Castles of East Lothian
(Lodainn an Ear)

To read about the East Lothian District click here.

Castles

Menu of Castles, Palaces and Towers of East Lothian

Auldhame | Ballencrieff | Barnes | Bass | Black | Castle Hill | Castlehill Tower | Dirleton | Dunbar | Fa'side | Fenton Tower | Hailes | Lennoxlove | Luffness | Markle | Mellerstain | Preston Tower | Redhouse Tower |
Stonypath Tower | Sydserf House | Tantallon | Waughton | White | Whittingehame | Yester Castle (or Goblin Ha') |
Castles

about Auldhame Castle

Auldhame Castle

Auldhame Castle is a ruined L-plan tower house standing on a ridge above Seacliff beach, about 3 miles east of North Berwick in East Lothian, and less than half a mile from Tantallon Castle. The castle was built in the 16th century, probably by Adam Otterburn of Reidhall, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. It consists of a three-story main block with a projecting stair-tower. Part of a vaulted basement remains, but the upper floors are mostly gone.

One of the three supposed corpses of Saint Baldred of Tyninghame was said to have been buried at the site in 756.

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Castles

about Ballencrieff Castle

Ballencrieff Castle

Situated 2 miles (3 km) southeast of Aberlady, in the shadow of the Garleton Hills, Ballencrieff Castle was built by John Murray in 1586.

It was the birthplace in 1721 of General James Murray who became the first British Governor of Canada.

The castle which was visited by Dr Samuel Johnson and James Boswell in 1773, was destroyed by fire in 1868, but was restored in the 1990s and is now a family home and hotel.

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Castles

about Barnes Castle

Barnes Castle

An incomplete castle on a ridge in the Garleton Hills of East Lothian, Barnes Castle lies a half-mile (1 km) southwest of Athelstaneford and 2 miles (3 km) northeast of Haddington. John Seton of Barnes began constructing the castle in the late 16th century, but he died in 1594 with the walls barely reaching 5m (16 feet) and only the vaulted basement completed.

Thus the castle is often referred to simply as 'The Vaults'. The walls are laid out in a highly formal symmetrical style, which was very advanced for its time, defining a square, intended to enclose a courtyard, with well-defined corner towers.

The low-lying ruin is still a prominent landmark and is now a dumping ground for disused farm equipment.

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Castles

about Black Castle

Black Castle

Black Castle, East Lothian is an iron age hillfort with a number of defensive banks, at Newlands, Danskine, East Lothian, Scotland, UK, on the B6355, between Darent House and Green Castle, East Lothian hillfort.

The fort is on the summit of a hillock, at 900 feet. It measures about 380 ft by 340 ft. It has an inner and an outer rampart, and two entrances marked by causeways. To the west is a plantation named Black Castle wood.

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Castles

about Castle Hill

Castle Hill

Castle Hill is in East Lothian Scotland.

Castle Hill is a 13th century earthwork enclosure fortress, founded by the Macduffs, Thanes of Fife. Standing on a low promontory overlooking the sea shore, it was thought to be the original castle of the de Vaux family. During the Wars of Independence with England, the castle was occupied from 1298, by the army of King Edward I under Bishop Beck. Abandoned by the English garrison in 1314, in the late 14th century the Lauder family possibly constructed a tower with a barmkin on the site. In the early 15th century the castle was abandoned for the secure stronghold of Bass Rock Castle and its lands given to North Berwick Priory. The oval summit of the mound is encased by a low bank of earth and stone, which is probably the remains of a turf-covered wall. Attached to the mainland by a narrow neck of land, a wide ditch which spreads down both sides cut off the castle. 3 miles east is Tantallon Castle and 3 miles west is Dirleton Castle.

Castle Hill is located in North Berwick, off Marine Parade. 24 miles north-east of Edinburgh, on the A1-B1347.

The site is freely accessible in daylight hours. There is a car park on Marine Parade.

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Castles

about Castlehill Tower

Castlehill Tower

Castlehill Tower is in Peeblesshire, Scotland.

It is a 15th century stone tower house, of which only two floors now remain. Both the basement and hall were vaulted and in one corner is a spiral stair to the now missing upper floors. 2 miles south is Posso Tower and 4 miles north-east is Neidpath Castle.

Castlehill Tower is located on a minor road off the A72, at Castlehill. 5 miles south-west of Peebles.

The site is visible from the road. Car parking is by the side of the road.

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Castles

about Bass Rock Castle, Firth of Forth, N. Berwick

Bass Rock Castle Bass Rock Castle

Bass Rock Castle is a 16th century stone artillery courtyard fortress, built on a site which dates back to at least 1405. The gentler southern slope has the only place to land and it's here that a curtain wall and a half-moon battery gives defence. Repaired in 1902, when a lighthouse was built.

Bass Rock Castle is located on a volcanic plug, in the Firth of Forth. 3 miles northeast of North Berwick.

Access to the Bass Rock is by a landing at the SW corner and the long screen wall of the castle, on average 40ft in height, occupy a terrace above this landing, cutting it off from the remainder of the rock. A battlemented wall projects at right angles from the screen wall; this has an internal stair with gun ports covering the approach, and ends at the rock edge with a round battery whose ports command the landing place. (This battery is named the Crane Bastion on a plan of about 1700, the crane, used for raising supplies to the castle, being indicated a short distance away). At the N end, a gateway leads past a bastion to a projection in the main screen where an entrance gives access to a long stair. On the S side are the remains of a turnpike stair to the wall-head, and on the N, a single range of rooms. The screen wall continues, incorporating a little room known as Blackadder's Lodging (John Blackadder, minister of Traquair, was one of the Covenanters imprisoned here in the late 17th century), till its final bastion merges into the cliff. Underneath Blackadder's room is a well chamber.

