A residence of three noble familiesDirleton Castle has graced the heart of Dirleton since the 13th century. For the first 400 years, it served as the residence of three noble families – the de Vauxes, Haliburtons and Ruthvens. The subsequent downfall of the Ruthvens saw the castle abandoned as a noble residence.
The de Vaux castleThe oldest part of the castle dates from the de Vauxes’ time in the 13th century. The impressive cluster of towers – including the imposing keep at the SW corner – is among the oldest castle architecture surviving in Scotland. The builder, John de Vaux, was steward in the household of Alexander II’s queen, Marie, daughter of the Duke of Coucy, near Amiens in northern France, where a remarkably similar castle can still be seen.
The Haliburton castleThe de Vaux castle suffered badly during the Wars of Independence with England that erupted in 1296. Dirleton was captured in 1298, on the specific orders of King Edward I of England, ‘Hammer of the Scots’, and changed hands several times thereafter.
The Ruthven castleThe Ruthvens acquired Dirleton around 1510. It was not their main residence, which lay at Huntingtower, near Perth. Nevertheless, they carried out substantial improvements. They built a new residence, the Ruthven Lodging, and laid out gardens to the west. The present bowling green may once have been a parterre, or formal garden. The fine circular dovecot (pigeon house) was theirs also.
The gardensThe gardens that grace the castle grounds today date from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The formal Victorian west garden – with its foliage plants and pelargoniums – was faithfully reconstructed in 1993. The beautiful north garden dates from the Arts and Crafts movement of the 1920s, and its fragrant herbaceous borders are the first thing the visitor sees on entering the property.