Hailes Castle, East Lothian

Hailes Castle viewed from the River Tyne
View of Hailes from Google Earth with River Tyne immediately north

Location and Access

Hailes Castle stands on a promontory formed by the River Tyne immediately south west of East Linton and north of Traprain Law in East Lothian. It can be accessed from Brae Heads Loan which runs south west from East Linton. There is (very!) limited parking by the side of the road.


Castle viewed from south showing barmkin wall and tower to the west

A stone keep was first built at the site of Hailes Castle around 1240. This first fortification was built by the Gourlay family. The Gourlay family originated in Northumberland and much of their original castle can still be seen in the existing ruins including the central tower and a vaulted stairway. After the Gourlays backed the wrong side in the Wars of Independence the castle passed to another Northumbrian family, the Hepburns. Sir Adam de Hepburn who died around 1371 was granted Hailes Castle and the surrounding lands in a charter of King David II.

In 1401 the castle was attacked twice by Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy but he was repulsed on both occasions. However the castle was taken by Archibald, Earl of Douglas in 1443 who massacred the entire population within the walls.

Mary, Queen of Scots

In 1451, Sir Patrick Hepburn, was confirmed as 1st Lord of Hailes by Crown Charter. Sir Patrick carried out extensive reconstruction and extension of the castle with a massive tower on four levels built on the original west end of the castle. Mary Queen of Scots visited the castle in 1567 and was entertained by James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell who later became the Queens third husband.

The castle was abandoned following Cromwell’s invasion of Scotland in the 17th century.

Images below include the entrance to a pit prison, main access to the castle from the road, the vaulted remains of the kitchens including evidence for medieval brewing and nesting boxes inserted into the east tower to form a doocot.

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