This work is built of local stone, with occasional dressings of imported freestone, and it is dated by the RCAHMS to the 16th century (though an earlier 'Castell of the Bas' is mentioned in 1405). At that time (i.e. 16th century) it belonged to the Lauders of Bass, passing to the Crown in 1671 and to Sir Hew Dalrymple of North Berwick in 1706. In 1902 the E part of the screen wall was pointed and given a flat-topped profile, and the lighthouse built above it (on the site of the governor's house).

The remains of the Castle are in good condition, the walls being approximately 4ft thick.

Additional Description

Bass Rock is a volcanic islet in the Firth of Forth, Scotland, 5 km / 3 miles from North Berwick. It is about 107 m / 350 ft high, and has a ruined castle, a chapel, and a lighthouse. It is a seabird sanctuary, home to the third largest gannetry in the world and the largest in Britain.

Bass Rock's castle, which dates from the 16th century, was converted by the English government after 1671 into a state prison in which several eminent Covenanters were confined. The rock was captured in 1691 and held until 1694 for James II by 16 Jacobites against a small army of William III. St Baldred's chapel dates from the 15th century.

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Castles

about Dirleton Castle, N. Berwich, E. Lothian

Dirleton Castle, Lothian

The Dirleton estate was acquired by the de Vaux family, from Rouen in Normandy, in the reign of King Malcolm IV (1153-1165). The present castle was first built in the 13th century - and was strong enough to resist an English siege in 1298. The castle was eventually taken when food ran out. However, in 1314 Robert the Bruce was determined to ensure that the invading English army could not use it as a base and ordered its destruction.

The castle passed to the Halyburton family who rebuilt the castle, adding a great hall. In 1505, through marriage, the castle became part of the estates of the Ruthven family. The 3rd Lord Ruthven was a staunch protestant and was one of the main culprits in the murder of one of Mary Queen of Scots' favourites, David Riccio in 1566.

King James VI gave the castle to Sir Thomas Erskine but it was sold in 1625 to Sir James Douglas. In November 1650 Oliver Cromwell sent 1,600 men to capture the castle because it was being used by Royalist "moss-troopers" to attack his supply lines. After this the castle was allowed to decay.

I've visited here twice.

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Castles

about Dunbar Castle, overlooking Dunbar Harbor

Dunbar Castle

Overlooking Dunbar Harbour are the fragmentary remains of what was once one of the mightiest castles in Scotland. The ruins are in a dangerous and precarious state and access has not been allowed since part of them collapsed into the sea in 1993. This is a castle best viewed from a distance.

Defences were built on this rocky outcrop by the Votanidi tribe during the Romans' excursions into Scotland and it was a Northumbrian stronghold in 650AD. It was later a Pictish fortress until captured by the Scots under Kenneth MacAlpin in 849AD. The first stone castle was probably constructed by the Earl of Dunbar in the 1070s.

Dunbar Castle was unsuccessfully attacked by the English in 1214, but Edward I had better luck in 1296. And Edward II sheltered at Dunbar Castle after the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314. Following this the castle was slighted, then refortified in 1333. Dunbar Castle's most famous moment came in 1338 when Agnes Randolph of Dunbar, or "Black Agnes", commanded the successful defence of the castle during a five month siege by the English.

The castle was rebuilt in the early 1400s, repelling another English siege in 1435 before being badly damaged by them in 1448. In 1488 it was slighted by the Scots to prevent its use by the English. Rebuilding in 1515 was followed by another English attack in 1548, and by further fortification by the French in 1550.

On 24 April 1567 Mary Queen of Scots was brought to Dunbar Castle by the Earl of Bothwell after his abduction of her, and the two later returned to the castle after their marriage on 15 May. After the Queen's subsequent surrender and abdication, the Scottish Parliament ordered the destruction of a castle so strong its possession destabilised the balance of power in Scotland.

The final indignity for Dunbar Castle came with the construction of the Victoria Harbour in 1844. A new entrance for Dunbar's harbours was blasted through the end of the rock on which the castle ruins stood: indeed, the process of firing explosives by electricity was invented especially for the job.

Less well known and less spectacular than Dunbar Castle, but much better preserved, is the later battery which lies at the north east corner of the Victoria Harbour. This overlooked and protected the original entrance to Dunbar Harbour and now provides a good viewpoint for the town, harbours and castle.

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Castles

about Fa'side Castle, near Newbattle Abbey

Fa'side Castle

Fa’side Castle, sometimes known as Falside or Fawside, is a 14th century Keep located in East Lothian, approximately 2 miles southwest of Tranent.

The name dates from 1189, when the monks of Newbattle Abbey granted land to the De Quincy family to build the castle on the site. The land was lost to Robert the Bruce after the De Quincy family declared their loyalty to Edward I of England. (An alternative view is that it was held by Alexander de Such.) Bruce granted the castle to the Seton family.

The castle was burned by the English before the Battle of Pinkie in 1547, suffocating or burning all those inside. It was rebuilt in the late 16th Century and sold in 1631 to an Edinbugh burgess and merchant called Hamilton. By the 19th Century, it had fallen into ruin, and was close to being demolished altogether in the 1970s. However, the castle was saved and underwent restoration by Thomas Moodie Craig. Nigel Tranter set up the Fa'side Restoration Society in 1970 and introduced Tom Craig to the castle in 1975. After investigation it was discovered that the original name of the castle was Fawside Castle and this remains its name today. The restoration work began in 1976 was completed by 1982. The castle is now privately owned.

Fa'side is an L-plan building, being a fifteenth century four-story keep with a later turretted block added. There is a vaulted basement.

The castle is on a high ridge with extensive views over East Lothian, and the Firth of Forth.

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Castles

about Fenton Tower, Kingston, North Berwick

Fenton Tower

Fenton Tower in Kingston, North Berwick, East Lothian is a fortified 16th Century tower.

