Hailes Castle
Hailes Castle
A beautifully sited ruin on the south bank of the River Tyne, Hailes consists of a 13th-century fortified manor house, extended in 14th and 15th centuries. The castle was probably built by the Earl of Dunbar and extended by the Hepburn family in the late 14th century. How the Hepburns gained Hailes is an interesting tale; apparently, the castle was granted by the Earl to an Englishman named Adam Hepburn as thanks for Hepburn having saved the Earl from an attack by a savage horse.
On Candlemas, 1400, the Earl of March and Henry Percy (Hotspur) attacked Hailes. They burned the village and made two attempts to take the castle, but were eventually scared off when an armed force under the Master of Douglas appeared suddenly. In 1443 the defenders of Hailes were not so fortunate; Archibald Dunbar attacked the castle and killed the garrison. It was burned again in 1567, and evidence of the fire can be seen on some of the chapel window stones.

The Hepburn family owned Hailes until 1567. The last of the line was James, known to history as the 4th Earl of Bothwell, the man thought to have been behind the murder of Lord Darnley, husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. On 24 April 1567 Bothwell kidnapped the queen, and she is thought to have stayed at Hailes while being taken to Dunbar Castle. The Earl then married the queen, but his political career, and his life, did not last long enough to enjoy his new position.

After Bothwell's death, his estates reverted to the crown, and James VI granted Hailes to Hercules Stewart. It later passed to the Seton family, who sold it in 1700 to David Dalrymple, who took the title of Lord Hailes. Finally, in 1926 the castle was granted to the Ministry of Works by the Earl of Balfour. It is now cared for by Historic Scotland.

Visiting Hailes Castle
It amazes me that Hailes is not better known. It is easily the equal of many more famous castles. I suppose one reason for its relative anonymity is that it is not so readily accessible as many other medieval castles in Lothian. It is not difficult or arduous to reach, mind you, but it is located on a very narrow country lane which would be difficult if not impossible for tour buses to navigate! Once you do reach Hailes, however, you know you're in a very special place. The setting is marvellous, with the river on one side and a quiet stream on the other. True, the castle ruins are not huge, but the walls certainly stand to a very good height, and the chapel is very well preserved. One feature I had not expected was the rows of pigeon boxes in one of the ruined castle chambers - a sign of the many uses a ruined building can be put to by practical farmers over the centuries!