Barnhills Tower was a pele tower built by the Turnbull clan in the 16th century, situated on the high left-bank of the Craigend Burn, west of Jedburgh, east of Minto, and north of the River Teviot. Its ruins – a vaulted basement and the trace of a stair in one corner – are now buried in the woods there. The tower was oblong, built mainly of freestone, and measuring 7.6m by 10m, with the north-south axis being the longest. The ground floor had a vaulted ceiling, two windows and gun loops.
Barnhills was the home of the Turnbulls of Barnhills, a notorious reiving family roving the border regions during the War of the Rough Wooing. The tower lies at the foot of the Minto Crags, a shelf of which was known as Barnhills Bed as was reputed to be the hidden refuge of the Turnbulls during their raids. In 1545, Barnhills Tower was burned down by the 1st Earl of Hertford and his men – another victim of the Rough Wooing’s devastation of the Borders. Whether it was ever fully-rebuilt or not, it was one of the houses appointed to watch the fords of the River Tweed in 1548-49. A fanciful legend holds the notion that an underground passage ran from Barnhills Tower to Fatlips Castle (also the property of the Turnbulls of Barnhills) atop Minto Crags.
‘On Minto-crags the moonbeams glint,
Where Barnhill hew’d his bed of flint
Who flung his outlaw’d limbs to rest,
Where falcons hang their giddy nest,
Mid cliffs, from whence his eagle eye
For many a league his prey could spy
Cliffs, doubling, on their echoes borne,
The terrors of the robber’s horn.’
- The Lay of the Last Minstrel, by Sir Walter Scot