It dates from 1550 and is set on top of a small hillock at the western end of the ridge south of North Berwick. Fenton Tower was a ruin until around the start of the 21st century. It is a rendered L-plan towerhouse with very little grounds. No wooded policy, just a good vantage point over East Lothian's rolling countryside.

Fenton Tower was owned by the Anglo-Norman De-vaux family. The three-story building with Great Hall at First Floor was probably built by Sir John Carmichael: the tower date stone panel of 1577 over the doorway once displayed bears his initials.

The Carmichaels also held the ancient Hepburn stronghold of Waughton castle, near Whitekirk, until they lost it to the Hepburns. King James VI (1567-1625) stayed in 1591 with the Carmichaels at Fenton Tower.

Fenton seems to have been undamaged by Cromwell during his army's sacking of Lothian castles in the 1650's and stone robbers in the 1700's.

The L-plan Fenton Tower has now been fully restored.

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Castles

about Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle is a mainly 14th century castle about a mile and a half south west of East Linton, East Lothian. This castle, which has a fine riverside setting, belonged to the Hepburn family during the most important centuries of its existence. It has been owned by the state since 1926, and it is administered by Historic Scotland. It is open to the public without charge at all reasonable times.

The castle was originally founded as a fortified residence by Hugo de Gourlay before 1300, making it one of the oldest constructions in Scotland. The de Gourlays, a Northumbrian family, supported the English in the Wars of Independence, and their land was forfeited. King Robert the Bruce then granted the castle and lordship of Hailes to Sir Adam de Hepburn. The Heburns, particularly, it is believed, Sir Patrick Hepburn, dramatically extended the castle during the 1300s and 1400s. A massive tower of at least four storeys was built to the west of the original construction, and a lower tower to the East to form a long north range, looming above the river Tyne. The thick curtain wall of the castle dates back to the thirteenth century.

In 1400 it successfully withstood an attack from Harry Percy, known as Hotspur, in league with the earl of March. The attackers were defeated afterwards in a counter-attack. A successful attack by Archibald Dunbar in 1443 was followed by a massacre of the castle’s inhabitants. In 1547 Lord Grey of Wilton occupied it for the English in 1547 during the War of the Rough Wooing. in 1567 James Hepburn, fourth Earl of Bothwell, and Mary Queen of Scots met each other again, and he entertained her, at Hailes Castle. The castle was forfeited to the Scottish government after this. Oliver Cromwell partly slighted the buiding in 1650 after the battle of Dunbar. It passed, in due course, into the hands of the Stewarts, the Setons, and finally, in 1700, the Dalrymples of Hailes. By the mid-nineteenth century the castle was being used as a granary, Sir David Dalrymple having taken advantage of the more settled times to move his family to the mansion of New Hailes.

The castle stands on a promontory on the Scottish river Tyne, blocking its strategic route, and preying on the route to Edinburgh. Within the 13th century curtain wall is the fourteenth century keep, to which ranges were added in the next two centuries. The major remaining works is the West Tower, a square donjon, which dwarfs the remains of the central tower that the Gourlay’s built, probably a rebuilding on the sixteenth century. Fifteenth century work includes a roofless chamber in which the remains of what appear to be an ambry and a piscina suggest it was a chapel rather than a hall. There is also vaulted basement bakehouse and brewhouse from this period. The original tower was used as a dovecot after it ceased to be occupied. Of the East Tower only a finger of stonework remains.

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Castles

about Lennoxlove House

Lennoxlove House

Lennoxlove House is a 14th century historic house set in woodlands half a mile south of Haddington in East Lothian, Scotland.

Constructed originally as a rectangular keep, the house was known for centuries as Lethington. It was the home of the Maitland family, which included prominent members such as the poet Richard Maitland, his son William Maitland of Lethington, Secretary of State to Mary Queen of Scots, and his son James Maitland of Lethington (b.1568). It was then acquired by his uncle, John Maitland, 1st Lord Maitland of Thirlestane, it was said in an underhanded manner. Sir John Scot of Scotstarvet, writing in 1754, commented thus: "Yet the conquest he made of the barony of Liddington [Lethington] from his brother's son, James Maitland, was not thought lawful nor conscientious."

Lethington remained in the Maitland family until after the death of John Maitland, 1st Duke of Lauderdale in 1682.

The house was purchased by the trustees of Frances Teresa Stewart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox in 1702 for her nephew, Alexander Stewart, Lord Blantyre. The Duchess had stipulated that the house be called "Lennox's Love to Blantyre", and the house subsequently became known as Lennoxlove. It remained in the ownership of the Blantyre-Stewarts for almost two centuries. When the 12th Lord Blantyre died in 1900 without male heirs, the property passed into the ownership of his daughter, Ellen Stewart, and her husband Sir David Baird, 3rd Baronet of Newbyth, Prestonkirk. Their younger son, Major William Baird, commissioned the renowned architect, Sir Robert Lorimer to oversee extensive refurbishment of the house in 1912. Lennoxlove is now the seat of the Dukes of Hamilton, having been purchased by the 14th Duke in 1946.

Lennoxlove is home to one of Scotland's most important collections of portraits, including works by van Dyck, Canaletto, Raeburn, and others. It also houses important pieces of furniture, porcelain and other fine artefacts, many of which came from the now demolished Hamilton Palace in south Lanarkshire. The collections include the Boulle cabinet given to the Duchess by King Charles II and a silver jewellery box that belonged to Mary Queen of Scots with the forged letter purporting to show her complicity in the murder of Lord Darnley, together with her death mask. There is also the map and compass carried by Rudolf Hess, Adolf Hitler's deputy, who flew to Scotland in 1941 on a mission to involve the 14th Duke of Hamilton in helping negotiate peace between Britain and Germany.

