Scheduled Monument

Tantallon CastleSM13326

Status: Designated


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The legal document available for download below constitutes the formal designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The additional details provided on this page are provided for information purposes only and do not form part of the designation. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within this additional information.


Date Added
Secular: castle
Local Authority
East Lothian
North Berwick
NT 59529 84997
359529, 684997


The monument is Tantallon Castle, which dates from the second half of the 14th century (about AD 1360) and was abandoned in 1651 when it was surrendered to the English following a siege by General Monck. The castle survives as an upstanding ruin comprising three towers projecting from a massive red sandstone curtain wall, a two-storey hall-block and a series of substantial ditches and ramparts on the landward side. The castle is situated at about 30m OD on a high promontory facing the Bass Rock. The monument was originally scheduled in 1921, but the documentation did not meet modern standards: the present amendment rectifies this.

The curtain wall of Tantallon Castle stands some 15m high and 3.5m thick. It runs N-S for a length of about 61m across the neck of the promontory. Intramural staircases give access to the parapet walk. Three towers project from the curtain wall. The Mid Tower housed the entrance gate and the keeper's lodging; the N tower contained the earl's private apartments; and the S tower comprised ancillary accommodation. The curtain wall encloses the inner close, an oblong area measuring about 75m NNW-SSE by 45m transversely, which is protected by sheer 30m-high cliffs along its NE side. A two-storey hall-block and later adjoining kitchen block are located along the N side of the inner close. The foundations of part of another structure are also visible, which would have stood in the inner close against the SE section of the curtain wall. Other visible features in the inner close include a partly completed sea-gate and well on the seaward side.

A series of substantial earthworks protect the landward approach to the castle. An apparently rock-cut ditch is located immediately in front of (W of) the castle. Another ditch, with both an inner and outer rampart, is situated some 75m further W, defining the outer close of the castle. The gate into the outer close is protected by a gun-tower and wall of early 16th-century date. Apart from a 17th-century dovecot, no features are visible on the surface within the outer close, but recent geophysical survey has indicated that complex archaeological remains are likely to be present. Beyond the outer close are the remains of a ravelin, constructed possibly in response to Cromwell's invasion in 1651. A further entrenchment of uncertain date is located some 150m SW of the castle.

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. On the SW side the scheduling extends up to the boundary fence line. The scheduling specifically excludes: the above-ground elements of all modern boundary walls and modern fences; the above-ground elements of all signage and services; the top 300mm of all modern paths to allow for their maintenance; and the above-ground elements of the modern wooden bridges.

Statement of National Importance

The monument is of national importance as the impressive remains of the last great curtain-walled castle built in Scotland - a massive stone castle of the 14th century that can make a significant contribution to our understanding of late medieval fortified residences and expressions of status. The later artillery defences can also make a significant contribution to our understanding of artillery and siege warfare, and military developments of the 16th and 17th centuries. The monument survives in excellent condition and, despite the damage wrought by the siege of 1651, is a remarkably intact example of a Scottish medieval castle. It represents an important component of both the medieval and contemporary landscapes. In addition to the upstanding structure, there is very high potential for the survival of buried archaeological remains that can provide information about the development of the castle and the outer defences and entrenchments. Buried remains can also tell us about the daily life of the inhabitants and their trading contacts and economy. The loss of the monument would significantly diminish our ability to understand the form, function and character of late medieval defensive structures in Scotland and would be a significant loss to East Lothian's historic landscape.



RCAHMS records the castle as NT58NE 5

Tantallon Castle is a property in the care of Scottish Ministers.

Caldwell, D H 1992b 'Tantallon Castle, East Lothian: a catalogue of the finds', Proc Soc Antiq Scot, vol 121, 335-57.

Historic Scotland 2009 Tantallon Castle. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D and Ross, T 1887-92 The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries, 5v, vol 1, 429-35. Edinburgh.

MacGibbon, D 1891 'Tantallon Castle', Trans Edinburgh Architect Ass, vol 1, 77-84.

RCAHMS (1924) The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments and Constructions of Scotland. Eighth report with inventory of monuments and constructions in the county of East Lothian, 61-7. Edinburgh.

Richardson, J S (1950) Tantallon Castle, East Lothian. Edinburgh.

Tabraham, C J and Grove, D (1994) Tantallon Castle. Edinburgh.

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Tantallon Castle

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About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map (see ‘legal documents’ above) showing the scheduled area is the designation of the monument under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary and provided for general information purposes only. Historic Environment Scotland accepts no liability for any loss or damages arising from reliance on any inaccuracies within the statement of national importance or additional information. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

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