north of the ancient market town of Haddington behind the Garleton hills
sits the ruin of Garleton castle, with an intact crow stepped gabled
hall-house, a row of modern cottages which incorporate earlier castle
material (including 16th century cannon-loops) and the remains of a drum
tower with three basement vaults set into an angled wall. Which must have
been the location of the principal dwelling tower, possibly L-plan in
form, since these vaults suggest the distribution of weight from several
all that remain of the castle raised in the late 1500's by Sir John Seton
(treasurer of the household and Lord of Session under King James VI of
Scots 1567-1625) on land originally owned by the Lyndsay family of nearby
Byres castle. Locally the Lyndsays also held Luffness castle beside
Aberlady and lands around Ormiston
which the later signed over to the Cockburn family. Though both these
families in turn appear to have been vassal lords in subjection to the
Dunbar family who held the majority of land throughout the Lothians with Dunbar
castle as their principal residence.
itself may well incorporate fabric from an earlier Lyndsay tower on site.
Or may even include rubble taken from Byres castle. As Byres appears to
have been dismantled by the English in 1548 to ensure the security of
their 'Fortress of Haddingtoun' during the wars of the 'Rough Wooing'
(1544-1550) where by use of castle sacking they hoped to force the
marriage of the infant Mary Queen of Scots (1542-1567) to the English
Prince Edward. The Seton family also suffered during these times with the
burning of Seton Palace, Seton Collegiate church and the destruction of
their L-plan tower house of Winton
castle by the English invaders in 1544. Today both Seton Palace and
Winton have been replaced by modern buildings ie in the1700's and
1600's,although the base of the medieval L-plan tower is still held within
the modern 1600's work at Winton.
was built after 1550 and before Sir John Seton's death in 1594. What is
misleading about the castle's location today is it wasn't a lonely tower
house. But one in a chain of towers that dotted the valley floor. With Ballencrieff
and Byres to the west, to the north sat Kilduff tower, to the east
Athelstaneford tower and Markle
castle with Barnes castle on the Garleton ridge also built by Sir John but
it never got higher than vault level before his death. Indeed locally the
ruin of Barnes is still known as 'the vaults'. Kilduff tower and
Athelstaneford tower have no traceable remains though a castle dove-cot is
still around in the present village of Athelstaneford.
castle appears to have consisted of three main buildings of mixed rubble
construction, a crowstepped gabled hall-house with cannon-loops on the
south side,a possible L-plan tower house and a lean-to conical roofed drum
tower also with cannon-loops on the north and east corners respectively.
All attached together by a roughly oblong plan courtyard wall. The present
south wall linking these buildings is obviously modern, lacking
cannon-loops, deviating from the logical courtyard plan and hindering the
fields of fire for the tower gunners. The west wing is completely obscured
by the modern cottages but may well be the site of the courtyard gatehouse
with outer bridge spanning that approach. For defensive reasons the entire
site would have been surrounded by a deep fortified ditch, thus allowing
the castle gunners a clear field of fire in all directions. It is unclear
wither these defenses were every put to the test. Certainly the castles of
are all mentioned during Cromwell's sacking of Lothian castles after the
defeat of the Scots army at the battle of Dunbar in 1650. His actions may
explain the disappearance of Garleton's neighbours of Kilduff tower and
Garleton was sold to the Earl of Wemyss. The presence of the modern
cottages on site highlights the common practice of Victorian builders to
dismantle such ancient towers as Garleton viewing them as ready made
quarries failing to appreciate their historical and architectural value.
Note: A gazetteer of Scotland (dated about 1863) describes it thus:
Garleton Castle, and the north base of the range (of porphyrite hills
named Garleton) was once a superb mansion, a seat of the Earls of Winton,
but is now a fragmentary ruin.