Lennoxlove is situated in a wooded estate. It is open for guided tours from Easter Weekend until the end of October. The estate had a pleasant "Garden Cafe" restaurant, unfortunately now closed according to the Official website, but it still accommodates corporate events and weddings.

I visited here in 2002.

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Castles

about Luffness Castle

Luffness Castle

Luffness Castle, sometimes known as Luffness House or Aberlady Castle, is an inhabited castle of 13th century origin in Luffness, not far from Aberlady, in East Lothian, Scotland. The castle is historically part of the entail of the Earls of Hopetoun.

There is evidence of a permanent Viking camp at this site.

It is believed that the original castle was a significant fortress, founded by the Gospatrick Earls of Dunbar and March. Its position allowed it to protect landings in Aberlady Bay, and Haddington, which lies a few miles inland. On the death of the crusading eighth earl, the property was presented to the church, so that a Carmelite friary was founded on the grounds in 1293.

The French built a fort around the castle in 1549 as defence against the English, and it was successful in impeding them for a time in the War of the Rough Wooing. Mary of Guise ordered its destruction in 1552 as part of the peace arrangements, at the insistence of the Earl of Hertford.

After the Reformation Sir Patrick Hepburn of Waughton acquired the property, and the Hepburn Earls of Bothwell gained possession in due time. Mary, Queen of Scots visited Luffness in the company of her third husband, James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell.

It was purchased for £8,350 in 1739 by the 1st Earl of Hopetoun, whose family owns it still.

The house, which lies in a wooded estate not far from Aberlady Bay, is now a T-plan building, incorporating the 16th century tower house. It was added to and altered in the Victorian and Edwardian periods. A moat, earthworks, a stair-tower, gun-loops, and a turret remain from earlier periods.

The walled fruit-garden was built by Prisoners of War of the Napoleonic Wars.

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Castles

about Markle Castle

Markle Castle

Markle is in East Lothian.

Markle is a 14th century stone tower house and courtyard fortress, founded by the Hepburns. Standing on a sub-rectangular outcrop of rock and encased by a wide ditch, with inner and outer ramparts, its curtain wall was flanked by circled towers. In 1401 the castle was attacked and burnt, by George Dunbar and the English Knight Henry 'Hotspur' Percy, rebuilt only to be torched again by the English troops under the Earl of Hereford, during the 1544 'Rough Wooing' invasion. In the late 16th century, the Stewarts added a three storey rectangular laird's house and a rectangular southern wing to the tower house, to make two ranges with a small square courtyard.

Abandoned in the mid 17th century, Markle became the local quarry and parts of the enclosure have also been damaged or destroyed by a northern railway cutting and the commercial fishery. On the platform are the remains of a rectangular vaulted building, with a complete eastern gable which was heightened to receive a steeply pitched roof. The north wall contained a kitchen fireplace and to the west are three sides of a rectangular tower, that shows signs of rebuilding. On the north-west inner rampart, there are traces of the curtain wall. 2 miles south is Hailes Castle and 3 miles north is Waughton Castle.

Markle is located west of East Linton, in the grounds of Markle Fisheries. 23 miles east of Edinburgh, on the A1.

The site is freely accessible in daylight hours, after asking for permission to view at the Angling centre.

There is a car park.

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Castles

about Mellerstain House, near Kelso, Haddington

Mellerstain House

Mellerstain House as viewed from the lawn to the south east.

Mellerstain House is a stately home around 13 kilometres north of Kelso in the Borders, Scotland. It is currently the home of the 13th Earl of Haddington.

Mellerstain was built between 1725 and 1778. The architect William Adam initially designed the east and west wings for George Baillie and Lady Grisel Baillie. Work ceased after the wings were completed, and it was another 45 years before George Hamilton commissioned Robert Adam to design and build the main mansion house. Hamilton was a son of the Earl of Haddington, and he inherited the Mellerstain estate when Lady Grisel Baillie died, changing his name to Baillie as a mark of respect.

The mansion house is possibly the only remaining complete building designed by Robert Adam, as most of his other works were additions to existing buildings. The Adelphi Building, in London, was a speculative neoclassical terraced housing development by the Adam brothers but is now largely demolished, leaving Mellerstain House as an important record of Robert Adam's work.

The interior is a masterpiece of delicate and colourful plasterwork, comprising a small sitting room (originally a breakfast room), a beautiful library (a double cube design), a music room (originally the dining room), the main drawing room, with original silk brocade wall coverings, a small drawing room (originally a bed chamber) and a small library (originally two dressing rooms). The main entrance hall leads to a long corridor with a staircase to the bedroom floor, from which there is a small back staircase leading to a large gallery room running north to south.

The house stands in 80 hectares of magnificent parkland, with an Italianate formal terraced garden at the rear, with a sweeping stretch of lawn descending to a lake. These gardens were designed around 1910 by Sir Reginald Blomfield.

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Castles

about Preston Tower

Preston Tower

Preston Tower is a ruined L-plan keep southeast of Prestonpans in East Lothian, Scotland. The original structure, some of which may date from the 14th century, has four storys. A further two storys were added above the parapet in 1626.

Preston passed by marriage to the Hamilton family at the close of the 14th century.

It was burnt by the Earl of Hertford in 1544 during the Rough Wooing, and by Oliver Cromwell in 1650. After being restored it burnt again, accidentally, in 1663 and was abandoned for the nearby Preston House.

One of the Hamilton family was the noted covenanter Robert Hamilton, a commander in the battles of Drumclog and Bothwell Brig. After this, the family were forfeited in 1684, but recovered the property in the 19th century.

Preston Tower was purchased by the National Trust for Scotland in 1969. It is currently under the guardianship of the local council.

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Castles

about Redhouse Tower, East Lothian

Redhouse Castle

A ruined but impressive tower-house with a rectangular courtyard, Redhouse Castle occupies a prominent position beside the B1377 road in East Lothian, 1¼ miles (2 km) east of Lochniddry. Aberlady lies 2 miles (3 km) to the north.

