13th century

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EH39 5ER
NT 516 839
in DIrleton, East Lothian
2m w of North Berwick




Historic Scotland
Undiscovered Scotland
Barony of Dirleton
Castle Explorer
Clan Maxwell


Dirleton Castle

Another re-visit, and absolutely worth it. With the drawbridge and moat and big round drum towers, this is another of the very "castle-like" castles that I love.

one of the enormous drum towers and the drawbridge!

13th century

This is one of my favorite castles - I can only wish that it had been blue-skied and sunny just once!

The range of buildings here date from the 13th century onward. The oldest part of the castle includes the giant drum tower and smaller flanking tower, arrnaged in a triangle shape around a small courtyard. The round tower has a domed cellar and domed upper room, probably a living space for the lord of the castle. The 13th century castle measrued about 40m x 27m with thick walls and many arrow slits. THere may have been a fourth tower to mark the other corer of the courtyard, but it was removed during later building phases.

The main round tower was truncated and flattened to form a gun emplacement in the 17th century. Direlton is the first example of a castle where the rount towers project out from the walls, instead of being contiained withint them, as at Dunstaffnage. Later castles (Bothwell and Kildrummy for example) use the same model.

the modern bridge, replacing a drawbridge and portcullis

A tall, arched entryway leads to the main part of the castle, over a bridge and a wide protective ditch. The portcullis and drawbridge are gone, but the long ditch and bridge are evocative of wha ti would have been like to approach this forbidding castle. THe entryway here may have been copied from Tantallon Castle. There are three sets of doors on the way into the castle - and guardrooms on either side.

On one side of the castle is a long range of buildings with a thick outer wall - covering almost twice the area as the original castle. These were built on foundations cut out of the bedrock of the ourcropping, and contained the bakery, kitchen, and enormous cellars. The kitchen has two large fireplaces. The cellars are one single barrel vault, broken into multiple rooms.

the enormous vaulted cellars in the Halliburton wing

The first floor of this building contained the very large hall, spanning the length of the castle wing and probably containing a screened-off area at one end. Stairs at eeither end lead to the cellars, the kitchen, and to a dungeon and pit prison dug into the rock. A matching wing proably ran along the other side of the courtyard, completely encompassing the top of the rocky promontory, but these are mostly just foundations now, except for the Ruthven Barracks, a 16th century addition in the courtyard of the castle. A set of stairs on the western side of the hill were added to access the barracks.

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