‘Bastles’, probably from the French ‘bastille’, are fortified farmhouses built mainly in the late 1500s. They are unique to the Anglo-Scottish Border and were built as a response to the danger of living in a place that had seen almost continual war for three hundred years.
They aren’t big – simple two-storey buildings about ten by six metres. Their walls are immensely thick and constructed of massive boulders. The people lived in the single upstairs room which could only be reached by a ladder that was drawn up after them, while their animals could be protected downstairs in times of danger. From a distance they don’t look special but close up their primitive power is deeply impressive.
There are several hundred bastles in Northumberland, some fragmentary, some complete. Most are on private land but this Trail allows access to several as part of walks through some of the wildest countryside in England.