Dating from the late-16th century, Redhouse comprises four storys over vaulted cellars. The doorway, which gives access to a turnpike stair, has an ornately carved pediment which bears the initials of John Laing, Keeper of the Signet, together with those of his wife, Rebecca Dennistoun, along with the inscription Nisi Dominus Frustra.

The castle was extended in the early 17th century, with the addition of a large tower to the northwest. A lectern doo-cot, which occupies the southeast corner of the courtyard, dates from the same period. The courtyard is enclosed by a barmkin wall and entered through a south-facing archway.

Once a property of the Douglas family, the present castle was the work of the Laings. It soon passed, through marriage, to the Hamiltons, who first extended it but were later to lose it, forfeited because of their part in the Jacobite Rebellion of 1745. Unused, it fell into decay. Redhouse is now part of the Gosford Estate of the Earl of Wemyss and March. Gosford House is located a mile (1.5 km) to the northwest.

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Castles

about Stonypath Tower, East Lothian

Stonypath Tower

Between Whittinghame Tower and Nunraw near Garvald in East Lothian, on a rough grassy ridge beside the Pappana water stands the rose coloured ruin of Stoneypath Tower. Originally held by several great Scots families of note, the Dunbars, the Douglases on two occasions, the Lyles, the Hamiltons and eventually the Setons.

The Dunbars, originally known as Gospatrick changed their name to Dunbar after their principal East Lothian coastal fortress. And are most noted in history because of this fortress since it was here in 1338 that Patrick Dunbar's young wife Black Agnes resisted a lengthy siege by the English. Fortunately, Alexander Ramsay of Dalhousie castle raised the siege by bringing supplies and troops in by sea. The Dunbar's Tower of Stoneypath was a classic L plan keep and probably dates from the late 1300's when it passed from them to the Douglases of Dalkeith. Interestingly Dalkeith castle (before it was replaced by the present Adam's style Palace) was originally an L plan keep and may have proved inspirational in Stoneypath's construction. Though some historians have suggested that Stoneypath dates from the mid 1400's when it was held by the Lyles since the heraldry inside is of the Lyles and not the Dunbars or Douglases.

In the rebellion of 1363 against King David II of Scots (1329-1371) William 1st Earl of Douglas and George Dunbar (Black Agnes's son) having seized Dirleton castle and ambushed some Ramsays they believed were in league with the King marched west to the battle of Lanark where they were defeated by King David and his familiar Archibald "the Grim" Black Douglas (William's devious cousin). To compensate for his rebellion William was forced to give most of his Liddesdale lands to Archibald by the King.

Archibald then gave these to his allies the Dalkeith Douglases. Which would later become a bone of contention with William's illegitimate son George the "Red" Douglas of Tantallon castle, near North Berwick.

Stoneypath, as already mentioned, was held first by the Dunbars and was known as a "warsteed" one of the "seven warsteeds of Dunbar". There is still much debate as to which "seven" castles made up the "warsteeds". A possible list would include obviously *Dunbar castle, Stoneypath then Hailes castle near East Linton, Byres castle near Haddington and Luffness castle beside Aberlady-all in East Lothian; then Coldbrandspath Tower (Cockburnspath) and Billie castle near Chirnside in the Borders. By the late 1300's these "warsteeds" had passed to other Dunbar vassal families by peaceful and violent means. Stoneypath to the Dalkeith Douglases through marriage, Hailes to the Hepburns also through marriage, Byres to the Lyndsays, Luffness to the Bickertons then on to the Hepburns, while Dunbar castle, Coldbrandspath and Billie were all forceably seized by the Douglases after 1400. (*There is the possibility that Dunbar castle itself was not regarded as a "war steed" since it was the family seat ,therefore Fast castle near St Abbs may have be the missing seventh "war steed").

In 1384 William 1st Earl of Douglas died and was succeeded as 2nd Earl by his legitimate son James, who in 1388 was assassinated at the battle of Otterburn by his own armour bearer Bickerton of Luffness. Though the real mastermind behind the murder was probably Archibald "the Grim" since he seized the title 3rd Earl of Douglas, despite the claim to the Earldom by James's illegitimate half brother George the "Red" Douglas. Also Bickerton was himself murdered outside Luffness before he could be arrested and questioned. Then his assassin Ramsay of Waughton castle mysteriously disappeared leaving no loose ends to link James's murder back to Archibald, who as Earl of Douglas seized the remaining lands in Liddesdale originally held by his cousin William the 1st Earl.

In 1398,George the "Red" Douglas with his allies the Lyndsays of Byres and the Nisbets from Nisbet castle attacked the lands around Dalkeith castle and Stoneypath tower as well as Dalkeith Douglas land interests in the west demanding the return of his father's Liddesdale lands. Why the Nisbets became entangled in this Douglas conflict is unclear since they were vassals to the Dunbar family. Perhaps their lands had suffered at the hands of the Dalkeith Douglases. Eventually in 1400 the "Red" Douglas and his allies marched west to Bothwell castle for a meeting with Archibald "the Grim" and agreed to end his assaults on Dalkeith and Stoneypath in exchange for some of the Liddesdale lands.

By 1446 Stoneypath was in the hands of the Lyles who unlike the previous owners kept a low profile politically until 1488 when they were described as 'rebels' for supporting Hepburn of Hailes and Archibald 'Bell the Cat' Douglas at the battle of Sauchieburn near Stirling, resulting in King James III's (1460-1488) murder.

In 1548 Stoneypath and Nunraw Tower appear to have been stormed by the English during the wars of the 'rough wooing' where by use of castle burning they hoped to force the marriage of the infant Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1587) to the English Prince Edward. The raid on Nunraw was supported by Douglas of Whittingham who was one of several East Lothian Lords known as 'assured Scots' ,who favoured the marriage alliance and were willing to fight their own countrymen to achieve this goal.

