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Comlongan Castle, Dumfriesshire


SOME eight miles S.E. of Dumfries, on the flat plain of the Solway, stands the well-preserved 5th-century tower of Comlongafl, with a large modern mansion adjoining. It is oblong on plan, measuring 421 by 48 feet, is rubble- built, and is provided with the base-course or plinth so common in this district, probably owing to the marshy nature of the ground. The basement is vaulted and has an entresol floor, and there are three more storeys beneath the parapet. The walls are i i to i ~ feet thick and are honeycombed with mural chambers, and in this respect, as in others, Comlongan resembles the contemporary tower of Elphinstone, East Lothian.

The entrance is in the North wall and is reached by a short flight of steps, being some 3 feet above ground-level, owing to the down¬ward slope of the g~ound from South to North. The doorway is arched and is still secured by a fine iron yett. The door opens on to a mural passage with a recessed seat for the porter to the right, the turnpike stair rising to the left, in the N.E. angle. In the centre of the ground-floor chamber is a well, and at entresol¬level a newel stair in the S.W. angle communicates with the Hall above.

The Hall on the first floor is large and stone-flagged, and contains a finely carved fireplace in the West wall. It is well lit, the three larger windows having stone seats, and in the West end of the South wall is an elaborately carved aumbry of late Gothic style. There are two mural chambers, that in the North wall being reached by descending some ten steps. It is sub¬divided to form a guard-room and a prison, and from the former a hatch in the floor gives access to an extremely unpleasant pit or prison below. This narrow chamber, which is at ground-level, is unlighted, and is accessible only from the hatch. At Hall level in the East wall is a large kitchen fireplace, which was screened off from the Hall by a partition, thus forming a small kitchen.

Between first and second floors a mural chamber opens from the stair, in the North wall. The second floor has been subdivided, each chamber containing a fireplace, and being well provided with garderobes and mural cupboards, and the third floor is very similar.

There was a garret within the parapet, which is supported on corbels of three members. A peculiar feature is the roofing in of the parapet walk at the West side, to form a gallery. It is provided with a fireplace, lamp-recess and drain, and is lit by windows formed by the embrasures of the parapet. This gallery would make a useful chamber for the garrison.

The stair terminates in a cap-house, the top of which forms a watch-tower, as at Dundas and Mains Castles. In the S.E. angle of the parapet walk is another little roofed-in enclosure, which was probably added at the same time as the West gallery. It also has a watch-turret attached to its Northern gable.

Comlongan was built by the Murrays of Cockpool, the old castle of Cockpool having stood quite near the present structure.
The old tower itself is no longer inhabited.

Source: The Fortalices and Early Mansions of Southern Scotland 1400 to 1650. Tranter, Nigel. Published by The Moray Press, Edinburgh & London (1935)

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