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Fast Castle

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Fast Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Fastcastle; Fast Castle Head

Canmore ID 59944

Site Number NT87SE 1

NGR NT 86101 71047

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Scottish Borders, The
  • Parish Coldingham
  • Former Region Borders
  • Former District Berwickshire
  • Former County Berwickshire

Archaeology Notes

NT87SE 1 86101 71047

(NT 8611 7104) Fast Castle (NR) (Ruins).

OS 6" map, Berwickshire, 2nd ed., (1908).

The remains of Fast Castle stand on a plateau, 88ft x 266ft, a promontory almost surrounded by cliffs falling some 100 to 150 feet. A modern footbridge has replaced the drawbridge which spanned the narrow chasm separating the promontory from the mainland. The plateau was fringed by a curtain wall, of which all that remains is a portion of the tower at the drawbridge entrance. Of the castle itself only a part of the wall forming the north-east corner of 'The Halle' (see W Douglas 1921 plan based on an original made in 1549 - figs.2 and 3) remains, to the height of the corbels.

The first mention of the castle was in 1333, but the first authoritative date is 1404. The walls were levelled soon after 1515 and the castle was rebuilt in 1521.

A A Carr 1836; W Douglas 1921.

Generally as described above, but footings of the range of buildings shown along the NW edge of the promontory on Douglas's plan can also still be seen.

Revised at 1/2500.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 18 February 1966.

A series of excavations have been carried out at Fast Castle between 1975 and 1984 by the Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society. Brief reports of their results are given by the authorities quoted.

E Robertson 1975-1982; K L Mitchell 1984; K R Murdoch 1985.

Photographed by the RCAHMS 1980.

RCAHMS AP catalogue 1980.

Architecture Notes

NT87SE 1 86101 71047


Scottish Record Office:

RHP/6075 - photostat copies of plans, Belvoir MS, mid 16th century


Field Visit (20 August 1908)

77. Fast Castle.

Fast Castle is situated at an elevation of about 158 feet, on a promontory of rock projecting into the sea some 1000 yards north-north-east of Dowlaw farm. The platform on which the castle stood is 260 feet long by 88 feet broad. The neck of the promontory has been traversed by a deep trench or chasm 20 feet wide,on the castle side of which are still observable the remains of a round tower. Within, part of the east wall of the keep still remains as high as the corbelling, with two corbels in situ, but all the rest of the structure is completely destroyed. The scanty remains of the battlement which encircled the promontory still exist below the edge of the precipitous cliffs on the west side.

Fast Castle was only a minor fortress, at first of the Earls of Dunbar, afterwards giving name to a branch of the Homes. In the early years of the 15th century it was for a time alternately in English and Scottish hands. It was garrisoned in January 1514, as a result of the English victory at Flodden; thereafter was implicated in the opposition to the regency of the Duke of Albany and was by him captured and razed (1515). Some six years later it was rebuilt. The English ambassador, who lodged in it for a night in 1567, declared that it was ‘fitter to lodge prisoners in than folks at liberty; as it is very little, so is it very strong’. An opinion of Cromwell's time (1651) describes it as being, in comparison with Tantallon, ‘as strong, though of little importance, being not able to shelter horses’ (1). The strength of the place consisted in its isolated and precipitous site. By marriage of an heiress it had passed in the reign of James V. from the Homes to Logan of Restalrig, returning, however, to Lord Home by disposition in 1606.

See Cast. and Dom. Arch., iii. p. 222 (plan and illus.); Carr’s

Coldingham, p. 92; Scott's Provincial Antiquities, ii. p. 188 (illus.); (1) Douglas's Cromwell's Scotch Campaigns, p. 234, n.; Wedderburn Paper's (Hist. MSS. Comn.).

RCAHMS 1915, visited 24th August 1908

OS Map: BER., ii. SW.

Photographic Survey (July 1961 - September 1961)

Photographic survey of Fast Castle, Berwickshire, by the Scottish National Buildings Record in July and September 1961.

Excavation (1971 - 1986)

Excavations at Fast Castle were undertaken by members of Edinburgh Archaeological Field Society over 15 years between 1971 and 1986, and finally reported on in 2001 in the definitive Excavation Report "Fast Castle Excavations 1971-86", by K L Mitchell, K R Murdoch, and J R Ward, and others.

Sbc Note

Visibility: This site has been excavated.

Information from Scottish Borders Council


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