Eighth Stop: Dirleton
Dirleton Castle was the second stop on our tour generously hosted by Mike, only a 14 minute drive from Tantallon Castle. After passing through the gate into the grounds, we gazed about us in wonder as we trotted through the beautiful garden, full of marvellous flowers, up a path to a massive drawbridge. Inside, Dirleton was an intricate castle full of many rooms and passageways, even a creepy dungeon. The walls were crumbling and everything was in shambles, but we still had fun trying to imagine what everything would have looked like back in its heyday.
Dirleton Castle’s beginnings followed the Norman conquest of England in 1066, as previously mentioned, when the Norman de Vaux family settled there. Two de Vaux brothers were among a number of Anglo-Norman knights invited to Scotland, and granted land, by King David I in the 12th century. One of the brothers, John, was granted barony of the land of Dirleton, and proceeded to build two castles: Eldbotle was northwest of the modern Dirleton and Tarbet castle was on a nearby island. Neither of the original castles exist today. A couple generations later, another John de Vaux succeeded to the barony of Dirleton and in 1240 began construction of a fortress on the present location of Dirleton castle, part of which a stone keep that still stands to this day. This time of prosperity for John de Vaux ended in 1296 with the outbreak of the Wars of Scottish Independence. En route to the Scottish castle of Edinburgh, the infamous King Edward I “Longshanks” had Dirleton Castle besieged for several months until it was captured and garrisoned by English soldiers. It was only until 1314 that the castle was recaptured by the Scots and the defensive walls were deliberately destroyed to prevent its reuse by the English. The castle and the lands of Dirleton were eventually passed on to the Halburton family, through the marriage of the de Vaux family heiress, who carried out extensive works on repairing the castle walls, heightening the original towers, and adding a large hall and tower house.
Dirleton Castle stands on a natural rocky outcrop, a low ridge overlooking the farmland of East Lothian. It comprises a kite-shaped courtyard flanked by buildings on the south and east sides. The most substantial remains are the gatehouse, and the 13th century de Vaux family “cluster keep” to the south, while only the basement of the east range survives. The castle was originally approached from the south, via a bridge and drawbridge, across a 50 foot wide ditch. The oldest structure, the castle keep built by John de Vaux, comprises of a large round tower to the south and a smaller round tower to the west, with the two joined by a square tower.
No matter how hard I tried to squeeze the juice out of internet researching, there is absolutely nothing about hauntings, monsters, or even Harry Potter within Dirleton castle. It seems that the surrounding community lacks the imagination, or the superstitions, necessary to create a decent myth. Despite this, I would like to say that gazing through the gated pit into the deepest dungeon of the castle gave me more than the chills.