollowed out valley.

Having the availability, of a four inch coal seam, and a high grade blue limestone, Gilknockie, was able to make, by kilning it to the temperature at which cement is made, a mortar used in the construction of his tower at the hollow. This meant for a stronger tower which would last through the ages without burning.

Once Johnnie Armstrong, Gilnockie, put mortar in the construction his tower at the hollow (sink-hole), it made the stone difficult to break away, and therefore reuse, and that would give good reason, besides not in use during the time of The Union is was not destroyed and left standing.

Croyser (Crozier/Crosser), tower at O.(Over) Riccarton, near O.&N. (Over and Nether/under) Larriston of Robert Ellot of Redheugh and Larriston, and of brother Martin of Redheugh-Braidley, and Prickenhaugh.



Having no mortar, made it easy to tear down at time of The Union, but Johnnie Armstrong’s Gilnockie Tower at Hollows, mortar gave it extra strength to survive.

MSE 9/7&9/2016, and 11/5/2016

Hollows-Hollas Hole (Holehouse)

Correction (7/28/2016); Though Hollows is as surname, but vary rare especially in the region. It is felt that the name Hollows came from the hollow, concave in the River Esk in which the mill was built into.


Map indicates hollowed out region in ground next to Hollows Tower;

concave at Hollows Tower

A convave indentation, a hollow-hollas.

above 6/6/2016 MSE

The meanders carving the Esk like a vise on the tower, but the fracture or softer, surfaced blue limestone strata in near the tower, could not hold itself when and underground stream, cut through the clay strata, the upper part sunk, creating an unique feature in the region a hollow (sink-hole).


(correction 8/17/2016)

Gilknocky (1)

Gilknocky (2)


Johnnie Armstrong of nearby Gilnockie then Hollows Tower

Above map shows location of two different towers; One called Gilnockie, the other called Hollows.

Earlier names since;

Gilnockie Tower close to ravine

Gilnockie Tower is close to ravine.


geologic features hollows & gilknocky (1)


Gilnockie Hollows Tower Castle (2)

Above; The Border peel-tower of Gilnockie stood on a small promontory, washed on three sides by the river Esk, so steep, and rocky as to be scarcely accessible except on the land side, and defended there by a deep ditch.

Likely, no remnants of tower at locality since a sluice for the mill went through there;



Gilknocky Gilnockie with tower on bank, castle near bridge.

Above gives Gilnockie Tower on the river bank, and the castle near the bridge. added 8/16/2016

Gilnockie Hollows Tower Castle (4)

8/14/2016 MSE


geologic features hollows & gilknocky (3)

8/17/2016 MSE

Note; It is felt that the castle previous to Gilnockie’s Garden, was previous to Gilnockie. Remnants of the fortification around the door were used to build Gilnockie Bridge.


Conclusion with refinement;

It is felt that there was a castle on a natural geological mote with stone left in the river Esk, with a fortified entry door facing east, at the time of Johnie Armstrong. This was more appropriately called Gilnockie’s Garden. What was referred to as Gilnockie’s castle was in ruins with stone left at location. It should be noted, that though The Hermitage Castle was in use at the time, is not a mote and bailey, like it’s predecessors along the Liddel Water of Liddel Strength or  Liddel Castle.

From the stone of this castle’s hall, Johnie Armstrong built a tower referred to as Gilnockie Tower or Hall, on a high bank on the west side bordered by a ravine and river Esk on three sides. This is the geological region; gilknocky, which Johnie Armstrong of Gilnockie, received his name Gilnockie.  Then this tower was destroyed, and this rock was used to build a new tower, at geological region of hollows. Hollows Tower was a rebuilt from the tower at Gilnockie by Johnie Armstrong called Gilnockie. So Hollows Tower belonging to Gilnockie, was known as Gilnockie’s Tower or just Gilnockie Tower, since the tower at Gilnockie, may only existed as much as foundation only.

Armstrongs of Liddesdale.

The stone of the fortified door on the east entry of the Castle ruins, which was left after building the nearby tower at Gilnockie next to a ravine and on the bank of the river Esk, was used to build Gilnockie Bridge.


Likely future additions, cuts, and corrections. MSE

Johnnie Armstrong is felt to bring about the name Armstrong;



Liddel Water Armystrand to Armstrong

Alexandir Armystrand 1376 was the first recorded in Liddesdale, likely the father of AAII first recorded on Milnholm cross, and buried there in a Christain IHS burial.

