Prestonpans, EH32 9GZ
Phone: 01620 827 827
Preston Tower is a category-A listed, partially ruined tower house nestling in the heart of the town of Prestonpans in East Lothian. Its lower storeys are possibly of late 14th century construction while the upper two storeys were added during the Renaissance era, in 1626.
Standing, as it did, overlooking the main north-south route ten miles or so from Edinburgh it attracted more than a passing interest from any invading army. It was burned, along with the adjacent town of Prestonpans in 1544 by the English army under the Earl of Hertford during the Rough Wooing and then again by Cromwell’s troops in in 1650. After being rebuilt, its upper storeys were burned once again, by accident this time, in 1663 and the keep was finally permanently abandoned.
A prominent built feature on the low-lying Forth coast, it has been a treasured monument in the area ever since its last occupants left. Walter Scott is known to have played there as a child when he briefly lived in the town with his aunt and JMW Turner sketched it on a trip to the area in 1834. It had, however, fallen into a parlous state by the late Victorian era when a number of locals rallied around to consolidate its remaining walls and floors and save it for future generations.
In the early 20th century it functioned as the unusual centre-piece of a commercial market garden and in the late 1960s it passed into the ownership of the National Trust for Scotland. Since 1972, the National Trust has had an arrangement with the local authority to maintain the structure and its nearby lectern-shaped doocot.
Plans are now underway to repair both the tower and doocot buildings and, hopefully, make it safe enough again for regular public access, which has not been possible for decades.
Doors Open Days 2021 will offer the opportunity to find out more about the history of the tower and plans for its future and to get involved in helping decide what will happen. Both online and at the gardens (weather permitting) there will be a programme of talks, feedback opportunities and children’s activities.
The project has been made possible with the assistance of Scottish Government regeneration funding and builds on the work of Salt of the Earth – Preston, Seton, Gosford Heritage Connections, a Heritage Lottery funded project whose partial aim is to raise awareness of the built, natural and intangible heritage assets of the area.
If you can’t make it along in person this Doors Open Days weekend please take a few minutes to enjoy a “virtual visit” below with a short tour of Preston Tower specially made by Artibrand for Doors Open Days this year.
We will also use the project’s Facebook page to host a programme of pre-recorded video talks about the tower and the future works (history, archaeology, stone mason and architects) and you might also like this film made at the Tower last year with local stonemason Gardner Molloy who carried out the last emergency repairs on its fabric almost twenty years ago.
Visit in Person
Doors Open Days activities will take place in the gardens around Preston Tower and Doocot on Saturday 25th and Sunday 26th September from 11am to 3pm.
Come along to the Tower gardens to join in with any of the activities, music, talks and find out more about the proposed developments. No booking required.
The weekend includes:
- A stonemasonry workshop with local stonemason Gardner Molloy (both days).
- Scottish Castles storytelling and a children’s craft activity with community librarian Mark Jamieson (Saturday).
- Live acoustic music from local musicians Gary Coupland and Anna Scott (Sunday)
- Updates on the ongoing project to repair Preston Tower and Doocot from architect Natasha Huq (Sunday) and from heritage consultant Lyndsey Clark (heritage consultant) and interpretation designer Stephen Kirkpatrick (both days).
- Giant Jenga for everyone to play with and build a tower.
- A photographic display showing internal, external and aerial views of Preston Tower as well as new plans to improve access to the adjacent garden.
- Tower gardens ideas prints – what would you like to see at the end of the new path in the garden.
- A video collage of the on-going project at Preston Tower Garden, showing internal images, views from the tower and drone footage around the tower.
- East Lothian Playrangers activities (Sunday)
Please note that access inside Preston Tower and Doocot will not be available to the public at this time, but come and hear about the plans in progress to secure access to both in the near future.
Prestonpans train station (on the North Berwick line) is just a five minute walk away and the No.26 (Clerwood-Tranent) Lothian bus service stops even closer still just outside Hamilton House on West Loan.
If you plan to come by car, please park in the nearby Prestonpans Community Centre car park (see map below).