A day out at Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle

Hailes Castle surrounded by snowdrops

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!

View of Hailes Castle

View of Hailes 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.  

The River Tyne

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.

An artists impression of what the castle used to look like

An artists impression of what the castle used to look like

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.

The Great Hall - part of a two story building built by the Hepburns

The Great Hall – part of a two story building built by the Hepburns

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.

Darnley and Mary

Darnley and Mary

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.

Exploring Hailes

Exploring Hailes


Can see the beehive doo'cot of a later 1500's period.

Can see the beehive doo’cot of a later 1500’s period.

Sat in the bread oven

Sat in the bread oven

Vaulted Kitchens

Vaulted Kitchens


About Amanda Moffet

I run www.scotclans.com with Rodger Moffet. Live in Edinburgh and love travelling around Scotland gathering stories.

View all posts by Amanda Moffet →

13 thoughts on “A day out at Hailes Castle

  1. Phil Atkinson

    Loved the story and seen Mad dog Floyd. I love stories of castles and items about Scotland. We left the home land in 1953 and I have been home three times over the years.

  2. Baden J. Burnip

    Hello Roger and Amanda.
    I too liked your story of the Castle, especially all the Historical information. Like everything ScotClans do within and outside the premises. Many thanks.
    Baden J. Burnip

  3. Liz Doyle

    I loved your story, Amanda, But where is a picture of the snowdrops that you mentioned lining the banks of the Tyne? Snowdrops are my favorite flowers, and sad to say,m I can’t seem to grow them in the South of the US.

  4. Tracey Leigh Yager

    Hi Scotclans. I am the daughter of Scottish immigrants, (Gordon Clan out of Huntly) that landed on Ellis Island.
    Now I have continued that migration with my own family ever further west to the Big Island of Hawaii. But I love your stories and info on your site and look forward to seeing you in my inbox every week Thanks for the endeavour and effort. I want you to know that even out here in the great, wide Pacific, I often read your stories to my children and it helps to keep that indelible spark alive of the Scotland out there, which is also within.
    All the Best,
    Tracey Leigh Yager

  5. Janet Price

    Thank you, Amanda and Roger, for all the great stories and photos from Scotland! My grandfather, James Dick, came from Edinburgh, then migrated to Ellis Island. He settled in Verona Beach, NY. Though he is long gone, I, at the age of 60, live just 10 minutes away from there. I have always wished to tour Scotland but everyone knows how expensive that can be. However, I can see Scotland thru Scotclans and I love it!!! You two are awesome for all that you do for your site and for us to enjoy!!

    Janet Price
    Canastota, NY

  6. marcia bowers

    I love your stories of Scotland and my grandfather was a McIntyre. I love anything Scottish and searching for my Scottish ancestries.
    wonderful site.

  7. Anne M. Consedine

    Tremendous story with the pictures and history. My grandfather John Duncan was born in Aberdeen. He immigrated to Massachusetts in the late 1800’s. Love the castles and highlands of Scotland. It has been my interest for many years. Have the tartans and Duncan crest which I wear proudy, “Learn to Endure” is a great motto. Thank you for remarkable information. Will look forward to more history and news of Scotland.

  8. Joanna Hepburn

    I am Joanna Hepburn – ancestor of James Hepburn, and Adam Hepburn (as far back -[1600’s] as the Hepburn family tree I have) I knew Hepburn’s once lived in Hailes Castle. I tried to look for it from a North bound train (to Edinburgh) 2010, with no luck – now I know why. I live in New Zealand and am proud of my Scottish heritage.
    Some one may be able to confirm – my father said we used (?) the Stewart tartan. Is that correct?

    Any other info that may be of interest, or corrections in what I have written above, is welcome. Thank you.


  9. Scott Hepburn

    VIsited from the states about two weeks ago and walked the grounds of Hailes castle. Obviously a must visit on my list. Trying to get my full tree together but have some difficulty in some of the early Hepburn records in upstate NY, but Scots will overcome.

  10. John Hepburn

    I appreciated the story of the castle. My wife and I are tentatively planning to visit Scotland in 2018, something I’ve wanted to do for a long time. If we do, we’ll try to visit the castle. I grew up near Chicago and have now retired to Phoenix, Arizona.

  11. Jason Dalrymple

    I’m very glad to have come across your post, as I had completely forgotten about Hailes Castle and the Dalrymple’s ownership prior to relocating to Newhailes. I’ll be in Scotland in August and planned many of my stops based on family history (Oxenford, Tantallon, Newhailes in the Edinburgh area, plus the family seat and vicinity in Dumfries and Galloway.

    Thanks to the magic of Google Street View, I found the Car Park sign and what looks like may be the trail through the landscape to get there. It looks quite picturesque and I hope I can squeeze it in to this trip!

  12. Linda Casebeer

    My son and I plan on visiting Scotland in March 2019 to see all things Dalrymple. I am an amateur genealogist. My mothers line is my
    Dalrymple line. I have my relative, James Dalrymple, born in 1725 married to Ereminah Yeoman. He emirated to New Jersey, USA. I
    am at a loss as where to go after that. I would love to see Scotland again. In 1987 I was in St.. Andrews I definitely want to see Hailes Castle.

  13. Jason Dalrymple

    It is my wish to take a family vacation to see the village of Dalrymple and the associated lands and castles. in america the name confuses most during pronunciation. So it would be an experience to visit a place that bears our family name. I am currently trying to trace my heritage back to Ayrshire. Getting closer slowly.

    Thank you for this wonderful website.

    Jason R. Dalrymple


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