Armystrand,  meant an armystrand of towers along the Liddel Water, then in 154o it was recorded as Armistrang, which representing about two thirds of the pre Union border army they the Armistrang were the strong army.

Johnnie Armstrong used a seal with an arm on it;


That brought about the Armstrong of Liddel Water as being called Armstrong.

The shield with arms on it was added to the top of the Milnholme (IHS burial cross near a mill on a large flat bank in which the two of Newcastleton, Scotland now lies) later part of 19th century.

Armstrong shield on Milnholme IHS burial cross.

Bearing the Cross of Milnholm

Another inking in Robert Bruce Armstrong’s, History of Liddesdale…


AAII of Alexandir Armystrand II, who was buried young, it is felt after his wife a name which was from a Scandinavian (shown by Scandinavian broad sword) form of Margaret, was buried beside him, commonly used today among Border descendants one marker for both the wife and husband. So the inscription was changed from AAII to MA AA.

The signature Johnnie Armstrong arm is used for a plaque at his grave site.



Fiona Armstrong on Johnnie Armstrong, Armstrong Clan BBC;


Y-DNA, the Fairbairn, are high in I-M253, Where the Armstrong and Little have a high portion of Fairbairn I-M253. It should be noted it is felt followers of Fairbairn, along the Liddel Water, took their surname Little/Liddel from the Liddel Water, and from being army strand, army strong, along the Liddel Water, and the Fairbairn in the east borders not along the Liddel took the name of their ancestor Fairbairn which likely carried I-M253.

Armstrong Fairbairn I-M253 Y-DNA

8/20/2016 MSE

Email to Robert Armstrong of the University of St. Andrews;

Robert Armstrong, (edited a bit for clarification)

Receive your writing in an email from Keith Elliot Hunter, Historian for Clan Elliot. He has to be the best thing that ever has happen to Clan Elliot in a long time.
Thankfully we live in an age when DNA research is being used in conjunction with more stringent paper trail research to produce a more accurate picture of our history. Y-DNA results show that the mainstream Armstrong descent cluster belong to the R1b-312** Haplogroup and are part of the S389/L624 subtype. The group has a strong Scottish bias. Current thinking points to our ancestors being of Pictish, Beaker Folk or late Neolithic stock. DNA is a relatively new science, and the near future will see numerous exciting advances made. 
Have a link myself which many a UK Armstrong are reading;
It is felt the my name and the Danish name for bear Bjorn evolve out of Lincolnshire County, highly inhabited by Dane, about a 1000 years ago. Lowell Armstrong, and myself Mark Elliott, share 11 out of 12 markers. He is of the Danish Bjorn family, and I am of the Danish Elg (elk Am moose) family. There is a 1000 year old artifact called The Horn of Ulf. A Dane, and Ulf is Anglo-Danish for wolf, Lou is Anglo-Norman for wolf.
Have DNA markers which match surnames Gresham (Grisham, Grissom), Cave, and Scarborough. These places are a part of the Barony of Bourne (Bjorn), in Lincolnshire County.
Myself of the Alan Elwald which name development likely in Lincolnshire;
The Elwold/Elwald, are known in The Chronicles of the Armstrong, Jame Lewis Armstrong MD editor as being from Croyland, along with the name Croyser, which is found in Lincolnshire, and Liddesdale, with that spelling.
In 1376 Locus Croyser, (Robert Bruce Armstrong’s history of Liddesdale and surrounding regions) was use to describe a locus-locality of a valley in Liddesdale, by where the people called Croyser were living. The Croyser name was used in Lincolnshire also, and feel it has affiliation with Croyland, Lincolnshire, County, meaning “land of huts”, and Croyser to become cross, and crozier, at this locality the origins likely meant “hut builders”.
In 1376 in Liddesdale the name was Armystrand meaning an army strand along the Liddel Water. The name Liddell 1924 Eric Liddell, name originated there, and sometimes the name Liddel was misspelled to the more common word little, and became Little. Armstrong and Little have similar localities and their greater numbers have similar origins.
There was a Gilbert Armstrong who died 1375, affiliated pre University to St Andrews;
Gilbert Armstrong of St Andrew
Armystrand in Liddesdale, and Armstrong at St Andrews.
It should be noted that the border Scandinavian, where late in taking surnames.
Where surname adoption took place for a majority of today’s Armstrong is along the Liddel Water.
The name Armystand 1376, became Armistang 1540 meaning a strong army. Though is is felt Johnnie Armstrong, was likely highly educated and his seal ca 1325 had a strong arm on it he used the name of the educated, that of Armstrong, other were in script were given Armistrang.  The name Armstrong not popular to the majestrates in 154o, Armistrang would be use, but withhis popularity growing among the Armistang, the name became Armstrong, especially after The Union, when the Armistrang were no longer considered a strong army.
Clan Armstrong have many origins of the St Andrews name that Gilbert and Johnnie used that of Armstrong, and that name I as an Elliott, can not come to a conclusion on it’s origins, and feel it needs to be left to today’s Armstrong.
The first people in this region with major surname evolution into Armstrong,  which settled along the Liddel Water were the Pict. The archaeology of Pict is  persistant in the region, and St. Ninian of the Diocese of Whitethorne which covers this area converts the Pict to Christianity. The next comers would be the Scandianvians, Dane from the Barony of Bourne, which own a castle at Liddell Strength, referred to as The Mote, and lands of Scarborough Castle, Gresham Castle, and the N&S Cave (Cottingham) later of the Stuteville-Cave-Wake families Normans which also acquired the land of Liddell Strength, and the Viking around the North. Some say these people may not have the impact on the region like first the Pict, then Danes.
Surname adoption for a major part of the Armstrong tough the name existed elsewhere for centuries, likely took place along the Liddel in the fifteenth century.
Mark Elliott    8/25/2016


