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Abernethy Round Tower

The Tower is one of the two round towers of Irish style surviving in Scotland, dating from the end of the 11th century.

Abernethy Round Tower

An unusual tower in Scotland

The round tower at Abernethy is one of only two such towers in Scotland. The other is at <Brechin>. Both are thought to have served as the bell tower for an adjacent church, as well as providing a secure place for members of the community and their treasured possessions in times of danger. Quite why or how Abernethy acquired its bell tower is a mystery.

The tower is approximately 22m high and 5m in diameter. It is believed to date from around AD 1100, judging by the decoration around the first-floor doorway and the four belfry windows. There was a church at Abernethy from at least the 7th century. This soon became the episcopal centre of the Pictish church but during the 12th century lost its place in the ecclesiastical hierarchy to St Andrews. The bell dates to 1782 and the clock to 1868. The tower still functions as the bell tower for the present parish church.

An Irish import

Round towers are as Irish as brochs are Scottish. Nearly 100 may have been built in Ireland between AD 900 and 1200, and over 60 survive today. They include impressive examples at Clonmacnoise, Glendalough and Kells. Their prime function was as bell towers (their early Irish name, cloicthe[a]ch, means bell house), although they were used as treasuries and refuges.

Only three Irish round towers are known of outside Ireland – at Brechin and Abernethy, both in Scotland, and at Peel on the Isle of Man. Contrary to popular belief, there is no direct architectural link between these towers and the round towers attached to churches found in Orkney, such as <St Magnus Church, Egilsay>.  

An odd attachment

On the outside face of the tower is a Pictish symbol stone. It was unearthed in School Wynd and mounted on the tower in the 20th century. The surviving symbols are a hammer and anvil, unusually separated by a ‘tuning fork’, above a crescent and V-rod.

Across Scotland, there are more than 200 examples of unworked stone incised with Pictish symbols. The stone at Abernethy is one such. The precise meaning of the symbols is unknown.  

Highlights
  • The climb to the top of the tower – well worth the effort.
  • The view from the top – towards the Firth of Tay.
  • The Pictish symbol stone – a fascinating ‘added extra’

Related links
www.museumofabernethy.co.uk

www.pictishstones.org.uk homepage
Find out more about Pictish Stones at www.pictishstones.org.uk

Facilities

Strong Footwear Recommended

Location

Region – Perthshire, Kinross and Angus

Located in the village of Abernethy off the A913; east of the Bridge of Earn.

Grid reference - 58 NO 192 163.

Access


Access is via a high metal spiral stair.

The key is available from the adjacent 'Berryfields Tearoom' on Mondays and Wednesday-Saturday from 10.00am to 5.00pm and on Sundays from 10.00am to 4.00pm (the tearoom is closed on Tuesdays).