Just a short coastal walk from North Berwick lies the imposing ruins of Tantallon Castle. Sitting on the edge of the coast, with Bass Rock and the Firth of Forth as a backdrop, Tantallon Castle is a stunning historic site that should be visited by anyone in East Lothian.
Visiting Tantallon Castle
Tantallon Castle is owned by Historic Environment Scotland, who care for the historic ruins. At the moment, the entry to the castle is close – on a recent survey, Historic Environment Scotland noticed some loose bricks, so for safety and conservation, we can no longer walk into the castle. However, the grounds are still open and are free to walk around. Entry to the grounds should be booked, but all are welcome to take in the sight, including dogs!
A Brief History of Tantallon Castle
Tantallon Castle has a complicated history, with power struggles between the Red and the Black Douglases. It was built in the mid 1300s by William Douglas, once he had become the undisputed head of the Douglas house. Soon after, the Douglas house split, with the Red and the Black Douglases. The Red Douglases clashed with the crown, and the castle was besieged by James IV and James V.
The castle was destroyed in 1651, after a siege by Oliver Cromwell’s troops, and abandoned.
The Castle Ruins
Visiting the castle, the first thing that you will see is the large (15m!) curtain wall. To get to the ruins, you first walk through the castle grounds, which have trenches dug by the English in 1651, ravelin defences from the 1600s, and a large outer ditch from the 1300s.
On the outskirts of the castle is the Doocot, built in the 1600s, as well as the ruins of the Outer Gate, which controlled access to and from the castle.
From the East Tower (the accommodation for the earls’ entourage and guests) you get spectacular views of the coast. At the Douglas Tower (accommodation for the earl and family), Bass Rock can be seen as a backdrop. Below this tower is the prison!
Beyond the main tower of the castle, with castle gate, and lines of hidden defences, is the inner court.
How to Get to Tantallon Castle
The Castle is easily accessible for those in East Lothian, especially from around North Berwick.
The castle can be accessed by car, bus or walk! When we visited, we walked along the coast, following the road (with a stop off at Drift for a bite to eat on the way!).
North Berwick has fast become one of my favourite places to visit – there’s so many beautiful places to explore, from historic to nature spots! Be sure to look out for a guide to North Berwick, coming soon on The Heritage Tourist!
Check out my reel (below) of Tantallon Castle on instagram!
Have you explored East Lothian before? What’s your favourite site to visit!