Anyway, up there in at the head of the Tarset Valley are a number of "Bastles", of which Black Middens is the best preserved and easiest to find. A bastle is a type of fortified farmhouse; prior to the Act of Union in 1707 the Anglo-Scottish borders were a wild, lawless area ruled over by powerful mafia-like families of "border reivers" who raided each other for sheep, cattle, and to maintain blood-feuds. Bastles were places of refuge for farmers who were under attack from reivers: on the raising of the alarm, it seems, everybody would gather all the livestock they could in the ground floor and then climb up to the first floor to mount a defence - often pulling up a ladder behind them to prevent enemies coming up.
Even in its present condition Black Middens feels incredibly robust and well-built; the walls are probably two feet thick and you can well imagine lightly-armed raiders would have no hope of hurting anybody inside. Further on up the valley across overgrown meadows there are more bastles which are in a much more ruined and overgrown state, and which is harder to envisage as places of fortification, but there are gruesome stories nonetheless about beheadings and kidnappings at these remote locations.