Dunnottar Castle on Scotland’s Northeast Coast

Castles are amazing. I don’t care if it has been renovated into a luxury hotel, if it’s a well-preserved ruin, or if all that remains is a crumbling mess. Every castle has a tale to tell, and I love them all.

Honey from "Notting Hill".

Today I would like to take you to Dunnottar Castle, which sits on the North Sea, about two miles from the town of Stonehaven, Scotland. I can still remember my reaction the first time I rounded the path, and Dunnottar came into full view. Hmmm, how do I describe it? Okay, got it. Do you remember the romcom “Notting Hill” starring Hugh Grant and Julia Roberts? (Where have all the romantic comedies gone, by the way?) Do you remember the scene where William (Grant) takes the famous actress Anna Scott (Roberts) as his date to his sister Honey’s birthday party? And do you remember what Honey said when she came face to face with Anna for the first time? Hahaha! Yeah. That pretty much sums it up.

Dunnottar Castle.

Perched atop a massive flat rock with sheer cliffs on three sides and connected to the mainland by only a narrow stretch of earth, Dunnottar Castle and its surrounding landscape is an extraordinary sight to behold. Honestly, photos cannot do justice to the magnitude of the rock upon which the castle resides.

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Lauriston Castle, Edinburgh, Scotland-Part 1

Hi, friends. How would you like to join me today for a stroll around the grounds of one of the prettiest castles in Scotland? Oh good, I’m so pleased! I promise that you are going to love it. Today we are in Edinburgh at the oh-so-lovely Lauriston Castle.

First, a quick history of the castle: Sir Archibald Napier built Lauriston’s tower house (front left) sometime around 1593, and the pretty Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827. Over the centuries, Lauriston Castle passed through many hands until it came into the possession of its final owners – William and Margaret Reid. The Reids acquired the property in 1902 and lived there until Mrs. Reid’s death in 1926.

Because the couple had no children, they left Lauriston to the city of Edinburgh under the condition that it be preserved unchanged. And so the promise was kept. The castle with the remarkable Edwardian interior, filled to the brim with their fine furniture and artwork, is now a museum maintained by the city. For a nominal fee, you can take a guided tour of this home, which remains exactly as it was in the couple’s day. The manicured grounds, with views over the Firth of Forth and a stunning Japanese garden, are a real bargain – free! Lauriston Castle is a true gem.

Front of Lauriston Castle in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The tower house (left of door) was built sometime around 1593. The Jacobean-style extension was added in 1827.

The photos that follow were taken in the month of May. The weather that day was MAGNIFICENT. I think you will see that with scenery like this, it was impossible not to fall crazy in love with the place.

Let’s go for that stroll.

The castle…

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Redhouse Castle-Longniddry, Scotland

Hey, friends. Today I would like to take you to another ‘off-the-beaten-path’ place. You probably know by now that those spots are my favorite. There is something fun about seeing things that the typical tourist doesn’t. Mr. C and I discovered this one entirely by accident. Today I’m going to take you to see Redhouse Castle.

Redhouse Castle
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Dirleton Castle-A Noble Fortress-Residence

Did anyone try the recipe I posted last week for the Victoria Sponge? My goodness, that was a delicious cake. I was also quite impressed by how well it held up. I was afraid the filling would cause the cake to become soggy, but I stored it in the refrigerator, and three days later, it was still fine. I’m not a fancy baker, but that cake made me feel fancy.

Anyway, it’s been a while since I have written about a castle here, so today I thought it would be fun to hop in the car and head over to East Lothian, Scotland. About 20 miles to the east of Edinburgh, just off of the A198, lies the pretty little village of Dirleton. And in the heart of Dirleton sits the awesome, robust remains of Dirleton Castle.

Front of Dirleton Castle.
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Newark Castle Ruin in Fife, Scotland

Mr. C has always been fascinated with castles. And though I thought they were impressive, I could never quite grasp what all the fuss was about.

Until I went to Scotland.

Most tourists only ever visit Scotland’s “biggies”- Dunnottar, Stirling, Eileen Donan, etc. And trust me, if you are lucky enough to set your feet on Scottish soil, you will want to see those. There are probably ten to fifteen castles throughout the country that are extremely popular with tourists, and for good reason – they are stinkin’ awesome! But I must confess. As much as I love and appreciate the castles that are well-trodden, I am a huge sucker for the ruins. The quiet, melancholy ones that time has all but forgotten.

Meet Newark Castle.

Newark Castle on the Firth of Forth.
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Hailes Castle-A Beautiful Ruin on the River Tyne

One of my favorite things to do in Scotland is to find the hidden treasures. That is not to say that the most popular and well-publicized sites aren’t great. They are! There is just something fun and unique about seeking out the hidden gems.


In our travels, Mr. C and I have made some pretty fantastic finds, and I plan to share them with you over time. But if I had to pick just one to tell you about today, it would be the beautiful ruins of Hailes Castle.

A small stream running in front of Hailes Castle ruin.


Hailes Castle sits roughly forty minutes east of Edinburgh, nestled snuggly along the River Tyne. The castle’s original stonework dates to the 1200s, which makes it one of the oldest surviving stone castles in Scotland.

Hailes Castle ruin and grass covered hills.

Hugo de Gourlay first began the construction of Hailes. He had to forfeit his property to the government, however, after authorities discovered that he supported the English during the Scottish Wars of Independence. Later, the Hepburn family acquired the castle, and it remained in their care throughout its most tumultuous years.


Hailes Castle had its share of attacks. The worst seems to have taken place in 1446 when the pro-English Archibald Dunbar is said to have killed everyone he found in the castle. Hm, that could certainly give some credence to those who believe ghosties haunt the ruins!

Ruined interior castle walls.

In my opinion, one of the most intriguing aspects of the castle’s history is its connection to Mary Queen of Scots. (If you are not familiar with Mary, she was a cousin and rival of Queen Elizabeth I of England.) In 1567, James Hepburn (of Hailes) was involved in the murder of Mary’s second husband, Lord Darnley. It was a scandalous affair, and there are two different tales of how it played out. After receiving an acquittal for the murder, some believe that he kidnapped Mary as she was traveling to Edinburgh and that he forced her to marry him at Dunbar Castle. Others say the kidnapping was a pre-planned agreement between the two. Either way, history shows that the pair lodged at Hailes Castle for a few days before going on to Dunbar where they wed.

After Hepburn’s downfall, Hailes Castle passed through the families of the Stewarts and then the Setons. Finally, in 1650, the castle fell under the attack of Oliver Cromwell, effectively ending its days as a noble residence.

A castle ruin on the banks of the River Tyne.

No longer a target for attack, Hailes Castle resides peacefully by the Tyne, charming visitors with its soft-spoken dignity and quiet demeanor. If you visit, take a picnic, turn off your phone, and let your imagination run wild.

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