A day out at Hailes Castle
Yesterday myself, my two kids and mad dog Floyd went for an explore around Hailes Castle. I’m embarrassed to say that I have never been before, Hailes Castle is just 30 mins away from where I live.
Finding Hailes Castle is quite difficult. Brown signs lead you off the A1 announcing it is only 6 miles away, but as you get closer all the signs seem to disappear and you are left looking for a castle in the beautiful landscape. Us Scots know how to hide a castle!
As I have now discovered it is completely hidden unless you are coming from the other direction. Only a very small lay-by and tiny sign which can not be seen by the road identifies where you can park.
A small bubbling steam had to be crossed, completely surrounded by snowdrops. The castle is perched right on the edge of the River Tyne.
After all the rain we’ve had recently the river was very high and fast moving, we had a bit of a scare when mad dog Floyd jumped into it and fought against the current to our horror and the horror of dog walkers on the other side of the river. We managed to shout him over to a place he could get out, which to our relief he did. Then mad dog floyd ran back to where he initially jumped in and jumped in again.
Anyway … back to the castle.
Hailes was the fortified hall of an upwardly mobile Northumbrian family. the Gourlays. Much of their home has survived since 1240 including the ventral tower and a vaulted stairway.
Hailes Castle is thought to contain some of the oldest standing stonework in Scotland
The castle was given to other Northumbrian family the Hepburns by by Robert the Bruce after the Gourlays backed the loosing side during the Wars of Independence. The de Gourlay family supported the English during the Wars of Independence and in doing so were stripped of their land.
According to legend Adam Hepburn got Hailes for saving the Earl of Dunbar from a savage horse.
The Hepburns dramatically expanded the castle during the 1300s and 1400s. The existing building became the centre of a long north range, extending to a low tower at the east end, still visible in the form of a finger of stone pointing skyward. And at the other end they built the huge West Tower.
This impressive building reflects the Hepburn’s growing status. The Great Hall at some point is thought to have been partitioned off as a private chapel for the Lord and his family. Physical traces of Catholic rituals can still be seen here.
In 1400 it successfully withstood an attack from Harry Hotspur Percy (my Kids loved this name), in league with the Earl of March. The attackers were defeated afterwards in a counter-attack led by Archibald, Master of Douglas. A successful attack by Archibald Dunbar in 1443 was followed by a massacre of the castle’s inhabitants.
In July 1547, during the war of the Rough Wooing, John Lord Borthwick was made keeper of the ‘place and fortalice of Halis.’ He undertook to keep it ‘surlie fra our auld ynemies of Ingland and all uthairis.’ He agreed only to render the house to Regent Arran, and not to the Earl of Bothwell or any of the Hepburn name. If the English came, Arran promised to send twenty four horsemen to defend the castle. After the battle of Pinkie, Lord Grey of Wilton occupied it for the English.
In 1567 James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, entertained Mary, Queen of Scots, at Hailes Castle. All his lands, including Hailes Castle were later forfeited to the Scottish Crown.
Oliver Cromwell partly slighted the building in 1650 after the battle of Dunbar. It later passed into the hands of the Stewarts, the Setons, and finally, in 1700, the Dalrymple of Hailes family. By the mid-19th century the castle was being used as a granary, Sir David Dalrymple, Bt., having taken advantage of the more settled times to move his family to the mansion of New Hailes.