By late 1548 Stoneypath and several other towers were retaken by the Hamiltons under the Earl of Arran and 'assured Scots' such as Cockburn of Ormiston and Douglas of Longniddry. They had their homes slighted for their collaboration, although it is unclear whether or not Whittingham Tower was attacked at this time.

In 1611 George Lyle resigned Stoneypath to Alexander Hamilton of Innerwick castle near Dunbar. By 1616 it had passed to Archibald Douglas of Whittinghame and eventually on to the Setons, most noted in history for their medieval Seton Palace (replaced by modern Adam mansion) and it's small collegiate church.

Local tradition has it that Cromwell's men removed the roof during his sacking of East Lothian castles in the 1650's. Although at some point in the 1700's it was used as a quarry to build houses locally. During MacGibbon and Ross's study of the ruin two interesting features were still present, an overhanging toilet and a stone clad conical cap on the turnpike stairwell, now sadly gone. There is the possibility of it being reconstructed and lived in as a home. But hopefully the new owners will not be as bloodthirsty and warlike as the Tower's medieval families.

The Dalkeith Douglases were nephews of the notorious borderer Lord William Douglas "the knight of Liddesdale "from Hermitage castle, who in 1342, for some unknown reason, killed Alexander Ramsay the hero of the Dunbar siege. Because of this he was ambushed and killed in 1353 in Ettrick forest by his Godson another William Douglas (later 1st Earl of Douglas). His Liddesdale lands and Hermitage castle were claimed by his Godson. This action was contested unsuccessfully by the Dalkeith Douglases as their inheritance.

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Castles

about Sydserf House

Sydserf House

Sydserf House is a stone 17th century fortified L-plan house, founded by the Sydserf family. For many years this much-altered house, with an unvaulted basement and two shot-holes in one wall, was a two storeys farm building. In 2006, Sydserf was renovated and restored into a three storey L-plan tower house, along with an eastern steading complex, which is based on original 19th century dwellings. Nearby is Fenton Tower and 2 miles south-east is Waughton Castle.

Sydserf House is located south of Kingston, off the B1347. 21 miles north-east of Edinburgh, on the A1-B1347.

The site is visible from the road. Car parking is by the side of the road.

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Castles

about Tantallon Castle, Lothian

Tantallon Castle, Lothian

Tantallon was built by the Douglas family in the middle of the 14th century when William Douglas, the "Knight of Liddesdale", became head of the family. William's heir, James Douglas, was killed at the Battle of Otterburn in 1388 in which the Scots defeated Henry Percy, (Hotspur).

The picture shows a magnificent view of Bass Rock in the background.

The 5th Earl Angus (from the "Red Douglas" family) committed treason in 1491 by agreeing to deliver King James IV into the hands of Henry VII of England and Tantallon was beseiged by royal forces. In 1514 the 6th Earl married the widow of King James IV and the young King James V was cared for at Tantallon. However, he became a virtual prisoner, escaped and returned to besiege the castle! The Earl was sent to exile and the castle became royal property for a spell. Mary Queen of Scots stayed at the castle in 1566.

The real damage to Tantallon was done in 1650 when, following raids on Cromwell's lines of communication, heavy cannon were brought up and wreaked heavy damage for 12 days before the garrison surrendered. Afterwards, the Earl of Angus moved to Lanarkshire and the castle and barony were sold to Sir Hew Dalrymple, Lord President of the Court of Session but he allowed the castle to decay.

Another Description
Tantallon Castle, Lothian Tantallon Castle, Lothian

Tantallon Castle is located 3 miles southeast of North Berwick in East Lothian. It sits atop a cliff face opposite The Bass, looking out onto the Firth of Forth. Now a ruin, it is in the care of Historic Scotland.

History under the Douglases

The history of the castle dates back to 1358. Twelve years prior, William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, chief of the Clan Douglas had returned from France to Scotland to claim his inheritance after the Battle of Neville's Cross. By murdering his godfather, William Douglas, The Knight of Liddesdale, in the Ettrick Forest, William became the undisputed head of the House of Douglas; he was made the 1st Earl of Douglas in 1358.

The building of Tantallon Castle during this time was probably the result of his newly acquired wealth and status. In 1377 the earl made his close friend Alan de Lawedre of The Bass, etc., Keeper of Tantallon Castle. Alan de Lawedre witnessed a charter by the Earl, of Kimmerghame, Berwickshire, to Sir John St.Clair, Lord of Herdmanston, dated and signed on January 2, 1378 at Tantallon castle. A further charter by Margaret, Countess of Mar & Angus, daughter and heir of the late Thomas Stewart, 3rd Earl of Angus, was signed at Tantallon Castle on August 12, 1381. The signatories were: Sir James Douglas, Lord of Liddesdale, son and heir of the Earl of Douglas, knight, Alan de Lawedre, and John & James St.Clair, the granter's brothers(-in-law). "Alano de Lawedyr, for his good service" was granted certain specified Douglas lands, with their liberties and pertinents, in the burgh of North Berwick, sometime between 1381 and 1388 by Lord James Douglas (refer the North Berwick Chartulary). Sir William Fraser says that Alan de Lawedre was still Constable of Tantallon Castle in 1389.

William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, died in May 1384. His heir James did not long survive him, dying in 1388 at the Battle of Otterburn.

In 1389 Margaret, Countess of Angus, resigned her Earldom in favour of her son, George. George Douglas thus became the first Douglas Earl of Angus and Mar, and lord of Tantallon Castle. This contributed to the division in the House of Douglas. Archibald "the Grim", illegitimate son of Good Sir James Douglas, became head of the main line, known as the ‘Black Douglases’. The Douglases of Angus being known as the ‘Red Douglases’.

