The site of battle, bloodshed , reiving and romance, the courtyard would have been surrounded with a barmkin wall during the 15th and 16th centuries, designed to contain livestock. The original pele or tower came first, the T shaped construction extending from this fortified structure as the family grew in importance and wealth. The main building extends NE and SW with a circular tower projecting from the East corner. The reconstructed Kerr kitchen completes the T shape. The castle was rebuilt in 1598 from the remains of an earlier building, the strength of the undercrofts c.1470 have ensured their survival and they continue to support the fortress today. Each of the undercrofts was designed as a storehouse and would have been used to store, amongst other items, weapons, wine, grain, meat and cattle, it was commonplace to keep a milking cow in these areas, a narrow vent leading from the under croft byre to the floor above made a valuable contribution to the heating.
The foundations of a third wing, buried beneath the modern courtyard project N.W. from the North corner of the main block, This building was most likely removed when the castle was remodelled in the 17th century. A string course, running along the bottom of the windows showing clearly where the missing wing used to stand. Gun holes both ornamented and plain keyhole designs are a feature on the projection containing the staircase from the great hall and on the East tower, the location of the Laird’s private study.
The tower is constructed with the addition of projecting towers, known as studies, the original building featured these towers. There have been many alterations and additions to the building throughout the centuries. The castle has sustained serious damage on a number of occasions, particularly in 1546 and again by Lord Ruthven in 1591. Major reconstruction was completed in the 17th century with some alterations in the 18th and 19th centuries. The 20th century saw the addition of a doorway into the youth hostel kitchen in the 1930’s, while the major restoration work carried out during the 1980s added a thatched bothy house and a stone stairway from the courtyard into the kitchen area.
Lady Lothian’s Chapel
Inspired by St. Margaret’s Chapel at Edinburgh Castle, the 12th Lady Lothian created a little place of worship in one of the vaulted undercrofts. This pretty chapel contains a display of the many gifts designed and made for Lady Antonella by local craft workers, who she greatly admired and supported in their work in the Scottish Borders. Here also are displayed some of the many gifts presented to Lady Lothian by the communities she sponsored in her campaigns for the equality of women in all societies and the promotion of women in business. The chapel is used today by Lord and Lady Ralph Kerr and their family
The Seal of Lord Jedburgh a title awarded to Sir Andrew Kerr by James I in 1622
The Clan Kerr Museum
The second of the undercrofts on view has been converted into a treasure trove dedicated to the story of the Kerr family. Photographs and memorabilia are a must see for those who proudly bear the name Kerr, from weddings and portraits, the beautiful family tree, and the great seal of Sir Andrew Kerr, 1st Lord Jedburgh. All are displayed here. A helmet known as a ‘steel bonnet’ can be seen, found at Lilliardsedge near Ancrum in the 19th century it is typical of the helmets worn by reivers and mosstroopers. Expensive to own, most of these helmets were made in Germany and were fashioned with great skill from a single piece of steel. The one here on display is a remnant of the Battle of Ancrum Moor (1545), when the Scots defeated the armies of Henry VIII and the Kerrs, entering the battle at the final hour harried the enemy from the field. It was after this battle the Kerrs adopted their motto ‘Sero Sed Serio’ which translates as ’Late but in earnest’. On the cobbled floor are inserted the three mullets from the Kerr Coat of Arms.