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Merchiston Tower


Merchiston Tower is the ancestral home of the Merchiston Napiers. The most famous Laird of Merchiston was John Napier, who among other things was an accomplised mathematician. He will be remembered for inventing logarithms. From the middle of the 17th Century the Tower was owned by the Lowis family for a period of about 100 years. Thereafter the Tower came back into the possession of the Napier family, but gradually the estate lands were sold off and eventually the Tower became a boys' school. The family sold the Tower to the school who in turn moved out in the early 1930s.

The Tower was subsequently bought by Edinburgh Council and, after extensive restoration work which has removed all the additional buildings which were attached around it over the years, it is now the centrepiece of the Merchiston Campus of Edinburgh Napier University. The building stands in the middle of what was the Merchiston estate, an area of approximately one square mile, which became a suburb of Edinburgh in the nineteenth century. Today, the writers Alexander McCall Smith and Ian Rankin own homes in Merchiston. Until recently, J K Rowling also lived here.

Lauriston Castle

lauriston castle

Sir Archibald Napier, the father of John (of Logarithms), built the original castle for the first son of his second marriage, who was also called Archibald. The castle overlooks the shores of the Forth estuary, north-west of central Edinburgh. It has been added to and restored over the years (most notably in the early 19th Century) but there is enough left of the original building to give an idea of what it must have looked like when the Napiers lived here.

Kilmahew Castle

kilmahew castle

Kilmahew Castle is still standing, but it is in a sadly ruinous state. It was the home of the Kilmahew Napiers for 18 generations until 1820. The estate had to be sold at that time to pay off the gambling debts of the last Laird.

Dr. Patrick Napier of Virginia, who is the progenitor of the majority of Napiers in the USA, has been shown to be a descendant of the Kilmahew Napiers.

Culcreuch Castle

culcreuch castle

Culcreuch Castle is close to the village of Fintry, near Loch Lomond. The tower was built in the fourteenth century, when the the land belonged to the Galbraiths. They occupied it for 17 generations: it is the ancestral home of the Clan Galbraith.

It was sold in 1632 to Robert Napier. He was one of the Merchiston Napiers, in fact the second son of John Napier the mathematician and inventor. He and his family were Lairds of Culcreuch for five generations before selling the estate in 1769.

Although further wings have been added, and extensive changes have been made to the outside of the building over the years, the original tower can still be clearly identified.

It is now a hotel. See the Culcreuch Castle Hotel website, where there is an excellent section on the history of the estate. Click on the timeline there to see further details of past ownership.

Last modified:
5 November 2015

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