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Hailes Castle

A Scheduled Monument in Dunbar and East Linton, East Lothian

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Latitude: 55.973 / 55°58'22"N

Longitude: -2.6828 / 2°40'58"W

OS Eastings: 357481

OS Northings: 675769

OS Grid: NT574757

Mapcode National: GBR 2W.WP76

Mapcode Global: WH7TZ.R4NB

Entry Name: Hailes Castle

Scheduled Date: 27 March 2014

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM13330

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: castle

Location: Prestonkirk

County: East Lothian

Electoral Ward: Dunbar and East Linton

Traditional County: East Lothian


The monument is Hailes Castle, which dates originally from the 13th century, was remodelled in the 14th-15th centuries, and remained in use until Cromwell's invasion of SE Scotland in 1650. It is visible as a ruinous masonry castle standing mainly to wallhead height, comprising a keep to the E, a tower with courtyard and ancillary buildings to the W, and a substantial three-story block with attic. A curtain wall protects the landward approach. The monument is situated on the S bank of the River Tyne at about 30m OD. The monument was originally scheduled in 1928, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The earliest part of the castle, dating to the 13th century, occupies the eastern half of the site and is represented by red sandstone ashlar work. This forms the lower storeys and pit prison of the keep and the basement of a well tower a little to the E. The upper part of the keep is of grey rubble construction and represents a later rebuilding or addition. The ditch which encircled the later curtain wall, but was subsequently filled in, may also date to this period. The tower, constructed of rubble masonry, dates to the 14th-15th centuries and comprises a storage basement, including a pit prison at ground level, a hall on the first floor and private chambers above. It overlooks a courtyard and various ancillary buildings, the footings of which are still visible. The curtain wall also belongs to this building phase. Between the tower and keep is a sizeable three-storey structure with attic, probably of 15th-century date, that has been substantially altered over the years. Ovens and a stone trough suggest that the basement was used as a service area. A possible piscina and sacrament house in the N and S walls suggest that, at some point, the upper storey may have functioned as a chapel. The remains of further buildings and a 'castle toun' may survive to the S.

Hailes was held by the Hepburn family for over 200 years from the mid 14th century, the last of whom was James, 4th Earl of Bothwell, who instigated the plot to murder Darnley, second husband of Mary Queen of Scots. After her abduction near Edinburgh by Bothwell in April 1567, Mary rested at Hailes on her way to Dunbar Castle. The earl became the Queen's third husband.

The castle was abandoned following Cromwell's invasion of Scotland in 1650, but re-occupied by tenants of the Dalrymple Estate in the 18th century. At a late period, the interior of the tower was converted into a dovecot.

The scheduled area is irregular on plan to include the remains described above and an area around them in which evidence for the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes: the above-ground elements of all modern boundary walls, fences and signage, and the top 300mm of all modern paths to allow for their maintenance.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The monument is of national importance as a medieval castle that can make a significant contribution to our understanding of medieval fortified residences and expressions of status and wealth. The monument survives in excellent condition. The 13th-century keep is a particularly rare survival and the later tower and curtain wall are remarkably intact. The monument represents an important component of both the medieval and contemporary landscapes. Analysis of the upstanding remains and the buried archaeological deposits can provide information about the construction, layout and development of the castle, and evidence for the daily life, trading contacts and economy of the occupants. The monument is also of national importance for its historical associations, particularly with James, 4th Earl of Bothwell, and Mary Queen of Scots. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand the form, function and character of medieval defensive residences in Scotland.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



RCAHMS records the monument as NT58NE 5. East Lothian HER records it as MEL808.


Baldwin, J R 1985, Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Lothian and the Borders, Edinburgh, 83, no 42.

Ewart, G 2003, 'Hailes Castle (Prestonkirk parish), watching brief', Discovery Excav Scot 4, 62.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T 1887-92, The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v, Edinburgh, 1, 122-7.

McWilliam, C E 1978, Lothian except Edinburgh, The Buildings of Scotland series, Harmondsworth, 246, pl. 2.

RCAHMS 1924, Eighth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of East Lothian, Edinburgh, 61-7, no 147.

Richardson, J S 1948, Hailes Castle, East Lothian , Edinburgh.

Robertson, A N 1952, 'Supplementary list of East Lothian dovecotes', Trans E Lothian Antiq Fld Natur Soc 5, 62.

Simpson, W D 1948, 'Hailes Castle', Trans E Lothian Antiq Fld Natur Soc 4, 1-10.
Historic Environment Scotland Properties
Hailes Castle
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Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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