L-plan tower
16th century


OS Grud NT 595816
at Whitekirk
on A198 betw. A1
and N. Berwick
2.5m n of
East Linton



Clan Sinclair


Whitekirk Castle

the converted castle (now a home)

Castle to barn to house

We didn't venture too close to Whitekirk - we stopped in the parish churchyard (a lovely old stone church, btw) and I was going to walk up the hill when we realized that the castle has been remodeled as a family home. The owners drove up as I was taking pictures, and I got a bit of a hairy eyeball from them as I balanced on a stone and tried to look over the wall.

Not that I blame them, of course, but this is an interesting castle. You can't really see the original tower house (built int he 16th century) is entirely subsumed into the tithe barn building. To look at it, I woudln't even have said it was a castle, much less a tower house, although you can almost see the 'seam'. I ca only imagine it's a lovely custom home.

It's possible that the building was used at some point as a pilgirm's hostel. Whitekirk was a place of pilgrimate throughout most of the medieval period. The church and nearby well were the sites of miracles. It was a popular destination - -so much so that it was under royal protection from James I and he sponsored the building of hotels for all the pilgrims. Pope Pious II visited here -- barefoot! -- in 1435.

It was probably one of these hostels that was on the original site of the now-hidden towerhouse. Oliver SInclair, a favorite of James V, was granted the lands and the buildings here in 1537, and he built the tower house using stones taken from the various hostels. Archeological finds around the house (done when the permits were issued to restore the building) found rubble and stones from medieval houses.

The towerhouse was burned in 1544 and again 1548, and rebuilt. It was acquired by the Baird family of Newbyth in the 17th century. It fell to ruin before it was bought and restored as a home. Here's a photo of it before the restoration -- not too much difference -- and an artistic rendering of what it mght have looked like as a towerhouse.

Only a piece of the original tower remains - the west and south walls, and a staircase, incorporated into the house. The original tower was about 6.5m square. There is a barell-vaulted cellar and a garderobe in the north wall. Much later, another wing was added, it makes up the remainder of the barn.

Tithe Barns

A tithe barn is a common building type, dating from the Middle Ages. It was a central storehouse for the church's tithes: the tenth of a farm's produce that was ceded to the church. They are usually associated with a specific parish (in this case, St. Mary's). for all the farmers in the area.