- HER number: MEL1225
- Site Name: Tantallon Castle
- Grid Reference: 359525 684968
- Civil Parish:
- Monument Type:
- Summary: Castle, c. 1350
- Description: NT58NE 5.00 595 850
NT58NE 5.01 5961 8501 dovecot
(NT 5959 8503) Tantallon Castle (NR) (Remains of)
(NT 5959 8509) Chapel (NR) (Site of)
(NT 5959 8504) Well (NR)
(NT 5961 8501) Dovecot (NR)
(NT 5960 8493) Tower (NR) (On NT 58 SE)
OS 6" map (1957).
See MoW official guidebook.
J S Richardson 1950.
(1) 'Outside the (Tantallon) Castle are extensive earthworks, some of which represent the defences thrown up against the cannon of James V in 1526, while others, still further out, date from the Civil War'.
V G Childe and W D Simpson 1954.
(2) The castle and its outworks are generally as described and illustrated above.
A short length of rubble-built wall on the edge of the cliff is all that remains of the crane-bastion noted by the authority; it is 5.6m. long, 0.6m. thick and was located at NT 5966 8478.
Earthworks revised at 1:2500.
Visited by OS (EGC) 15 November 1962.
(3) The castle lies on the cliff top, an outwork lies immediately on the edge of the cliff and is thus exposed to erosion. As this monument is in guardianship the state of its outworks is probably well known and was not dwelt on during this survey. There are reports of midden material having been visible below the castle. There are tussocks of material on rock below the castle but it would seem that much of this material has already been washed away. There may be pockets of material on the slopes below the castle.
Site recorded by GUARD during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, 'The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Coast of Fife' 18th February 1996.
(4) NT 595 850 Archaeological monitoring was carried out in June 2000 while a minor excavation to provide the base for a new flagpole was carried out at the E end of the car park near the entrance to the Steward's office.
An early soil layer was revealed, now buried under 670mm of later landscaping layers, probably related to the construction of the Steward's office which is presumed to have been in the 1980s. No finds were retrieved.
D Stewart 2000
Scottish Record Office.
Description taken from 'Geographia Blauina', vol.6 page 40-41, N.d.
National Library Uncatalogued MSS of General Hutton, Vol.1 no.25 - 1 sketch, 1782.
Nattes Drawings, Vol. IV, no.53 - 1 sketch.
Nattes Drawings, Vol. IV, nos. 46-52 - 7 drawings.
Sketches by Edward Duncan. MSS 3245 - sketch 1863.
Inglis Photograph Collection acc. no. 1994/90
2 different views, c.1930 or c.1940
Wood Sketch Book 1 - 1 sketch (restoration) - unlocated at time of upgrade.
Wood Sketch Book 2 - 1 sketch (gateway) - unlocated at time of upgrade.
Drawing - J.Drummond SAS 386 p.26 - unlocated at time of upgrade.
(5) Historic Scotland Listed Building Description: Circa 1350. Castle now in ruins, formed of 3 towers in red
sandstone, linked by thick defensive curtain wall over 15
metres high. Later work of circa 1400 and in greenish stone
after 1528. Sited on promontory enclosing close within.
MID TOWER: 5-storey. Gatehouse at ground with lodgings above.
Vaulted entrance passage. Corbelled angle turrets with
machicolations. Fore tower added 1556 after siege of 1528
with rounded angles and round arched doorway. Fragmentary
remains of barbican by the fosse. Canopied fireplaces to
upper stages within. Wide-mouthed gun loops to the Fore
DOUGLAS TOWER: fragmentary remains of former circular tower.
Formerly 6-storeys above vaulted basement with pit prison.
EAST TOWER: D-plan. Single rooms on 5 storeys, fed by spiral
stair to N. S wall mostly disappeared.
HALL BLOCK: within the close to N. Formerly housing
banqueting rooms. Evidence of pitched roof visible on Douglas
Tower. Hall extended E with remains of 3 vaulted service
Some mural chambers and stairways remaining in curtain wall.
