Stronghold of the DouglasesMighty Tantallon Castle was built in the mid-1300s by a nobleman at the height of his power. In 1354, William Douglas came into possession of all his father’s lands, as well as those of his uncle, ‘the Good Sir James of Douglas’, a close friend of King Robert the Bruce. The estates included the barony of North Berwick. In 1358 William was created Earl of Douglas, by which date the masons may already have begun to build his new stronghold.
Scotland’s last great medieval castleTantallon was the last truly great castle built in Scotland. Its architecture harked back to the mighty defensive stone castles of the 1200s, such as Bothwell Castle. These were characterised by enormously thick and high stone walls enclosing large closes, or courtyards. Tall stone towers projected from great curtain walls, providing living quarters for the nobles.
The architecture of warfareThe castle was constructed in the age before gunpowder artillery. Its high, thick walls had simply to withstand assault from stone-throwing machines, battering rams and arrows. This explains the almost complete absence of openings in the curtain wall, the concentration of defence on the battlements at the wall top, and the wide, deep ditch in front.
Archaeology at TantallonIn 2013 and 2014 Historic Scotland carried out excavations of several areas about the castle, with the help of volunteers , in order to improve our knowledge of the site. We’ve located the walls of some early buildings in the outer ward and possibly the line of the original entry across the outer close to the castle and the evidence of some hastily erected turf gun emplacements.