Binns Tower, Dalyell’s Folly and The Wager are all names for the same turret located at the top of a steep hill on the ‘House of the Binns’ Estate in Linlithgow. It’s said to be visited by a long dead Pictish warrior, the Ghost of ‘Bloody Tam Dalyell’ and overlooks a pond said to be occupied by a malevolent water spirit known as Green Jeanie. Designed by Alexander Allan in 1826 it is positioned at the highest point of the park and designed to both overlook and be seen by the neighbouring landowners – the Hopes – a family that Sir James Dalyell was quite content to upset.
The tower was commissioned by Sir James Dalyell in 1825 and legend has it that it was the result of a bet to see which gentleman of the area could spend £100 in the most pointless but witty way. Sir James won the wager when he proposed building a tower that would overlook his neighbour’s estate. Rivalry had existed between the Hopes, recently wealthy from their banking enterprises and the Dalyells who perceived themselves as ‘elder’ and therefore more aristocratic gentry even though their original fortune had been made by Thomas Dalyell in London around 1605 – some say by supplying butter to the King.
The tower is three stories tall and built to match the architecture of the main house. It has faux battlements and was built with a spiral staircase that went all the way to the viewing platform at the top. It is roughly 36ft tall and uses the bedrock of the hill for its foundations. The ground floor was originally made from limestone mortar and surrounded by a gravel enclosure. Over the decades since its construction it fell into disrepair and is said to have become quite unsafe. In 1994 the ‘House of Binns’ and the associated estate were gifted to the national Trust of Scotland. In 2002 Dalyells great folly was restored by The Pollock Hammond Partnership.
It is the highest point in the region for many miles and shares the hilltop with an official ‘trig’ beacon. Its superb location offers excellent views of the Firth of Forth, the Pentland Hills, Blackness Castle and the estate itself including the now ruined stables and the Scottish Baronial manor house. It is located 4.5 miles east of the Forth Bridge and 14 miles from Edinburgh City centre
The Hill of Binns where the tower is located is apparently a hot spot for strange behaviour and supernatural phenomena. In fact, there are so many stories and legends it hard to choose which ones are best. Here are few to mull over:
- THE SPIRITS OF WARRIORS PICTS
Local legend holds that the hill was once a hill fort used by ancient Britons. They held out against all odds and were the last tribe of Picts in the region to be defeated by the roman invaders. In the end, the Romans were forced to retreat back to what is now Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Many visitors to the estate have claimed to see the wizened figure of an old man dressed in cloths from this period. According to witnesses he collects wood which he then stacks into pyres.
- THE GHOST OF A BRUTAL GENERAL
The house was once occupied by General Tarn Dalyell who by all accounts was a ruthless soldier and willing instrument of suppression. According to legend it was the same general that introduced the ‘thumbscrew’ torture into Scotland. He was said to regularly talk to the Devil and even played cards with him on a regular basis. On dark moonless nights people have claimed to see the ghost of the General riding a snow white horse across the ruined bridge and up to the tower – even though it was only built long after he had died.
- MEDITATION WITH THE DEVIL
Just below the tower is a cave where General Tarn is said to have retreated to meditate although many wonder exactly what sort of meditation would attract such a violent and brutal man. There are those that believe the cave may have once been linked to a tunnel that is said to have run from the house to Blackness Castle. The tunnel was sealed up by Robert Dalyell during the 1740’s after a dog entered the gloom and was never seen again. There were also reports that the air that came out of the opening was foul and poisonous.
Camping and Caravanning Club Site
Scone Palace Caravan Park, Stormontfield Road, Scone
Tayside, Scotland, PH2 6BB
+44 (0)1738 552 323
- Address: A904, Linlithgow, Edinburgh, East Lothian, Scotland, UK, EH49 7NA
- GPS: 55.99124447553352,-3.522047289477541
- Phone: 0044 (0)1506 834 255
- Part of UK: Scotland
- Sat Nav Postcode: EH49 7NA
- Disabled Access: Poor
- Visibility from Road: Fair - From a distance
- Image Credits: Terry Kettlewell