Fast Castle

(Castle Knowe)

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

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Fast Castle, a ruinous sea-fortress in Coldingham parish, Berwickshire, perched on a jutting cliff that beetles 70 feet above the German Ocean, 4½ miles NW of Coldingham village, 3 WNW of St Abb's Head, and 7 E of Cockburnspath station. Backed by high grassy hill slopes, it presents one shattered side of a low square keep, with a fragment more shattered still overhanging the sea-verge of its rock, which, measuring 120 by 60 feet, is accessible only by a path a few feet wide, and formerly was quite dissevered from the mainland by a chasm of 24 feet in width that was crossed by a drawbridge. In 1410, it was held by Thomas Holden and an English garrison, who had long harassed the country by their pillaging excursions, when Patrick, second son of the Earl of Dunbar, with a hundred followers, took the castle and captured the governor. According to Holinshed, Fast Castle again fell into the hands of the English, but was recovered by the following stratagem in 1548'The captain of Fast Castle had commanded the husbandmen adjoining to bring thither, at a certain day, great store of victuals. The young men thereabouts, having that occasion, assembled thither at the day appointed, who, taking their burdens from their horses, and laying them on their shoulders, were allowed to pass the bridge, which joined two high rocks, into the castle; where, laying down that which they brought,they suddenly, by a sign given, set upon the keepers of the gate, slew them, and before the other Englishmen could be assembled, possessed the other places, weapons, and artillery of the castle, and then receiving the rest of the company into the same, through the same great and open gate, they wholly kept and enjoyed the castle for their countrymen.' Sir Nicolas Throgmorton, in 1567, characterises it as a place ` fitter to lodge prisoners than folks at liberty; ' and, in 1570, when only. tenanted by ten Scots, Drury, Marshal of Berwick, after taking Home Castle, was sent to invest Fast Castle with 2000 men, it being the next principal place that belonged to the Homes. Passing from them by marriage about 1580, 'Fast Castle,' says Sir Walter Scott, in his Provincial Antiquities, ` became the appropriate stronghold of one of the darkest characters of that age, the celebrated Logan of Restalrig. There is a contract existing in the charter-chest of Lord Napier betwixt Logan and a very opposite character, the celebrated inventor of logarithms, the terms of which are extremely singular. The paper is dated July 1594, and sets forth-" Forasmuch as there were old reports and appearances that a sum of money was hid within John Logan's house of Fast Castle, John Napier should do his utmost diligence to search and seek out, and by all craft and ingine to find out the same, and, by the grace of God, shall either find out the same, or make it sure that no such thing has been there." For his reward he was to have the extra third of what was found, and to be safely guarded by Logan back to Edinburgh. And in case he should find nothing, after all trial and diligence taken, he refers the satisfaction of his travel and pains to the discretion of Logan.' Logan was next engaged in the mysterious Gowrie Conspiracy (1600). It was proposed to force the King into a boat from the bottom of the garden of Gowrie House, and thence conduct him by sea to that ruffian's castle, there to await the disposal of Elizabeth or of the conspirators. Logan's connection with this affair was not known till nine years after his death, when the correspondence betwixt him and the Earl of Gowrie was discovered in the possession of Sprott, a notary public, who had stolen them from one John Bour, to whom they were intrusted. Sprott was executed, and Logan was condemned for high treason, even after his death, his bones having been brought into court for that purpose. Almost greater, however, than any historic interest connected with Fast Castle is the fictitious one with which Scott invested it in his Bride of Lammermoor, by choosing it for prototype of ` Wolf's Crag, ' the solitary and naked tower of Edgar Ravenswood.—Ord. Sur., sh. 34, 1864. See Perth, Dirleton, Baldoon, and chap. xxxvi. of James F. Hunnewell's Lands of Scott (Edinb. 1871).

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

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