The Out About Scotland complete guide to Hailes Castle
What’s this attraction all about?
Sitting a mile and a half south-west of East Linton, Hailes Castle resides in a beautiful riverside setting that’s just perfect for an afternoon of exploration followed by a picnic next to the gentle river that flows behind it. The castle was built in the 14th century by the Hepburn family, but today it’s under the ownership of Historic Scotland and is often regarded as one of East Lothian’s hidden gems. As with many castles of this age, Hailes is a collection of ruined walls and outbuildings, but what sets it apart is the beautiful location in which it sits.
Surrounded on all sides by fields and woodland the castle can be best used as the start and end point for a walk in the East Lothian countryside, although as there’s no car park nearby you’ll be forced to park somewhere along the single track road which leads onto the site. The ruins of Hailes are a great place to let the kids run around and explore and it has to be one of the nicest historic attractions in the area if you visit on a bright summer day.Read more...
What can you do there?
Within the 13th-century curtain wall is the 14th-century keep, to which ranges were added in the 15th and 16th centuries. The other main building is the west tower which dwarfs the remains of the central tower that was built in the 16th-century, and there’s also a vaulted bakehouse and brewhouse from this time that can be seen in the basement area.
One of the most interesting sections of Hailes Castle is the huge dining room which features the remnants of a massive but long-extinguished fireplace, and it’s amazing to think that this dilapidated ruin was once the focal point for grand banquets and feasts.
Because Hailes is one of the more out-of-reach castles in the Historic Scotland catalogue you’ll often find that you’re the only person walking around the site, especially mid-week. This makes it a perfect spot to get away from the hustle and bustle of East Lothian’s towns so if you’re on your own don’t forget to take a blanket, flask of tea and a good book for a bit of countryside relaxation. As the site is currently unmanned there’s no admission charge to enter, and you’re free to spend as much time at the site as you like.
There are a couple of points to note about this historic attraction though. First off, it’s located pretty much in the middle of nowhere so it can be a real pain to find. Do yourself a favour and look for it in your satnav before you head off. Secondly, the parking outside the castle is pretty poor so if there’s more than a couple of visitors you’ll have to find a space on the single-lane road that runs alongside it. Other than that, this is a nice wee attraction in East Lothian, and one that’s definitely recommended.
What I liked about this attraction
- It’s free to visit
- It’s a great spot for a picnic
- Kids will love exploring the ruins
What I didn’t like about this attraction
- It’s quite remote and hard to find
- Car parking isn’t great
Hailes Castle is 1.5m south west of East Linton off the A1.
Parking is available.
Grid reference: NT 574 757.
Website: Historic Scotland
Prices and opening times
Hailes Castle is free to visit and open year-round.