My main reason for visiting Minto (see last post) was to see Fatlips Castle, a picturesque pele tower perched on top of the Minto Crags which can be seen from miles away.
The original pele tower was built as a stronghold for the Turnbull Border Reiver clan of Bedrule (a village about a mile from Minto) in the early 16th century before being burnt to the ground by the Earl of Hertford during a raid on the Scottish Borders in 1545.
The castle was rebuilt in 1857 by the Elliots of Minto and modified into its current form in 1897 by Sir Robert Lorimer for the 4th Earl of Minto. It was used as a shooting lodge and a private museum until the late 1960s, following which it fell into disrepair and was heavily vandalised. The exterior was refurbished in 2013 with funding from Historic Scotland, Scottish Borders Council, the Minto Estate and private donations.
Why Was It called Fatlips?
The origin of the curious name is uncertain but a plaque at the site puts forward three possible theories:
- One of the Turnbulls had thick lips.
- There was a goat nicknamed Fatlips which warned of the approaching English by bleating loudly.
- Gentlemen were traditionally allowed to kiss one of the ladies on entering.
How to Get to Fatlips Castle
The location is marked on this map:
You can park on the roadside or at the start of the wooded track shown on the map, then start walking.
Minto Crags are of volcanic origin and they rise abruptly above the surrounding countryside so the path to the top, which is clearly signposted, is steep. It takes half an hour or so to reach the castle. It’s an easy enough walk but you are sure to be puffing a bit by the time you get there.
The path is likely to be muddy so suitable footwear is required. There is a patch of stinging nettles near the top so long trousers are recommended.
You will be rewarded with excellent views of the Teviot valley and the scenic Borders landscape.
The metal grille door to the castle was firmly bolted when I visited the other day but I believe it is possible, during normal non-Covid days, to obtain a key from the Thos. B. Oliver Garage in Denholm for £10, of which £5 is refunded on return of the key.