Though today it is called Hollows, its former names were Hollas and Holehouse ((hollow, hollas, and hole similar in meaning for give dates and localities). There is clear evidence on its eastern side (the one which backs on to the Esk) that the stone to construct the tower was hewn from the ground there with the result that there is a almost vertical incline behind which would add greatly to its defence in any raid from the river side. There is a possibility that ‘Holehouse’ was a fitting name given the massive man-made hole that resulted from the mining of the stone. added by MSE 9/22/2016

Felt there is a subsurface, soft strata cut through of the meander in a manner in which an oxbow would be created making for a pre-quarried sink hole.

Many people surmise that this tower replaced a former one known as ‘Gilnockie’ though evidence is sparse. Just to the south of Hollows, on a promontory above the river Esk which must frame one of the most beautiful sights to be seen in the Scottish Borders, there is a natural defensive platform which shows outlines of some earthwork. This is the supposed site of Gilnockie. A small and simple plaque has been erected in recent times to commemorate the spot.

The name  Gilnockie is of a previous locality, to Hollows, on a rise, and if locality is next to a ravine, where the plaque is this would be the proper locality of Gilnockie Tower, but if the rise is in a centre of a motte, then this for be the locality, of a motte and bailey, castle in ruins which Gilnockie took the stone from, to build at a geological formation next to a ravine, called a gilknocky in which Gilnockie Tower was built upon from castle in ruins which Gilnocky own Gilnockie’s castle.
MSE 9/2/2016

Michael Martin Murphey

If he does not sound like a border singer, he lives in New Mexico, and sometimes Texas,USA. Has written the State of New Mexico’s ballad; what we are known as Land of Enchantment. Have heard him sing is at the Santa Fe, New Mexico Opera house,  and Red Rock Park, Gallup, New Mexico.

Guess this is what happens to a border song when you have been away for centuries;

10/25/2016 MSE

Have You Heard?

About the Anglo-Scottish Border

Issue Sixty-four June/July 2017

The season has started well for Gilnockie Tower, even taking into account the sign at the end of the tower entrance road indicating that the building is “Closed”. By chatting with our budding visitors, we suspect that the majority of people who have driven up the driveway just want to have a ‘cheeky wee keek’ at the building while visiting the Esk Valley area. No doubt they were drawn in by the numerous tradesmen’s vehicles parked by the side of the tower.

If you were one of these visitors, then please accept our sincere apologies that we could not let you witness the changes in all of the rooms within the tower. Boring old health and safety regulations stopped us.

We have many visitors who arrive at the tower searching for kin folks, and they have little they can tell us about the people or places they are researching … other than they did have a relative who lived in the Debatable Lands many, many years ago. We are preparing an explanation document to help describe that process. To initially help us help you: Research weel afore ee sie oos wi the richt hoose, richt dauts, richt sowel, an’ t’en we’el dae whit wi kin tae help ee oot!

Converted into a more common Border dialect: Research well before you meet with us, preferably as near to the correct place, correct dates, and correct person as you can, and then we will do what we can to help you out. Our team want to help the budding historians, so help us and we will endeavour to help you.

From the Tower –

This month, folks, the tower has tested the numerous artisans working in the building at Gilnockie. Having said that, the tower repair work now is coming to an end, with many of the finishing touches being put in place by carpenters, electricians, stone masons and other trades working on site. It is our intention to go into detail, giving you a blow by blow story about what exactly went on. Regretfully, time has caught up with us this last two months, but the tale will be told over the next few months.

