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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
*This castle is free to visit.