Today’s paintings of Tantallon Castle on Scotland’s east coast.
These views are from Seacliff Bay, near the harbour hewn from the red sandstone that forms the cliffs along this stretch of coast. The first time I saw this particular view of Tantallon I found it as affecting as my first view of Venice in moonlight, it’s truly awe inspiring.
The castle was built in the 14th Century by the 1st earl of Douglas, William Douglas, it passed through several hands, was mostly owned by the famous ‘Red’ Douglases and is now owned by Historic Scotland.
The history is complex as always, involving various nasty feuds; there were several violent takeovers of ownership, and a connection to the royal house of Stewart through marriage. The castle was attacked in the late 15th century by Scottish nobles in allegiance with Henry VII of England, but survived the first attack through surrender, so the castle wasn’t ruined at that time and its outer defences and moat were developed.
Then in the 16th century it was attacked again by James the 5th of Scotland, but it wasn’t until the mid 17th century that the castle was finally breeched by Oliver Cromwell. Royalist troops defended the castle but the Douglas tower (the tower on the left of the castle) was destroyed, the troops surrendered and the castle has remained a ruin to this day.
Having visited a couple of times, what I find astonishing is that although the castle looks precariously ruined, you can still climb a long, steep spiral staircase to the very top of the Curtain Wall (15 metres/49 feet high) and walk along its length, it feels pretty hairy but it’s actually safe (the walls are 12ft thick) and the views are spectacular!
It’s built in the beautiful warm pink sandstone of Lothian, so the castle, lit by an early sunset glow against the backdrop of wild sea, is a truly romantic sight.
And it is of course inhabited by a ghost or two! Here’s a quote from Wikipedia:
In March 2009, psychology professor Richard Wiseman released a photograph taken at Tantallon, which appeared to show a figure standing behind railings in a wall opening. The image, taken in May 2008 and sent to Wiseman as part of a research project, was described in The Times as showing a “courtly figure dressed in a ruff“. Wiseman stated that no costumed guides were present at Tantallon, and that three photographic experts have confirmed that the image had not been manipulated. A second photo, taken 30 years earlier, and showing a different figure in a similar location, was printed in The Scotsman a few days later.[39
Ariel view of the castle at low tide..