Standing on cliffs on a rocky headland above the North Sea, Tantallon Castle enjoys a spectacular location. It was started by William Douglas, whose uncle was a close friend of King Robert the Bruce, and who inherited large estates including North Berwick in 1354. Four years later, he was created Earl of Douglas and was building the castle as the seat of his family. In the 1380s, the house of Douglas had split into two lines, known as Black and Red Douglases. Tantallon passed to the ‘Red Douglases’, who were Earls of Angus and one of the most powerful families in Scotland.
Tantallon was the last great castle built in Scotland to feature very thick stone walls. Its massive curtain wall is about 12 foot (3.7 m) thick and in remarkably good condition. It protects the landward side of the castle, which had little need for defensive structures on its seaward side, protected by sea cliffs. The castle features tall stone towers that enclose courtyards. Created in an era before gunpowder, Tantallon was designed to resist battering rams, arrows and trebuchets (stone-throwing machines).
The castle’s embattled history included three sieges – in 1491, 1528 and 1651. The last was set by Oliver Cromwell’s army, and his heavy guns reduced the castle to ruins, soon abandoned. Don’t miss the replica gun in the east tower, which is an exact copy of what would have been used to defend the castle in the 15th and 16th centuries. Tantallon’s headland is also home to an unusual range of rare flowers and wildlife.