round tower
12th century


NO 192 163
off A913
Perth and Kinross


open site
key available
at nearby cafe


Undiscovered Scotland
Historic Scotland


Abernathy Tower

a view of the entrance to the low tower, in the churchyard

12th century Irish-Style round tower

There are only two round towers in Scotland - Abernathy and Brechin --both standing in churchyards. We visited tons of round towers in Ireland, wondering what they were really used for, why they were built the way they were, and discussing the varous theories surrounding them (I'm quite sure the 'hide from the vikings' theory is not true, these things would go up like a chimney if you lit them on fire). At any rate, it was quite surprisig to realize that the architectural style was so uncommon here.

You can enter this one if you get the key from the caretaker, and climb to the top via a modern spiral staircase. Originally, of course, the floors would have been reached by ladder, that (at least anecdotally) was pulled up afterwards.

the re-roofed tower / one of the four blocked windows

Abernathy was a major hub in the pictish kingdoms, and has been a population center since the bronze age. When the bishopric moved from Abernathy to Dunblane in the 12th century, the priory here remained, and the tower was part of the church grounds, which included a collegiate church that stood in the town until the early 19th century. At the moment, it seems to stand alone, only barely related to the nearby church, and certainly stands out among the buildings in town.

The tower was built in two stages, and you can see the differences in the masonry as it rises - the lower part of the tower is quite gray, and may have been built earlir than the rest of the tower, or the higher parts were probably rebuilt at some point.. Thw tower is 75 feet tall and 15ft in diameter at ground level. It tapers a bit to the top. The roof is a modern repair, replacing the original conical roof. Thw windows, too, have been filled in.

The tower has been repurposed as a clock tower in modern times, and in its earlier life was obviously used as public stocks - a "joug", a collar and chain atached to the tower. where wrongdoers would be fastened and left on display. A carved pictish stone, decpiting a tuning fork, anvil, and other decoratve designs, stands beside the churchyard gate.

the 'joug", or stocks and the pictish stone at the base of the tower

We didn't go inside - the nearby tearoom was closed, so no way to get the key. There is also a nearby Museum of Abernethy, which is housed in a repaired stable building on the Culdees monastery groundsl it has a collection of local finds and historic displays.