Pentice roof adjoined curtain wall at close side. Well 32
metres deep, sited by Mid Tower excavated in late 19th
(6) Tantallon Castle, probably of late 14th C origins, occupies an elevated promontory, surrounded by high sea cliffs on three sides. Comprising of a massive curtain wall with three towers and a hall block, the castle is defended by a series of earthwork ramparts and a ditch. It is maintained as a Property in Care and is open to the public. A 3-stage, lectern-type dovecot of 17th C date stands within the castle bailey. Parts of the castle and its defences have already eroded over the cliffs, but no anthropogenic deposits were visible within coastal exposures at the time of this visit.
(7) In April and May 2008, Kirkdale Archaeology undertook a watching brief at Tantallon Castle during the replacement of a section of cliff top fence to the N of the E tower. Part of a sandstone wall was revealed just north of the excavated postholes. This abutted the surviving portion of the east wall of the east tower and was thought likely to be a retaining wall. It was not fully excavated and its exact date remains uncertain.
(8) In September and October 2013, Kirkdale Archaeology undertook a short programme of evaluation excavation test trenching within the grounds of Tantallon Castle. Seven test trenches were excavated, placed to target and investigate several anomalies found during a geophysical survey. Four trenches were excavated within the Inner Close of the castle and three within the Outer Close. The excavation of the trenches revealed three phases of activity within the Inner Close: the remains of likely 15th century residual courtyard surfaces; 16th-17th century courtyard structures relating to the later stages of castle occupation, and 19th-20th century landscaping and levelling. Within the Outer Close, the remains of an undated fragmentary structure comprised of timebr posts and a floor was found, together with mid-16th century and late 16th to mid-17th century stone walls and earthworks artillery works likely predating the 1651 Cromwellian seige of the castle. Some of these structures amy have been re-used for domestic/pastoral purposes, prior to 19th to 20th century landscaping. Finds included demolition debris, construction debris, midden and occupation material, and military finds.
- For more information contact: East Lothian Council HER
- Related Interventions:
- Related Places:
- Associated Periods:
- Bibliographic reference: Whitaker, J. 1938. 'Ancient dovecots of East Lothian: a survey', Trans E Lothian Antiq Fld Natur Soc Vol. 3 1938, p.1-22. p1-22.
- : The Francis Frith Collection, . 2005. Scotland-Pictorial Britain,
(images from the Frith Archive), Salisbury, Wiltshire. 149.
- Bibliographic reference: 1890?. The new and popular guide to North Berwick, Tantallon Castle, Bass Rock, Dirleton Castle and district with full description of the golfing links in the vicinity, North Berwick.
- Bibliographic reference: Ferrier, G. 1878. North Berwick and its vicinity with descriptive and historical notices of the Bass Rock, Tantallon Castle and other interesting objects and localities, Edinburgh.
- Bibliographic reference: Richardson, J S. 1980. Tantallon Castle, Edinburgh.
- Bibliographic reference: Tabraham and Grove, C [J] and D. 1994. Tantallon, Edinburgh.
- Bibliographic reference: James, H. 1855. 'Notice of the discovery of a beautiful enamelled gold ring, believed to have belonged to King James V, found in the ruins of Tantallon Castle', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol.1, 1851-4, p.168-9.
- Bibliographic reference: Caldwell, D H. 1992b. 'Tantallon Castle, East Lothian: a catalogue of the finds', Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 121 1991, p.335-57. 335-57.
- Bibliographic reference: Stewart, D. 2000d. 'Tantallon Castle, East Lothian (North Berwick parish), watching brief', Discovery Excav Scot, vol.1, 2000, p.28.
- Bibliographic reference: Stell, G. 1981b. 'Late medieval defences in Scotland', p.21-54. 25, 26, 29, 41, 43. 12473.
- Bibliographic reference: Richardson, J S. 1950d. Tantallon Castle, East Lothian, 2nd edition.
- Bibliographic reference: RCAHMS. 1924. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eighth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of East Lothian. 61-7, No.106; Addenda 156, No.106????B???????B???B??????
- Bibliographic reference: McWilliam, C E. 1978a. Lothian except Edinburgh. 444-6. pl. 40.
- Bibliographic reference: MacIvor, I. 1981. 'Artillery and major places of strength in the Lothians and the east border', p.94-152. 122-3, 128, 132-3, 145, 146.
