Friday, October 1, 2010

Tantallon Castle

Tantallon Castle rests atop the high cliffs east of North Berwick. Sir William, first Earl of Douglas, built this castle in 1358.

The Douglas earls had been modest Lanarkshire landowners in the 12th century, but all of that changed with William's uncle, Sir James of Douglas. Nicknamed 'The Good,' he was very close with Robert the Bruce and that friendship gave way to rich rewards being passed to the family after Bruce became king. That included the barony of North Berwick.

Sir William created this castle which was the last great curtain-walled castle built from new in Scotland. Above the front door, Sir William placed a stone plaque. Although it is badly worn, the heart carved on it can still be made out. In its time, the heart would have been painted blood red. Sir William's adoption of the heart as the family's armorial device displays his indebtedness to his Uncle James, who had been entrusted by Bruce to carry his heart to the Holy Land. That heart remains at the heart of the Douglas coat of arms to this day. 

The most conspicuous feature of Tantallon is the red sandstone curtain wall. Although it has been battered not only by cannon but also by the winds and storms, this castle dominates the cliff side. Following Sir William's death in 1384, his widow Margaret, countess of Angus, rose some medieval controversy. Within four years, the mighty house of Douglas had split into two, the 'Black' and the 'Red.'

Tantallon passed to the Red Douglas earls and remained theirs for the rest of its days. It endured three sieges in its 300-year existence. 


  1. Great post, Victoria. So many castles, so little time. Sigh.

  2. I love the castle. My family is the other side of the Douglases - we are the Black Douglas. What fun to see this gorgeous place.

  3. Lovely, Victoria. Sigh...

  4. I am enjoying your castle tour, Victoria. Fascinating history!