Tantallon Castle

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EH39 Edinburgh, United Kingdom


Information from Historic Scotland.

Situated by the sea, mighty Tantallon Castle was built in the 1350s by a nobleman at the height of his power. In 1354, William Douglas came into possession of all his father's lands, as well as those of his uncle, 'the Good Sir James of Douglas', a close friend of King Robert Bruce. The estates included the barony of North Berwick. In 1358 William was created Earl of Douglas, by which date the builders may already have begun to build his new stronghold. In the 1380s the dynastic house of Douglas split into two branches, known as the 'Black' and the 'Red'. Tantallon passed to the junior line, the 'Red Douglases', Earls of Angus. For the next 300 years, the earls of Angus held sway at the castle, acting out their role as one of the most powerful baronial families in Scotland. During that time it endured three great sieges, in 1491, 1528 and 1651. The last, by Oliver Cromwell's army, resulted in such devastating destruction that the mighty medieval fortress was abandoned to the birds.

Tantallon was the last truly great castle built in Scotland. Its architecture harked back to the mighty stone castles of enclosure of the 13th century, such as Bothwell Castle. These were characterized by enormously thick and high stone walls enclosing large closes, or courtyards. Lofty stone towers projected from the great curtain, wherein the noble life was lived.

Tantallon's plan differs from most great 13th-century enclosure castles only because of its situation, at the edge of a promontory. Although the curtain wall enclosed the entire site, the castle only needed formidable defenses along the landward side. That great curtain wall of red sandstone still stands remarkably entire, as do the three towers in which the mighty earls of Angus and their henchmen lived their lives.

Visitors can enjoy wild flowers in season and touch the replica cannon. Refreshments are available in the visitor center.

The castle is haunted as well - a ghost was snapped in a tourist's picture here in May 2008!

Opening hours:

1 April - 30 September, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat. Sun, 9.30 am to 5.30 pm

1 October - 31 October, Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat. Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm

1 November - 31 March, Mon Tue Wed Sat Sun, 9.30 am to 4.30 pm


Adult £4.70, Child £2.80, Concession £3.80


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