Dirleton Castle in East Lothian, Scotland, is a historic fortress that has stood the test of time for over 800 years. This magnificent castle has witnessed many significant events in Scottish history, including battles and sieges, and has been home to some of the most influential families in Scotland, such as the de Vaux and the Haliburtons.

The castle, which is now a popular tourist attraction, is set in stunning grounds and boasts a range of architectural styles that reflect the changing times and tastes of its many owners. Visitors can explore the castle’s many rooms, including the Great Hall, the Chapel, and the Kitchen, and learn about the castle’s fascinating history through interactive exhibits and displays.

Whether you’re a history buff, a nature lover, or simply looking for a fun day out with the family, Dirleton Castle is a must-visit destination in East Lothian. With its rich history, stunning architecture, and beautiful surroundings, it is sure to leave a lasting impression on all who visit.

Historical Overview

Dirleton Castle is a historic fortress located in the town of Dirleton, East Lothian. The castle has a rich history that dates back to the 13th century. Over the years, the castle has been owned by various families and played a significant role in the Wars of Scottish Independence.

De Vaux Era

The castle was built in the 13th century by John De Vaux, a Norman knight. The castle was constructed to protect the area from the English invasion. The De Vaux family owned the castle until the 14th century when it was passed on to the Haliburtons.

Haliburtons Reign

The Haliburtons owned the castle for several centuries and made significant changes to the castle’s structure. The castle was transformed into a luxurious residence with beautiful gardens. During this period, the castle was also used as a prison for political prisoners.


In the 16th century, the castle was passed on to the Ruthven family. The Ruthvens were a prominent Scottish family and made further changes to the castle. The castle was used as a residence and a place to entertain guests.


During the 17th century, the castle was occupied by Oliver Cromwell’s troops. The castle was damaged during this period, and it was not until the 18th century that the castle was restored by the Nisbet family.

Architectural Features

Guard House

The Guard House of Dirleton Castle is a small, two-story building located near the South Entrance. It was built in the 16th century and was used to house the castle’s guards. The Guard House has a simple design with a gabled roof and small windows. It is made of sandstone and has a rough, rustic appearance.

South Entrance

The South Entrance of Dirleton Castle is a large, arched gateway that leads into the castle’s courtyard. It was built in the 14th century and is one of the oldest parts of the castle. The entrance is made of sandstone and has a decorative, Gothic-style arch. Above the arch is a small window with a pointed arch.

De Vaux Range

The De Vaux Range is a long, narrow building that runs along the east side of the courtyard. It was built in the 16th century and was used to house the castle’s kitchens, storerooms, and other service areas. The De Vaux Range has a simple, functional design with small windows and a gabled roof. It is made of sandstone and has a rough, rustic appearance.


The courtyard of Dirleton Castle is a large, open space surrounded by the castle’s buildings. It was originally used for military exercises and other outdoor activities. The courtyard has a square shape and is paved with stone. In the centre of the courtyard is a well that provided water for the castle’s inhabitants.

Tower House

The Tower House of Dirleton Castle is the most prominent feature of the castle. It was built in the 13th century and is one of the oldest parts of the castle. The Tower House has a rectangular shape and is five stories tall. It has a crenellated parapet and small, narrow windows. The Tower House was used as the castle’s main residence and has a number of rooms, including a great hall, a kitchen, and a chapel.

Gardens and Surroundings

Dirleton Castle is surrounded by beautiful gardens and stunning landscapes that make it a perfect place for a day out. Visitors can enjoy exploring the gardens and the surrounding areas, which offer a range of attractions and activities.

Herbaceous Border

One of the main attractions of the gardens is the Herbaceous Border, which is a stunning display of colourful flowers and plants. The border is carefully designed and maintained to ensure that visitors can enjoy a beautiful display of flowers throughout the year. The border is located near the castle ruins and offers a beautiful view of the castle.

Village Green

The Village Green is another popular attraction in Dirleton and is located just a short walk from the castle. The green is a great place to relax and enjoy a picnic, and there are plenty of benches and tables available for visitors to use. The green is surrounded by beautiful trees and offers a peaceful and tranquil setting.

Designed Landscape

The Designed Landscape surrounding Dirleton Castle is a beautiful and carefully crafted landscape that offers visitors a range of activities and attractions. Visitors can enjoy exploring the woodland areas, taking a walk around the lake, or simply relaxing in one of the many picnic areas. The landscape is carefully managed to ensure that visitors can enjoy a beautiful and natural setting.


Dirleton is located close to a number of beautiful beaches, including Yellowcraig Beach and Gullane Beach. These beaches offer visitors the chance to enjoy a range of activities, including swimming, surfing, and sunbathing. The beaches are also popular with walkers and offer stunning views of the surrounding landscape.

Visiting Dirleton Castle

Dirleton Castle is a historic fortress located in East Lothian, Scotland. It was built in the 13th century and has been a popular tourist destination for many years. If you’re planning a visit to Dirleton Castle, here’s what you need to know:

Admission and Tickets

To visit Dirleton Castle, you need to purchase a ticket. The prices vary depending on your age and membership status. Adults can purchase tickets for £6.50, while children under 16 can enter for free. Members of English Heritage, Cadw, and Young Scot can also enter for free. If you plan to visit multiple historic sites in Scotland, you may want to consider purchasing an Explorer Pass, which grants you access to over 70 attractions.

