Abernethy and Elcho Castle

Abernethy Round Tower

Abernethy is a picturesque Perthshire village which we’ve never visited before. Intrigued by the description of its Round Tower, we set off last Sunday to put that right. The first place we called into was Berryfields Tearoom – don’t judge! It was because they hold the tower key – and what an impressive key it is. Not one you could lose easily.

The tower is one of only two remaining Irish Celtic-style towers in Scotland (the other being in Brechin). It dates from around 1100 and, as well as functioning as a bell tower, it has served as a secure place for local people and their possessions in times of danger.

Inside, about 100 steps lead to the roof where there are good views of the village. Despite being April, and theoretically Spring, it was perishing cold up there so we didn’t stay long.

Back outside, we looked at the jougs on the wall in horror – a medieval iron collar and chain used for punishment. Less unpleasant was a stone carved with Pictish symbols, maybe from the 7th century, which was found nearby.

Abernethy village

On returning the key, the smell of food was so enticing that we stayed in the tearoom for lunch (and a warm-up). Good food and friendly service – we recommend it. Fortunately we were planning a walk to get rid of some of the excess calories! First of all, though, we took a gentle stroll around the village which we found very attractive with its pretty cottages.

We also loved Nurse Peattie’s Garden. Nurse Peattie was the District Nurse who served Abernethy from 1936-1963. She travelled around by bicycle until, as she aged, the community clubbed together to buy her a car. The garden was dedicated to her in 1966 and has been maintained and improved ever since – what a lovely story!

Abernethy Glen

A slightly more energetic circular walk of about 3.5km took us to Castle Law via Abernethy Glen. Part of the walk was on a rough track called Witches Road, named after a coven of 22 local women who, according to legend, were burnt to death on Abernethy Hill. Another horrible piece of history.

Elcho Castle

After we’d finished our walk it was still only mid-afternoon, so we drove a few miles further to Elcho Castle, a place we have visited before but not for many years. Built around 1560 by the Wemyss family (pronounced Weems), the fortified mansion is one of Scotland’s best-preserved 16th century tower houses (though it still has a few floors missing as you can see in the gallery).

A short walk away, next to the duck pond, is Elcho Doocot (dovecote) which has to be one of the prettiest I have seen.

After that, it really was time to head for home and put our feet up for a well-deserved rest.


  1. I remember seeing a round tower in the southwest corner of Ireland years ago. It was apparently one of the oldest. I can’t remember the name of the little fishing village where it was situated, so I went to google to try to prod my memory. I came across the website below that cites someone who claims the design of the round towers allowed them to function like resonators, or a type of radio tower.




  2. A fascinating walk round with you as always! Such interesting though rather gruesome stories – those poor women 😦 Love the story about the district nurse and the preserved old tower. I don’t blame you for going into the tearooms – I would have done exactly the same! 🙂


  3. That is an impressive key, but judging by how many people try to walk off with our equally large museum toilet key, I’m willing to bet they’ve lost a few over the years! The jougs and witch site are grim, though fascinating, but the lovely garden and duck pond make up for it. Love the duck gate!


  4. Hi Anabel – what a great little tour … I’ve never heard of ’round towers’ before – so interesting to read about them. A delightful village – mighty cold, I bet with the winds we’ve been having. History has its moments doesn’t it … and we wouldn’t be here but for all those horrors – not sure much has changed – but am so glad I’m a Brit and born in this age – but love finding out about the history … though am very glad I was never strung up! I’ve just given a talk about the Dissolution of Monasteries from the POV as a Revolution … so albeit there weren’t many horrors there were one or two monstrosities – typical of the day. Can I say – cheers … Hilary


  5. What lovely towns! But you are right about the history..most historical sights are great to see and I’m so glad we have them, but every once in a while they remind us of parts of history that are very disturbing.