Capture and fortification

In 1491 Tantallon Castle was besieged by King James IV, but did not suffer much damage. It was besieged again in 1528, and this time passed into the hands of James V. To repair the siege's devastation, a new Fore Tower was built up to the battlements. The East Tower was also altered; it had originally consisting of five floors, but the bottom three were reduced to two by inserting stone vaults, which improved resistance to artillery. Defenses were further improved by wide-mouthed gunholes punched through the landward walls of the tower. Crenellated parapets were added to the main curtain wall.

On March 17, 1565/6, Sir Robert Lauder of Popill, Knt., (d. 1575), was appointed Captain of Tantallon Castle, the Keeper then being the Earl of Atholl. This appointment followed the surrender of Sir William Douglas of Lochleven who was one of those charged wih the murder of David Rizzio. Lauder later had a remission, with other members of his family, for fighting on the side of Mary, Queen of Scots at the Battle of Langside in 1568, and was succeeded by Gavin Hume of Shiells, a younger son of Alexander Hume of Polwarth, Berwickshire (d. 1532 - whose third wife was Margaret Lauder, Dowager Lady Waughton). The Yester Writs (no.798) record an Andrew Hume as Captain of Tantallon Castle in 1577.

Civil War Destruction

When Oliver Cromwell's forces invaded Scotland, Tantallon Castle was alleged to be occupied by 'a small group of bandits', who set about attacking Cromwell's lines of communication across south east Scotland and were said to be more effective than all the regular troops opposing Cromwell across Scotland combined. By February 1651 Tantallon Castle was in the care of Alexander Seton, 1st Viscount of Kingston with fewer than 100 men at his disposal. Sorties from the castle continued. When Cromwell discovered this, he retaliated swiftly. He took a force of 3,000 men, including much of the artillery he had in Scotland, to Tantallon and laid siege to it. (Seton was enobled on the 14th February, during the siege). Following twelve days and a "battering with grate canon" the defenders were compelled to surrender, but only after quarter had been granted to them in recognition of their bravery.

After the siege Tantallon was left in ruins.

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Castles

about Waughton Castle

Waughton Castle

Waughton Castle is a ruined castle, dating from the fourteenth century, about 3 miles north of East Linton, and 2 miles west of Whitekirk in East Lothian, Scotland.

Waughton Castle was a castle with a courtyard, but only part of one wing remains. The ruins are on a rock terrace, which is about 15 feet higher than the surrounding ground to the west and south. The remains of a small tower, at the south-west angle, and which is build of rubble with freestone dressing, stand up to 25 feet in height. Features of a narrow window in the south wall suggest that this is a 16th century structure. A wall has been built to east and north of the rock, with a structure at the angle, but they are believed to date from later. There is a partially artificial stairway up the rock. There is a doocot in the grounds.

. There is a mention of a hall at ‘Walchtoun’ in a document from 1395. The castle was the property of the Hepburn family. It was sacked by the English in 1547. Subsequently, when it was in the keeping of the Laird of Carmichael it was raided by a dispossessed Hepburn. The Hepburns acquired the castle again by legal means, and retained it until Alexander Cockburn purchased the castle from John Hepburn. By the 18th century the castle was being used as material for building walls and cottages in the area.

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Castles

about White Castle, East Lothian

White Castle

Whitecastle was originally a hillfort in East Lothian, situated on the edge of the Lammermuir Hills, two miles south of the village of Garvald. It later formed part of a landed estate which is known today as Nunraw. Sir James Balfour Paul, Lord Lyon King of Arms, (1905) stated that Whitecastle and Nunraw are the same place and that the lairds there were often referred to by one or the other of these territorial designations.

It is likely that the White Castle was first settled by the ancestors of the Votadini tribe, whose main eastern capital was Dunpender, due north. The fort is ideally placed to strategically control the northern end of one of the main passes through the Lammermuirs, along the Whiteadder Water. With the further fortifications three miles further east at Blackcastle and Greencastle it would have been ideally placed for a beacon to alert the tribe in case of an invasion from the south.

It is thought that the first 'modern' superiors of these lands were The Church. The name Nunraw denotes the nuns' row or hamlet, and Martine adds that "old nuns came from Italy and settled down at Nunraw". The Lauder of The Bass family appear to have later held it as a feu. Acta Dominorum Concilii, July 1501, records a dispute between Jonet, prioress of the Convent of Haddington, (represented by David Balfour of Caraldstone) and Robert Lauder of The Bass, knight, regarding the lands and chapellany of Garvald, and also damage made to Sir Robert Lauder's house at Whitecastle. The case was remitted to Patrick Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell, for his consideration and adjourned until 15th October 1501.

The conflict seemed to continue, however, as the Justiciary Records, under date 25 February 1510, narrate how "Thomas Dicsoune (Dickson) at the Monastery of Hethingtoune (Haddington) and others, came in the King's will for oppression done to Robert Lauder of The Basse, knight, coming under silence of night to the lands of Whitecastle, and casting down the house built there by the said Robert" (presumably the Pele Tower there). His father having died in the interval, the son Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass (d.1517) was present in person at his hearing. The offender was fined 15 merks.

By the middle of that century Patrick Hepburn of Beanston was in possession of this estate and Tower. In The Great Seal of Scotland a charter (number 1753) confirmed at Craigmillar Castle on 3 December 1566 by Mary Queen of Scots (but originally written and signed at the Monastery at Haddington on 6 August 1556) mentions that following his father's death, Patrick Hepburn and his affairs were placed in the hands of his tutorix, Lady Elizabeth Hepburn, Prioress of the Monastery at Haddington. In this charter Patrick is referred to as "of Whitecastle" but he is clearly mentioned as the son of his father John Hepburn of Beanston; and he is granted the lands of Slaid, [today spelt Sled] near Garvald, in Haddingtonshire. Attached to this is a further charter, a regrant of the same properties, which mentions that Patrick has now married Margaret, daughter of James Cockburn, of Langton in Berwickshire. It also states that Patrick has a younger brother James and that they have an elder brother William.

