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Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock
©2019 Gazetteer for Scotland

Tantallon Castle and the Bass Rock

Occupying a dramatic position 3 miles (4 km) east of North Berwick, Tantallon Castle was a stronghold of the Douglas family, built in the 14th Century. It is set on the edge of high cliffs, with the Bass Rock forming its back-drop. Originally built by William, 1st Earl of Douglas (c.1327 - 1384), the castle passed through his illegitimate son to the Earls of Angus (or the 'Red Douglases').

Tantallon includes a doo'cot, earthwork defences, a dry moat and a massive 15-m (50-foot) high curtain wall with flanking towers, which defends the structure from the landward side, the seaward side being effectively defended by cliffs. This wall extends to more than 90m (300 feet) in length. The gatehouse tower was extended and remodelled in the 16th century by King James V (1512-42), evidenced by the green-coloured stone which contrasts with the red stone used elsewhere. Sir James Hamilton of Finnart (c.1495 - 1540) is thought to have been responsible for the outer defences in the 1530s.

The ruin which remains today is much as it was left after General Monk (1608 - 1670) had laid siege to the castle in 1651.

A plaque at the rear of the entrance records the visit of Queen Victoria on 26th August 1878.


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