Featured image of Dirleton Castle

The History of Dirleton Castle

LocationDirleton, East Lothian, Scotland (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsYes
Owned byHistoric Environment Scotland
Rooms AvailableNo

Standing atop the rich agricultural lands of the barony of Dirleton, Dirleton Castle is a 13th-century ruin with a 16th-century house adjacent to it. The castle is situated in the village of Dirleton, East Lothian, Scotland. It is one of the country’s oldest surviving strongholds.

History of Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle was situated on the route between Edinburgh and the English border, due to which it was of great significance to the English. King David I of Scotland granted the lands of Gilsland in Cumbria in the 12th century to the Norman family of de Vaux, who inherited the castle as their residence. The castle switched hands several times through the invasions of the English under King Edward I. This took place during the Wars of Scottish Independence in 1296. The English owned the castle for a very long time until the Scots finally recaptured it in 1314. The castle was slightly damaged but was passed onto the Berwickshire family of Haliburton when John Haliburton got married to the heiress of the de Vaux family shortly before 1350. In 1363, the castle was seized by William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas, although it was later returned to the Haliburton. In 1505, the last Haliburton of Dirleton who had inherited the castle died, and his estates were equally divided amongst his three daughters in August 1507.

When the eldest daughter of the last Haliburton of Dirleton got married to the 2nd Lord Ruthven, William Ruthven, the castle passed onto the Ruthven family. Dirleton Castle played a significant role in the Gowrie Conspiracy in 1600, which claimed that the castle was taken away from the Ruthvens and given to Thomas Erskine as a reward for assisting James VI in the murder of Patrick Ruthven’s sons. After the killings, the King divided the estate as a gift to the men who had supported him. Erskine received the grant of Dirleton Castle in November 1600, and he was also made the Baron Erskine of Dirletowne in 1604. 

In 1650Oliver Cromwell defeated the Scots Royalists at Dunbar and gained effective control of southern Scotland. Oliver Cromwell also sent 1,600 troops to capture the castle. Under Cromwell’s control, the castle was destroyed and used as a field hospital until it was ruined and left to decay. Dirleton Castle and estates were purchased from the widowed Countess of Dirletoun by the lawyer John Nisbet in 1663. They continued to live there until the 1920s when the castle was passed into state care and is now taken care of by Historic Environment Scotland. The castle is protected under Category A listed buildings of scheduled monuments.


Dirleton Castle
Dirleton Castle”, by Dr Richard Murray, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The castle is built on a rocky outcrop overlooking the farmland of East Lothian. It consists of a kite-shaped courtyard surrounded by buildings on the south and east sides. There isn’t much remaining of the castle; just the Ruthven Lodging, the gatehouse the de Vaux keep, and the castle’s basement still survives. The castle is set within extensive gardens surrounded by a 19th-century wall. The garden is a collection of extraordinary flora and fauna and contains a yew, cedar, monkey puzzle, and Lawson’s cypress trees. The gardens also consist of a castellated 19th-century gazebo or summer house. The 1920s Arts and Crafts garden is home to the herbaceous border to the north. The Guinness Book of Records recognises the herbaceous border as the longest in the world.

Movie Features

Yeh Hai Jalwa (2002)- The Hollywood movie starred by Salman Khan and Ameesha Patel has a scene shot at Dirleton Castle in the film. The movie is one of a few famous movies of Bollywood shot at some scenic locations in Scotland.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who lived in Dirleton Castle?

The 13th-century fortress was a magnificent fortified residence to three successive noble families – the de Vauxs, Haliburton’s, and Ruthvens for 400 years. It was later purchased by Nisbets and further passed on to the Scottish Government in the 1920s.

Is Dirleton Castle free?

The castle’s Gardens, exhibitions, and shops are open to visitors, and admission is free of cost. Booking in advance is advised by the castle authorities, and an adult must accompany children under the age of 16.

Have you visited this castle before? If yes, why not share some beautiful pictures with us!
You can email us your pictures of the castle at castrumtocastle@gmail.com. Please use the name of the castle in the subject line.
Also, don’t forget to mention your name and social media profile link if you want the credits!

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He is a versatile E-Learning Support Officer and former Academic Officer at the University of York, United Kingdom. Not just an expert in education and technology, Debayan also has a deep love for castles and mountains. With a passion for travel, having explored 168+ cities worldwide, and a keen eye for photography, He brings a unique blend of experiences to the table. Specializing in E-learning content, IT support, AR development, and software engineering, Debayan has made a significant impact, educating over 200,000 students on Udemy.

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