All that said, a wee romantic story before we go any further. This one brings tears to my eyes. A few months ago we invited the local fire brigade into the tower to clarify the fire protection needs for the inside of the building. Mike, the fire officer from the Dumfries Fire Station, and I were discussing fire prevention strategy for the first floor of the building when this young man came huffing and puffing up the tower spiral staircase entering into the first floor room, red in the face. “Excuse me,” says I, “can we help?” “Yes!” says our man, “I would love to propose to my girl in front of the Gilnockie Tower Great Hall fire place, if that was in order?” Mike and I looked at each other and in unison said, “Aye Lad, be our guest.”

A few moments later the guy and his elegant lady arrived back, obviously she was not interested in old castles, nor had she any knowledge of what was about to happen. Manoeuvring the lady up to the stone fire place our man gets down on one knee and proposes delicately, lovingly and reverently, looking deep into her eyes. Silence, absolute silence in the room for what seemed like a Millennium, then, with a tear and a simple “Yes,” he swept her into his arms. The official onsite photographers, the fire officer and I recorded the entire event on the couple’s i-Phone.

Regretfully the affair went so quickly we did not get any details other than the number on the back of the black Porsche 911 driving up the roadway and away from the tower. If anyone knows more about this story, please do be so kind as to let us know the final outcome.

We’ll tell you much more about the tower repairs shortly, other than that the decorators have arrived this morning! Getting our ‘Lady of the Esk Valley into an operable condition is our priority.

From The Reiver Trail 60 –

The Reiver Trail 60 has been a part of our Border Reiver tour experience for over 20 years, but alas it is reaching a time in its life where tender loving care is required. We have set up a group who will look at how we can inject more information along with more interest into the experience, but this will take time.

The Reiver Trail as it is at the moment takes the visitor back to the days when their forefathers were part of the Debatable Lands between England and Scotland. Definitely, we’ll say more on this extremely interesting subject as travel we through our HYH journey.

A Grave Situation!

The theft of the land around the Johnnie Armstrong grave at Teviothead remains an ongoing problem, with little help from our politicians, either local or National. Again it is our intention to go deep into the root cause of this problem, with the hope that some of the recipients of this newsletter can help us raise the roof at Holyrood, Edinburgh and start the recovery process of the land at Teviothead. We’ll have much more on that subject as we develop this newsletter.

Owt Else –

Roger O. LaPointe, Staff Writer, with the Sentinel-Tribune (Bowling Green, Ohio) published the rather interesting and attached article “Tartan’s tale weaves together BG man, Neil Armstrong, piece of history lands at Ohio History Connection after 45 years, on the 3rd July 2017”. Part of the content relates to the Neil Armstrong Lunar or Moon tartan produced in the town of Langholm, the textile town 6 miles to the north of Gilnockie Tower.

Dyeing or colouring the woollen yarn to the designer’s specific colours and woven by a local factory known as the ‘Mill on the Hill’ on the outskirts of the town, this beautiful tartan was a great success during the time Armstrong made history on another sphere in space. Ian Maxwell was the factory owner at the time and tartan designer named the tartan The Moon Tartan and The Lunar Tartan made in Armstrong’s honour, to celebrate his journey and landing on the moon’s surface, and of course his visit to the Muckle Toon o’ Langholm.

If you view the International Tartan Index it records that “The black, brown and grey were from the lunar rock brought back to earth by the Apollo flights, and the red was for the rocket flame.” A sample length of the cloth is still held in the Clan Armstrong Trust archive and can be viewed upon request.

Below is a link you can use to check out the Sentinel-Tribune on-line version of this story, and a photo of the tartan can be viewed.


The author apologies for the length of this HYH. Pressures developed by the ‘Lady of the Valley’ have taken him away from the HYH document content, but this next month, August 2017 we can get into the real story of the Anglo-Scottish Border Esk Valley.

There are only a couple of pages in this issue. So for the readers who have mentioned in their communications with me that their coffee had gone cold by the time they had read the content in issue 63, I await your comments on these pages with interest.

Our grateful and everlasting thank you to those who help us, Thank you.

Aye tae ee a’,


Gilnockie Tower will open as a Visitor Centre very shortly.

Connect us on gilnockietower@gmail.com and Mobile/Cell Phone: 07733 065587

8/6/2017 MSE

Hermitage Castle’s Infinis’ Windy Edge