Tantallon Castle was the last curtain wall castle built in Scotland, and was constructed by William Douglas, the 1st Earl of Douglas, in the mid 14th century.
One large defensive wall blocks access to a promontory jutting out into the sea, with the other three sides of the castle naturally defended by the high cliffs. In front of the curtain wall is a rock-cut ditch, with a second deeper ditch about 100 metres away from the castle, defending the bailey.
The curtain wall stretches for 90 metres, and is around 15 metres tall and up to 3.6 metres thick. It contains several intramural chambers and staircases. At the centre point of the wall is the main gatehouse, which featured a drawbridge and portcullis.
At the north-west corner of the curtain wall is the Douglas Tower, a round tower which contained the Earl of Douglas’ private chambers. The East Tower is D-shaped, with the curved side facing outwards.
Behind the curtain wall is a range of buildings attached to the Douglas Tower, containing the Great Hall, Laigh Hall and further accommodation. Some of these buildings have fallen into the sea. A large well provided fresh water for the inhabitants of the castle, and is sunk some 32 metres into the rock below.
Tantallon Castle was besieged in 1491, 1528, 1639, and 1651 during Cromwell’s invasion. This last siege saw the Douglas Tower badly damaged by cannon, and Tantallon was never inhabited again.
In 1699 James Douglas, the 12th Earl of Angus, sold Tantallon to Sir Hew Dalrymple in order to settle gambling debts. The castle remained in the Dalrymple family until it was passed to the Government in 1924 by Sir Hew Hamilton-Dalrymple.