Hailes Castle is located a mile and a half south west of East Linton in an East Lothian valley on the south bank of the River Tyne – it is easily visible from the A1, on the left if you are travelling towards Edinburgh. The Castle measures nearly 240′ x 90′ and contains one of the few remaining examples of thirteenth century stonework in Scotland. Its 13th century curtain wall contains a 14th century keep and ranges and towers dating from the 15th and 16th centuries. Fragments of the once-large courtyard (built by Patrick Hepburn in 1388) remain.
It was probably originally built by Hugo de Gourlay in the 1290s. The Gourlays were a family from Northumbria, and so Hailes appeared more like an English manor house than a Scottish baronial castle. Hailes was a fortified residence for a lord and his family. It was primarily a private house, but was also the centre of the lord’s estate. It served as a collection point for rent, a centre of justice (hence two pit prisons), and a refuge for the lord, his household and his tenants.
The Gourlays lost their land after supporting the English in the fourteenth century Wars of Independence. Hailes was granted to Sir Adam de Hepburn after he rescued the Earl of Dunbar from being attacked by horses. Over the next two centuries, the Hepburns converted Hailes from a manor house into a strong castle, adding a tower, and extending the curtain wall.
In 1400 Hailes was attacked by the Earl of March and Harry ‘Hotspur’ Percy. In 1446, Alexander Dunbar captured the castle and slaughtered all the occupants. The castle was burnt in 1532.
During the minority of Mary Queen of Scots, the castle belonged to Patrick Hepburn, the third, or ‘Fair’ Earl of Bothwell. He backed the English against the governor of Scotland, James Hamilton, second Earl of Arran. In 1547, Bothwell was forced to surrender Hailes to the Scottish government. In 1548, it was captured by the English and garrisoned by Lord Gray of Wilton. Arran was able to swiftly take the castle, removing its iron gates.
Hailes was returned to Patrick’s son, James Hepburn, when he became fourth Lord Bothwell in 1556. On the 5th May 1567, Bothwell and Mary Queen of Scots stayed overnight at Hailes on their way to Edinburgh from Dunbar, following Bothwell’s ‘rape’ of the Queen. After the Carberry Hill disaster, Bothwell fled Scotland and Hailes was forfeit, along with his other properties.
The castle passed first to Hercules Stewart and his family, then to the Setons. Both were noble families with country seats elsewhere, and Hailes was probably taken over by local tenants.
The castle was reduced to ruins by Cromwell in 1650.
Hailes was sold to Sir David Dalrymple, who died in 1721. His grandson became Lord Hailes.
In 1835 it was being used as a granary. In 1926 Hailes was given into state care by its owner, Arthur Balfour, the former Prime Minister. It is currently managed by Historic Scotland, and is free to access.
Hailes Castle – Sven and Eric’s History Site – I love, love, love this one!