Featured image of Hailes Castle

The History of Hailes Castle

LocationEast Linton, East Lothian, Scotland, United Kingdom (Google Maps)
Open for VisitorsTemporarily closed for maintenance
Owned byHistoric Environment Scotland
Official WebsiteHailes Castle
Rooms AvailableYes, Available for filming

Situated beside the River Tyne and southwest of East Linton, Hailes Castle is a picturesque site of immense historical significance. The scenic ruins consist of towers and ranges dating back to the 13th century in a beautiful riverside setting. It is considered to be one of the oldest surviving stonework structures in Scotland.

History of Hailes Castle

Dating back to the early 1200s, Hailes Castle has a long and fascinating history. The Castle’s estate was first granted to the de Gourlays during the reign of William 1 ‘the Lion’ (1165-1214). The Castle features significantly in the Wars of Independence fought between the Kingdoms of England and Scotland in the 13th and 14th centuries. The de Gourlays supported the English in the Wars and were forced to forfeit their lands by the Scottish Crown.

In 1298, Hailes Castle was one of three castles captured by Edward I of England during his invasion. Around the year 1350, it was passed on to the Hepburns- a family with Northumbrian roots- who went on to occupy the estate during the late 14th and 15th centuries. In 1401, Sir Patrick (II) Hepburn of Hailes famously held the Castle against a siege led by Henry ‘Hotspur’ Percy, an English knight. The Castle acted as the stronghold for the Scots, forcing the English to return South after the Battle of Prestonkirk.

Hailes Castle was captured by Archibald Dunbar in 1446, who was supported by the English. Sir Patrick Hepburn abandoned his Douglas master and pledged loyalty to the royalist cause. For this, he received the title of Lord Hailes. His successor, Patrick Hepburn, 2nd Lord of Hailes, was named Earl of Bothwell by James IV.

In 1548, the Castle was occupied by Patrick Gray for the English during the War of the Rough Wooing, only to be recaptured by the Scots soon after. Mary, the Queen of Scots, was abducted and brought here in 1567 by James Hepburn, her third husband and the 4th Earl of Bothwell. The Castle was partially dismantled by Cromwell in 1650, ending its status as a noble residence.


Hailes Castle
Hailes castle”, by james denham, is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

The oldest structures that stand on the premises are the Western and Eastern towers. These towers were made out of red sandstone in the 14th century. The Western tower is three storeys tall and contains a vaulted pit prison. This tower served as the Castle’s keep under the de Gourlays, making it one of the few surviving keeps dating to this era. Hailes Castle’s Eastern tower has a well-chamber in its basement along with a cross-ribbed vault over the entrance stair. Only the ground floor portion of the Eastern tower remains intact presently.

The Hepburns made some significant changes to Hailes Castle. They constructed a perimeter wall over 2 metres thick with a round-arched doorway and two back gates. Another magnificent five-story tower house was built at the far west end with a basement, a pit prison, a hall on the first floor, and private chambers above. Besides this tower is a building about three storeys high which could have served as a chapel and great hall. Other structures around the Castle exist in the form of fragmented ruins.

Frequently Asked Questions

Who lived in Hailes Castle?

Hailes Castle was home initially to the Gourlays family in the 1200s and then the Hepburns from the late 14th to early 15th centuries. Patrick Hepburn, who was named Earl of Bothwell by James IV, resided here. Hailes Castle was also occupied by James Hepburn, the 3rd husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.

Who owns Hailes Castle?

After Cromwell’s conquest, Hailes Castle was passed to the Stewarts and then to the Setons of Barnes, who sold it to the Dalrymples of Hailes. The Castle was being used as a granary by the locals and was finally taken into state care under the ownership of Historic Environment Scotland (HES).

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!

Rate the Castle

Click on a star to rate it!

Average rating 0 / 5. Vote count: 0

No votes so far! Be the first to rate this post.

As you found this post useful...

Follow us on social media!

Leave a Reply