The Tantallon Castle in Scotland is a large fortress set on the edge of the cliffs.
Plus, the semi-ruins can still be climbed for spectacular views of the castle and the island of Bass Rock.
What else could we want?
Below is my guide to help you plan your visit with map, tips and pictures.
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Why visit Tantallon Castle in Scotland?
The mix of the location, the imposing structure without windows on the land side, the possibility to climb up there... It is very impressive.
It is one of the best castles in Scotland (see my list).
Plus the area with the sea, Bass Rock Island and the green pasture is very peaceful!
Below is a short video to give you an idea of what a visit to Tantallon can look like - a virtual tour!
More photos after the planning tips.
PLANNING TIPS & Map - Tantallon Castle, Scotland
How to get to Tantallon Castle Location
- In the Lothian region, on the coast East of Edinburgh
- 5km from North Berthwick (3.1mi)
- Often combined with a visit to Dirleton Castle (15min drive)
- Edinburgh to Tantallon Castle = 50min drive via A1 up to East Linton and A198
- Nearby town is Auldhame
- Below is a map to help you get oriented with the castle location:
The GPS coordinates and location on a practical map (with all my best stops) are available in both my Travel Guide eBooks. They help you easily plan your Scotland itinerary:
- Easy access to carpark
- Tantallon Castle opening hours - Apr to Sep: 9:30am to 5:30pm - Winter:10am to 4pm - last entry 30min before closure - check out latest here
- Entry price: £6
- Toilets near the entrance
- Easy walk around the ground but steep stairs to get to the upper levels - Might be difficult for people with vertigo or with knee problems
- Plan at least 1hour to really explore the place
- Entrance can be impacted if a wedding is being held at the castle
Where to stay nearby?
- You can easily visit the castle on a day trip from Edinburgh - Check out the best rated accommodations in Edinburgh
- But if you want to stay in a quieter area, the nearby coastal town is North Berwick - check out the best rated accommodations there
- There is the Tantallon Caravan Park close to it
Need to rent a car in Scotland?
- Compare prices on my favorite platform: Discovercars.com - one of the best rated comparison sites!
- Choose the car and company you prefer (prefer a compact car for the single-lane roads)
- Consider their full coverage option - I always take it for peace of mind!
- Book early to have a large choice of vehicles!
Castle of Tantallon - Road, access & ground map
As you arrive on A198 (from North or South), you can see the semi-ruins standing in the distance.
Alternatively you can walk from North Berwick as it is only a 1h walk (3.2 miles/ 5km)
The castle is clearly indicated.
Walking to the castle
Once you pay the entry fee, there is a little bit of walking on the grass to reach the castle.
Make sure to wear good walking shoes as it can be slippery when wet (and you need comfortable shoes to climb in the castle as well).
Signs with history and architecture explanations are displayed around and inside the Castle.
Tantallon Castle Ground Map
From the start you get a map with the timelines of the castle and the different elements to explore on the grounds:
- Dovecot (Doocot for Scots)
- Towers and halls
Tantallon Castle History
Below are a few background Tantallon Castle facts to give you context:
- Fortress built in the 14th century by William Douglas, 1st Earl of Douglas
- Its architecture is of a single wall in local red sandstone protecting from the land while the other 3 sides are protected by the sea cliffs
- It was besieged many times in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries
- And in more recent years, it played a role in the preparation of the Normandy invasion in 1944. Before D-Day, captured radars were moved to the castle and used to train the soldiers.
- The castle used to provide 1100m2 of accommodation.
Outer court & medieval curtain wall castle on a cliff
The most impressive part of the castle is when you approach it from the gate.
The one-piece wall is very impressive. It blocks the view of the headland.
The towers on each side have collapsed but it still looks mighty and difficult to attack as 3 sides are protected by steep cliffs.
Tantallon Wall Size
- Wall height = over 15m high (49ft)
- Length = 90m long (300ft)
- Thickness of area = 3.6m (12ft)
- And the central tower is 24m high (79ft).
- The Douglas Tower (now collapsed) was 7-storey high - it was the keep or dungeon.
- The East Tower (also collapsed) was originally 5-storey high
Here is a side view of the wall and you can see the position with the sea cliffs.
In the outer court, as you approach the castle, don't miss the pigeon house on the land, called Doocot in Scotland.
It dates back to the 17th-century.
Its structure is a 3-stage lectern with a mix of grey rubbles and red sandstones.
Exploring the ruins
Despite being in ruins, there is still a lot to explore in Tantallon Castle.
You enter by the gate in the center of the wall and discover the higher levels of the central tower as all the floors have fallen
A few artefacts are displayed but not that many. You mostly explore for the architecture and the location.
Climbing Tantallon Castle - upper levels
The best part is climbing up the stairs to the upper platforms.
I forgot to count how many steps there were, sorry. But they were quite steep!
But if you think you can manage the climb, I highly recommend it.
The views over the castle and the area are fantastic.
Here is the view towards the Inner Court and Bass Rock Island:
And here is a view in the opposite direction towards Oxroad Bay:
And the view towards Gin Head:
From the top you also get a great view inland. You can see:
- The outer court with the dovecot
- And, in the distance, the North Berwick Law (also called Berwick Law) which is a 183m high conical hill (613ft). It is a volcanic plug.
And you can climb to the top of the central tower.
This is not for people suffering from vertigo, though.
The view of the center drop is very impressive
Inner court - sea-side
You can also explore the central court and walk all the way to the cliffs.
A couple of benches allow you to relax and soak up the atmosphere. The view of the wall from this side is also impressive.
Views of Bass Rock island
From the Tantallon Castle, you can clearly see the small island of Bass Rock, also called the Bass.
It is located 2km offshore (1.2mi) and it is 107m (351ft) at its highest point.
This volcanic rock is home to a large colony of gannets.
It used to be a retreat for Christian Hermits, a castle and later a prison.
The lighthouse that you can see below was built in 1902.
I love the perspective on this shot:
Other highlights of South Scotland to consider visiting:
- The fascinating triangular castle of Caerlaverock - read article
- The charming ruins of Sweetheart Abbey - read article
- The ancient site of Cairnholy - read article
- The Borders Abbeys including Melrose Abbey and the photogenic Jedburgh Abbey
- The inspiring Scott's View - read article
- And the impressive forts, East of Edinburgh: Dirleton Castle and this Tantallon Castle
Planning a trip to Scotland? Check out my guide to help you plan your road trip:
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