Saturday, September 27, 2014

Tantallon Castle, Scotland

On the Scottish coast of the North Sea is the ruins of a once-mighty castle built and kept by the Douglases. In 1354 William Douglas inherited his father's lands and those of his uncle too. He was made earl of Douglas in 1358 with his massive, fortified home, Tantallon Castle, already under construction. The castle was completed but the line of succession divided after William's death. Tantallon went to the younger son George, the "Red Douglas." He became the earl of Angus and the family had its share of political intrigues. The castle was besieged three times, first in 1491 and then in 1514. The castle did not survive the third siege by Oliver Cromwell in 1651 when the English cannons battered the walls. The earls didn't have the money to repair the castle and wound up selling it in 1699 along with the barony to Sir Hew Dalrymple (yes, that is the right spelling).  Only minor repairs happened in the coming centuries and the castle is maintained by Historic Scotland.

We had a long walk from the parking lot to the outer gate. The castle has an outer ditch with two small passages through. One is the Gun Tower (probably built in 1528) that was added to a short wall.

Walking toward the castle

Remains of the wall and gate

The castle itself is still impressive to see. A main ditch (like a moat) separates it from the field in front with only a small bridge crossing over into the middle tower of the castle.

Walking from the east tower (on right) to the mid tower (with the bridge)

Inside the tower

The constable (or keeper of the castle) would have lived upstairs but we were unable to visit his quarters.

Inside the tower

Can't go that way!

The castle has plenty of narrow slits (for both light coming in and arrows shooting out) that were a natural photo op.

Defender J

Defender L

We found some clear stairs and were able to go up on the roof. The view was nice though I worried about the children at such a height.

J with the view to the Bass Rock

L safely in the middle

J points to another tower he wants to visit

Behind the wall and towers is the inner close, an open field now but was probably full of small buildings for workers and animals. The field was originally surrounded by walls with a sea-gate providing access to a small harbor.

Walls from inside the close

The mid tower from inside

View and sign for the Bass Rock

The close also has the well for the castle, which is near to the east tower.

Castle well

We went inside the east tower and saw some of the smaller cannons that were left in the castle.

A long, small cannon

Cannon's view

On the western end of the castle is the Douglas Tower, which clearly housed the family, though the basement did include a prison area which L visited.

Inside the dungeon

After wandering around the castle for a while, we went back out to the outer close which has only one building remaining--the Dovecot. Built in the 1600s, it has over 1000 nesting boxes for pigeons. The pigeons were kept as an alternate source of food for those at the castle. It is still used by birds but they are no longer served for meals.

L by the dovecot

Last view of the castle

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