In the Privy Council of Scotland Registers under date 26 August 1582 there appears a list of the famous 'Ruthven Raiders' one of whom was Patrick Hepburn of Whitecastle. His last Testament (Will) registration gives his designation as "of Whitecastle, knight, Laird of Benestoun" (d.November 1583).

The Hepburns were still in possession in the 18th century. On the 23 December 1735 the Garvald Kirk Session elected Francis Hepburn of Nunraw as an Elder, and as Deacon, for the united parishes of Garvald & Bara,(NAS). He was dead by 15 January 1747 when a Sasine registered on that date referred to "Christian Anderson, relict of Francis Hepburn of Nunraw". Of their known children are two sons, Patrick and Francis.

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Castles

about Whittingehame Castle (or Tower House)

Whittingehame Castle

Whittingehame is a parish with a small village in East Lothian, Scotland, about halfway between Haddington and Dunbar, and near East Linton. The area is on the slopes of the Lammermuir Hills. The old castle, or Tower house of Whittingehame, circa 15th century, is a grand specimen of an old and massive baronial building and remains a residence.

The barony was anciently the possession of the Dunbar Earls of March family, and Chalmers' Caledonia records that they held their baronial court there. In 1372 George de Dunbar, 10th Earl of March, gave in marriage with his sister Agnes to James Douglas of Dalkeith, the manor of Whittingehame, with the patronage of the Chapel. The Douglases remained in possession for over 200 years: about 1537 Elizabeth (d. after August 1557), daughter of Sir Robert Lauder of The Bass (d. 1517/18), married William Douglas of Whittingehame, and in October 1564 Mary Queen of Scots confirmed to their son, William Douglas of Whittinghame (d. December 17, 1595), a Senator of the College of Justice, the barony of Whittingham, the castle, mills, and the avowson of the Church there, ratified by parliament on 19 April 1567. This William Douglas had married in 1566 Elizabeth (d. after August 6, 1608), daughter of Sir Richard Maitland of Lethington, a Senator of the College of Justice.

It is said that the plot to murder Mary's husband, Lord Darnley, was discussed at length at Whittingehame castle in 1566, and in March of that year "William Douglas of Whittingehame, brother to Master Archibald Douglas parson of Douglas", is cited as one of those in the conspiracy to murder David Riccio. On the 26 August 1582 William Douglas of Whittingehame is cited as one of the Ruthven raiders.

On the 28 December, 1630, Sir Archibald Douglas, 5th of Whittingehame, son and heir of the previous couple, was a witness to the baptism of Archibald Sydserf at Whittingehame Church, but by 1640 Sir Archibald was dead with no issue. Whittingehame passed to his brother Sir William Douglas of Stoneypath, near Garvald, whose daughter Isobel married, in 1628, Sir Arthur Douglas of the Kellour family, and their daughter Elizabeth (1632-1668) married, in 1652, Alexander Seton, 1st Viscount of Kingston and carried Whittingehame to him (Elizabeth's brother Archibald having died unmarried). Their youngest daughter Elizabeth, carried Whittingehame to her husband William Hay of Duns and Drumelzier, Peebleshire, upon their marriage in 1695. The Hays, as proprietors, were highly esteemed by their tenants.

In 1817 they sold Whittingehame and Stoneypath, near Garvald, to James Balfour, second son of John Balfour of Balbirnie in Fife, who had made a large fortune in India. James Balfour subsequently enlarged his estate by buying up a great many adjoining properties. By 1900 there were about 25 farms on the Whittingehame estate. The coal mines on their Fife lands greatly increased their prosperity throughout the 19th century.

James Balfour engaged James Dorward, from Haddington, to build a new neo-classical mansion and offices to designs by Sir Robert Smirke, Whittingehame House, completed about 1817, with additions and alterations by architect William Burn ten years later. This became the family home of the Balfours and the birth-place of the Prime Minister Arthur Balfour and the scientist Francis Maitland Balfour. This building, a huge country house and A-listed, still stands, albeit now divided into private apartments. It is not open to the public. Having passed through various hands after the Balfours (at one time it was a private school - Holt School, but it closed and the property lay dormant) there is still much of interest to see, including a spectacular ceiling to the dining room.

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Castles

about Yester Castle, Gifford

Yester Castle

Yester Castle is in Gifford, a picture postcard village about three miles south of Haddington, the county town of East Lothian. The story of the village actually begins a little over a mile south east of its current location, at Yester Castle.

Yester Castle was built in 1267 for Sir Hugo Gifford, locally thought to be a wizard. The design incorporated a dungeon know as the Goblin Hall, or Goblin Ha', and allegedly built with the aid of magic. The castle was sporadically fought over by the English and Scots during the wars of independence, and a village called Yester grew up around it. It was here that John Knox was born in 1505.

By the beginnings of the 1700s the Gifford family was taking its privacy more seriously. In 1708 they began the systematic removal of the village of Yester to a new location to the north west, a settlement to which they gave the family name. The village of Gifford was born. Yester Castle was later abandoned by the family when they moved into Yester House, built between the castle and the new village in about 1750.

If John Knox had been Yester's most famous son, then Gifford's was John Witherspoon, commemorated by a plaque on a wall near the church. Witherspoon was one of the signatories of the American Declaration of Independence, and he went on to become the first president of Princeton University.

For those seeking sustenance, perhaps before the long haul south across the Lammermuir Hills, Gifford offers other attractions. The Tweedale Arms Hotel overlooks the village green, while on the main street, and reflecting the origins of the village at Yester Castle, is the Goblin Ha' Hotel.

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