Tantallon Castle – one of Scotland’s most dramatic
Scotland’s cliff-top castles are hard to match for thrills and Tantallon Castle is up there with the very best in the country. Situated close to the town of North Berwick near Edinburgh it dramatically overlooks Scotland’s east coastline. As a result it has become one of the most photograhed castles in the country, not to mention making my list of top clifftop castles!
The history of Tantallon Castle is predictably noteworthy. Here is a brief run through. Built mid-14th Century it was the base for the Douglas Earls of Angus. This lot were known as the Red Douglases. They jumped between allegiance with the English and Scottish kings at this time. The controversy really kicked off in the 16th Century when this culminated in Archibald Douglas joining with Henry VII of England to imprison then 16 year old James V of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle. James escaped in 1528 and began the chase of hunting down his captor.
The chase led to Tantallon Castle in 1528. Twenty days of seige followed, with no success for James. Having failed to take Tantallon by force, he withdrew his forces and Douglas made his escape to join his English friends. James then took over the castle. In the 1540’s Douglas returned and eventually switched sides once again back to Scotland. The man who could not make up his mind died in Tantallon Castle in 1557.
With a sheer drop into the Firth of Forth surrounding most of the castle it was always going to be a difficult nut to crack and the predicament for James was not an enviable one. It did not stop further attempts though. Notably, the dreaded Oliver Cromwell laid siege to Tantallon Castle in 1651. Several thousand of Cromwell’s men attacked the castle with only a tiny force of dissenting Scots sheltering inside. After 12 days of heavy bombardment they surrendered. The damage was so extensive that the castle was never to be occupied again.
For the modern tourist the placement of Tantallon affords spectacular views over the Firth. Light is such an important aspect for the castle and the stones really come to life with some help from the sun. The Bass Rock island a little over a mile into the Firth of Forth from the castle adds to the photography challenge. Getting a shot of the castle with the rock in the background is well worth the effort.