Tantallon Castle & the Bass Rock.

Tantallon Castle was begun in the 1350’s by William Douglas, one of the most powerful men in Scotland.

In 1354, William had gained all his fathers’ lands, as well as those of his Uncle, the ” Good Sir James ” of Douglas, Robert the Bruce’s great ally. The estates included the small but rich barony of North Berwick, east of Edinburgh.

In 1358 he became the first Earl of Douglas, by which time work may already have been well advanced on his new fortress – residence of Tantallon.

In the 1380’s, the house of Douglas split into two branches, known as the ” Black ” and the ” Red ” . Tantallon passed to the junior line – the ” Red Douglases ” , who became the Earls of Angus and one of the most influential noble families in Scotland. They held the castle for the next 300 years.

The Do’cot

The area in front of castle is now largely an open space, but when the castle was lived in it would have been fille with structures essential to life in the castle.

The only structure there now is the Do’cot or Dovecot dating to the 1600’s . It contained over 1.000 nesting boxes for pigeons. The birds bred over the winter months, providing meat when other sources of meat were scarce.

The Bass Rock
Or the Bass, as its known locally.

Tantallon Castle lay at the heart of the Barony of North Berwick. Wonderful views from the battlements help give a sense of the stronghold in the landscape.

Out to sea lies the Bass Rock. This forbiding volcanic rock has been a place of refuge and captivity for centuries. In the 700s it supposedly gave sanctuary to St. Baldred, and the remnants still survive of a later chapel dedicated to him . In 1406, a castle on the rock was temporary home to the young prince, James Stewart – the future James 1 – as he waited for a ship to take him to safety in France.

John admiring the view.
View from the Battlements.
the Do’cot from the Battlements.

We enjoyed our adventure through Tantallon Castle today, and will return sometime soon when its not so WINDY.

Photographs – Irene Higgenbotham.