To the North of Bankend, and easily visible from the road, sits Isle Tower. Just a couple of miles south of Caerlaverock Castle, it has also been known as Greenhill Tower, Lochar Tower and Isle of Caerlaverock.
Only the north portion remains to any height, though a subsided wall and fallen stones are evident. There are indications that the tower was surrounded by walls, as traces of building have been found on both sides of the Lochar Water. The meanders of the water will have protected the tower on three sides.
The tower does indeed become an island during floods (Photo credit: Sandy Stevenson, Dec 2015).
Edward Maxwell founded the small three storey tower – a stone T plan tower house. This site mentions that it was cited in an English report of the 1560’s and also that the present building bore the date 1622 on a panel in the north east wall.
Herein lies the end of the history portion of this article…
Your intrepid community ‘research team’, in pursuit of some original photos of our own, decided to go in search of the ‘well worn path’ to the Tower we’d read about. Round and round we cycled, until we asked a kind Bankend resident for advice. On checking his OS map, he suggested having a look…
***Close your eyes now***(if you’d like to find it for yourselves)
…on the lane leading towards the church.
There is a signpost in fact, and two ‘proper path’ gates which lead you into a field of sedate sheep. We kept tothe edge of said field, so as not to disturb the flock, and ventured optimistically on towards the gate leading into the field where the tower stoically stands.
At some point, it must have registered that there were larger stock in this field, as we picked up a stick each, for reasons known to those who’ve watched ‘One Man and his Dog’.
We confidently entered the Isle field, and made our way towards the tower, which seemed remarkably close at this stage…
Things became a bit blurry from here-on-in, because next, I found myself clambering up the aforementioned crumbling wall of the tower, and soon after, the herd of young bullocks had surrounded us in an ever decreasing circle of ‘inquisitive’ muscle! It was also around this time I remembered my very real fear of heights.
Two other things I recall – we discussed at length the pros and cons of many potential manoeuvres on our part, and we decided it would be sensible to put our bicycle helmets on. Hi-vis cycling gear (including brilliant red jacket) didn’t seem such a good idea anymore! Funny how news stories and urban myths play with your mind at moments like this!
There was one particular bullock who stood out from the herd – a large ginger beast who liked to show off his superior strength with mock charges, magnificent head tosses and inspiring foot-kicks. It was impressive. I was impressed. The rest of the herd liked to show us just how fast they could run a few paces, then quickly turn heel to face us again. En masse. In synchrony. A brief conclusion: they can run faster than we can!
It is worth a quick mention at this point that Vodafone does not work at the Isle Tower. Luckily the Three network fares better.
After a quick google, “How to escape a field of lively bullocks”, to my great alarm, Malcolm stepped brazenly out into the field, heroically holding aloft his stick and shouting brave noises of confidence. As the herd scattered, I had that awful ‘now or never’ notion, and found myself scrambling from my sanctuary of safety and heading out after him, asking ‘what’s our contingency plan?’.
Realising that there wasn’t one, our shaky voices could be heard echoing around the houses of Bankend as we made steady progress towards the main gate (the ‘proper-path gate’ was now about 5 miles away…).
The desperate urge to run was tempered by the distant knowledge that a spooked cow is not a happy cow. So we edged closer and closer to the gate – horrified that the ginger leader had got separated from his gang. We stuck together, making ourselves insurmountably large with our sticks, and unbelievably loud of bellow… and made it, unimaginably, to and over the gate.
Which should have felt like an immense relief – but The Fear overtook everything! It wasn’t a pretty sight. We unashamedly acknowledged what a scary experience it had been!
But don’t let our towny bumblings put you off – Isle Tower is a relatively unknown place of our local history, full of intrigue and dramatic poise! Please excuse (understand?) the below-par quality of our photographs…thanks to those who allowed us to use theirs instead!
I’m not sure if this was the kind of story Mostly Ghostly Investigations (whom we owe credit and thanks for some info and photographs) were interested in, but it certainly made it a memorable visit!
Isle Tower must have some stories to tell! Is there any more you can add? Please let us know at: