The idea was to visit the castles that are within reasonable distance to Edinburgh. And Tantallon Castle is just one of those castles.
The people at the visitor center made it sound easy to get there and certainly well worth the trip out. Take the train from Waverley station in Edinburgh and go to North Berwick. It’s the end of the line you can’t miss it really.
It was just thirty-six minutes on the train. Actually I love the trains in the UK. I can get almost anywhere. The trains are comfortable and more often than not the people are friendly, which is always nice. . . especially when you might be lost.
So I got to North Berwick. But there’s nothing really there. It’s a nice spot replete with planters full of blooming flowers and a welcome sign planted in an area of deep green grass. There’s no station.
It was fortunate then that this elderly woman saw me out there looking lost and helped point me in the right direction. I remember she told me that it was much too far to walk to Tantallon. But I evidently needed to take a short walk into the main part of the town to catch the bus that would then take me the 5 kilometers out to the castle entrance.
After a time the bus came and we were away on our journey. I got the impression that I was not the only Castle seeker. We were looking for the castle and finally saw it. . . way off in the distance but still quite large on the horizon in the mist.
And then it vanished. . . behind some hills, and some trees and well we just couldn’t see it anymore. It was there, really!
Five kilometers in a bus just doesn’t take that long. At some point at a stop along the way a group of us approached the driver. “where’s the castle?”
Evidently he was somehow not thinking that he needed to stop at the Castle Entrance. And somehow non of us even saw it. Maybe we were too engrossed in actually seeing it out there on the horizon.
We had a choice. The driver said that it was just 20 minutes back the way we had just come. Or we could stay on the bus, pay an extra fee (nominal really) and do the whole loop that the bus would do which might take another 45 minutes before getting to the castle.
I chose the 20 minute walk. Only it wasn’t a 20 minute walk. It was a lot longer than that. In fact all told I figure I walked about 16 kilometers that day/afternoon merely judging from how fast I usually walk.
I did eventually get to the castle. And while I was a bit exhausted I managed to explore every nick and cranny of Tantallon Castle that I could find and had a great time doing it too.
Tantallon was built by William Douglas, the first Earl of Douglas in the fourteenth century.
The castle itself is really only five kilometers from North Berwick on the Firth of Forth (the inlet from the North Sea in SE Scotland). It is fashioned in what is known as a “curtain wall castle.” The purpose of the ‘curtain wall,’ is to protect the inside of the castle. And in the case of this castle the other two sides of the castle were minimally fortified as they abutted steep cliffs.
The curtain wall was connected to the rest of the castle with large towers. Tantallon was the last curtain wall castle to be built in Scotland.
Despite multiple sieges and subsequent damages Tantallon remained in the hands of the Douglas family until it was purchased by the Lord of North Berwick, Hew Dalrymple in 1699.
Today Tantallon is in the care of Historic Scotland.