You can book tickets online or purchase them at the castle’s ticket office. It’s recommended that you book in advance to avoid disappointment.

Access Restrictions

Visitors should be aware that there are some access restrictions in place at Dirleton Castle. The site is not wheelchair accessible, and some areas may be difficult to navigate for those with mobility issues. Additionally, pets are not allowed on the castle grounds, with the exception of assistance dogs.

Events and Activities

Dirleton Castle hosts a variety of events and activities throughout the year. These include historical reenactments, guided tours, and family-friendly activities. Check the castle’s website or social media pages for up-to-date information on upcoming events.

In addition to scheduled events, visitors can explore the castle’s grounds and learn about its history through interpretive displays and audio guides.

Whether you’re a history buff or just looking for a fun day out, Dirleton Castle is a must-see destination in East Lothian.

Nearby Attractions and Accommodation

Archerfield Estate

Just a short drive from Dirleton Castle, Archerfield Estate is a must-visit destination for those who love golf. This stunning estate features two world-class golf courses and a luxurious spa. Visitors can also enjoy a range of outdoor activities, including clay pigeon shooting, archery, and quad biking.

North Berwick

Located just a few miles from Dirleton Castle, the coastal town of North Berwick is a great place to spend a day. The town is home to a beautiful beach, a range of independent shops and cafes, and the Scottish Seabird Centre. Visitors can also take a boat trip to the nearby Bass Rock, which is home to a large colony of gannets.

Tantallon Castle

Just a short drive from Dirleton Castle, Tantallon Castle is another must-visit attraction. This imposing fortress dates back to the 14th century and offers stunning views over the Firth of Forth. Visitors can explore the castle’s ruins and learn about its fascinating history.

Accommodation Options

There are plenty of accommodation options near Dirleton Castle, whether you’re looking for a luxury hotel or a cosy inn. Some popular options include:

  • Greywalls Hotel & Chez Roux: This luxurious hotel is located just a short walk from Dirleton Castle and features a range of elegant rooms and suites. The hotel also has a Michelin-starred restaurant.
  • The Castle Inn: This charming inn is located in the heart of Dirleton village and offers comfortable rooms and a warm welcome.
  • The Nether Abbey Hotel: Located in nearby North Berwick, this hotel is housed in a historic building and offers a range of stylish rooms and suites. The hotel also has a popular restaurant and bar.

No matter where you choose to stay, you’ll be just a stone’s throw from some of East Lothian’s top attractions.

Preservation and Conservation

Conservation Work

Dirleton Castle is a medieval fortress located in East Lothian, Scotland. The castle has been standing for over 700 years and has undergone several conservation works to ensure its preservation. The castle is currently managed by Historic Environment Scotland, who has been responsible for its conservation since 1913.

Over the years, Historic Environment Scotland has carried out several conservation works at Dirleton Castle. The conservation works have included the repair and restoration of the castle’s walls, roofs, and floors. The works have also included the preservation of the castle’s interior features such as fireplaces, staircases, and windows.

Protection Measures

Dirleton Castle is a Scheduled Ancient Monument, which means that it is legally protected by law. The castle is also listed as a Category A building, which is the highest level of protection for buildings in Scotland.

Historic Environment Scotland has put in place several protection measures to ensure the preservation of Dirleton Castle. These measures include regular inspections of the castle’s structure and the implementation of a maintenance program. The program ensures that any damage to the castle is repaired promptly to prevent further deterioration.

In addition to the protection measures put in place by Historic Environment Scotland, the castle is also protected by the Scottish Government’s planning policies. These policies ensure that any development near the castle does not harm its setting or impact its significance.

Local Life and Culture

Arts and Festivals

Dirleton Castle is located in the heart of East Lothian, a region known for its rich cultural heritage. The area is home to a vibrant arts scene, with numerous festivals and events taking place throughout the year. One such event is the East Lothian Art Trail, which showcases the work of local artists and provides a unique opportunity to explore the creative talent in the area. Other events include the Haddington Show, which celebrates the best of rural life in East Lothian, and the Musselburgh Festival, which features live music, theatre, and other performances.

Local Cuisine

East Lothian is also known for its delicious local cuisine, which includes fresh seafood, locally sourced meats, and traditional Scottish dishes. Visitors to Dirleton Castle can sample some of the best local food at the nearby Archerfield Walled Garden, which offers a range of dining options, from casual cafes to fine dining restaurants. Other popular local eateries include the Lobster Shack in North Berwick and the Dunbar Tandoori, which serves up authentic Indian cuisine.

Sports and Recreation

For those who love the great outdoors, East Lothian offers a wide range of activities, from golf and fishing to hiking and cycling. Golf enthusiasts can enjoy a round of golf at one of the many world-class golf courses in the area, including Muirfield, Gullane, and North Berwick. Fishing enthusiasts can try their hand at sea fishing or fly fishing in the rivers and lochs in the area. Families with children can enjoy a day out at the nearby East Links Family Park, which features a range of activities, including animal encounters, go-karting, and adventure playgrounds.