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United Kingdom: Tantallon Castle

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Tantallon Castle | United Kingdom | Europe

[Visited: January 2006]

When I saw a picture of Tantallon Castle in Edinburgh, it direclty appealed to me and I decided I had to visit it. After a half an hour train ride I arrived at the end of the line, in North Berwick, and got off the train with only two other passengers. It added to the feeling of having arrived in a remote place, yet not far from Edinburgh. I crossed the town, and continued walking eastwards, in the direction of Tantallon Castle. Unfortunately, I had to follow the main road, as there was no path running along the coast. I left the striking North Berwick Law, a hill sticking prominently out of the landscape behind the town, behind me as I walked into the empty, windswept Scottish countryside.

Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): Tantallon Castle rising from the landscape

I had good views over the coast, and then saw the contours of Tantallon Castle in a distance. Walking on, I passed a small village, turned right, and after another few hundred metres, arrived at the gate. A closed gate, however. When I consulted the information sign, I realized the castle was actually closed on that day. That was not what I was told in Edinburgh. After the train journey and the walk from North Berwick, I just could not turn back being so close. I decided to jump over the fence and visit anyway. A second gate awaited me a little further on, but after that, Tantallon Castle loomed just behind the old gate. I explored the castle grounds, the dovecot, and found out I could not visit the castle proper. All the time, I felt a little guilty for having entered illegally.

Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): Tantallon Castle: remains of the wall

It was only here that I realized the perfect location of Tantallon Castle. Surrounded on three sides by steep cliffs and a ditch and defensive wall on the other side, it was not easily conquered. And indeed, since it was built in the 14th century, it was often besieged but only occupied few times. The last and definitive conquest was done in 1651 by the army of Oliver Cromwell. It was heavily damaged and was the virtual end of Tantallon Castle as such. When I approached the gate after my visit, I saw a car waiting outside, and I was convinced it was a caretaker waiting for me. I reached the gate with my heart pounding, but when a man came out of the car to ask me if I could open the gate for them, I realized they were also visitors. Actually, they were friendly enough to offer me a ride back.

Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): Dovecot on the courtyard of Tantallon Castle
Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): Bass Rock appearing behind Tantallon Castle
Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): High cliffs forming a formidable natural defense of Tantallon Castle
Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): Tantallon Castle seen through the old gate
Picture of Tantallon Castle (United Kingdom): Dovecot seen from the inside at Tantallon Castle

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