- Bibliographic reference: MacGibbon and Ross, D and T. 1887-92. The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Vol.1, pp429-35.
- Article in serial: Historic Scotland. 2008. Jewels from the East.
- : Historic Scotland, . 2009. Tantallon Castle,, Edinburgh.
- : Hogg, S. 2008. 'Tantallon Castle, East Lothian (North Berwick parish), watching brief', Discovery Excav Scot, New Series, Vol. 9, 2008, p. 64, Cathedral Communications Limited, Wiltshire, England.. 64.
- Bibliographic reference: MacGibbon, D. 1891f. 'Tantallon Castle', Trans Edinburgh Architect Ass Vol. 1 1891, p.77-84. 77-84. Plan and sketch.
- Bibliographic reference: Views in the Lothians. 'Views in the Lothians', p.65. 13-16. Engravings.
- Bibliographic reference: Country Life. 1987. 'Irrestistable Tantallon', (Tantallon Castle), Country Life, p.170. p.170.
- Bibliographic reference: Baldwin, J. 1997. Edinburgh, Lothians and the Borders, 2nd edition. 122-3. No. 49.
- Bibliographic reference: Baldwin, J R. 1985. Exploring Scotland's heritage: Lothian and the Borders. 82, no. 41.
- Bibliographic reference: Pennell, E R. 1895. Tantallon Castle: the story of the castle and ship, Edinburgh.
- Bibliographic reference: McKean, C. 1995c. 'Craignethan: the castle of the Bastard of Arran', , Proc Soc Antiq Scot Vol. 125 1995, p.1069-90. 1083.
- Unpublished document: Kirkdale Archaeology. 2013. Historic Scotland Properties in Care, Minor Archaeological Works 2013: Tantallon Castle Evaluation.
- Bibliographic reference: Anon. 1838. Guide pittoresque du voyageur en Ecosse: orne de 120 vues, representant les principaux edifices, les curiosites naturelles, les chateaux reamrquables, et tous les lieux cites par Walter Scott.... 240.
- Bibliographic reference: Round the Coast. 1895. Round the coast: an album of pictures from photographs of the chief seaside places of interest in Great Britain and Ireland..
- Bibliographic reference: Tabraham and Grove, C [J] and D. 1994. Tantallon Castle.
- Bibliographic reference: Eddington, A. 1904. Edinburgh and the Lothians at the opening of the twentieth century ... contemporary biographies. 57. 'Tantallon Castle and Bass Rock'.
- Bibliographic reference: Simpson, W D. 1958f. 'Tantallon Castle', Trans E Lothian Antiq Fld Natur Soc Vol. 7 1958, p.1-9.
- Bibliographic reference: Drummond. 1800?. Drummond's North Berwick album, 3rd edition. 2. Tantallon Castle.
- Bibliographic reference: Werner Company of Chicago. 1894. Beautiful Britain: the scenery and the splendours of the United Kingdom: views of our stately houses ... royal residences, palaces and castles, bowers and hunting-lodges, river banks and islets, th????B???????B???B???????B???B??
- Bibliographic reference: Lewis, J H. 1978b. 'Tantallan Castle', Discovery Excav Scot 1978, p.15. 15.
- Bibliographic reference: Tabraham, C J. 1986b. Tantallon Castle, 2nd edition.
- (1) Bibliographic reference: Childe and Simpson, V G and W D. 1954. Illustrated guide to ancient monuments in the ownership or guardianship of The Ministry of Works: volume vi: Scotland, 2nd edition. 88.
- (2) Unpublished document: Ordnance Survey. Ordnance Survey Site Visit.
- (3) Unpublished document: James, H F. 1996. Coastal Assessment Survey: The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Border of Fife. 223.
- (5) Bibliographic reference: Historic Scotland. Historic Scotland Listed Building.
- (6) Unpublished document: Moore, H and Wilson, G. 2006. Report on Coastal Zone Assessment Survey: East Lothian and Scottish Borders. site 41.
- (7) Unpublished document: Ewart, G. and Hogg, S.. 2008. HSCO-90295-2008-01 Tantallon Castle: Archaeological monitoring, April-May 2008.