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Publication Account

Date 1985

Event ID 1016139

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


Dirleton was described as a "castellum" c1225. Sited on a rocky, igneous outcrop at the east end of a gentle ridge and commanding the east-west coastal route, its principal structures were built by the de Vaux, an Anglo-Norman family granted the barony of Dirleton in the 12th century. In 1298, however, the castle was taken by Edward I.

There are three main periods of construction. Most recent are the 16th century additions of the Ruthvens enclosing the inner court or close at the south -west corner. During the preceding two centuries, 14th and 15th, the Halyburtons had raised most of the east block-including cellars, bakery, kitchens and chapel. Below the chapel is a prison; below this, a pit-prison which, like others of the lower chambers, has been hewn out of the natural rock. The outer wall of this block was built against parts of the earlier curtain wall-re-used to provide further support for the new tunnel-vaulting. And the imposing main entrance and drawbridge also date to this period.

In its original form, however, Dirleton consisted of an enclosing wall or enceinte following very much the line of the present wall. Circular towers, now overlaid by later building, once occupied the south-east and north-north-east angles; in the south-west corner stood the main block, very much as it still is. Off the triangular inner court a semi-circular and a rectangular tower both project outwards; also the principal 'drum' tower of well-dressed masonry, with 3m thick walls to an overall diameter of some 11m. At first-floor level it contains the roughly hexagonal Lord's Chamber, with stone seats-three of them in window openings.

There is a 16th century beehive-shaped doocot in the grounds, and a 17th century bowling green whose surviving yew trees are a reminder of an earlier, formal planting within the 'garth'.

Dirleton is one of south-east Scotland's most attractive villages, and its present form can be traced back with certainty to the early 16th century.

Information from 'Exploring Scotland's Heritage: Lothian and Borders', (1985).

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