south of the East Lothian village of Gullane sits the confused yellow
rubble remains of Saltcoats castle on the site of an ancient salt marsh
(which may explain why the castle is called Saltcoats), consisting of a
late 16th century oblong hall house with ornate archway and immediately
above a row of gargoyles which may have been part of a mock battlement
walk way. To the north of this hall house is the shell of an oblong
kitchen block and a square mid 17th century style lectern dovecot, all
linked by a low courtyard wall raised in the late 17th century. Apparently
the castle was originally surrounded by an extensive garden, orchard and
to the east a bowling green which was still discernible in the late 19th
century all now sadly gone. To the west of the castle is a row of modern
(early 19th century) cottages built with material taken from the castle
around 1810 when the site was used as a quarry.
of Gullane in the 12th century were held by the Anglo-Norman De-Vaux
family who locally not only built the great castle of Dirleton around 1225
but also raised the Norman chapel on the outskirts of Gullane. However the
present ruin of Saltcoats was not constructed by the De-Vauxs or their
descendants (through marriage) the Halyburtons. But by the Livingtouns or
Lethingtons of Saltcoats,said to be "an ancient family in East
Lothian." Anciently, the Lethingtons are said to have built the
L-plan Towerhouse of 'Lethington' near Haddington ,known today as
Lennoxlove. Which passed by marriage to the Maitlands.
there are some unintentional tenuous links between Dirleton castle and
Saltcoats. First it's ornate archway has a similar appearance to the gate
house added to Dirleton by the Halyburton family in 1350. Secondly the
heraldry of the Livingtouns is the same style as both the De-Vauxs and
Halyburtons being made up of a diagonal bend. Though this doesn't
necessarily suggest that the Livingtouns/Lethingtons were in anyway kin to
the De-Vauxs or the Halyburtons. But because both the De-Vauxs and the
Lethingtons were active in East Lothian around the same time it does seem
likely that they were somehow related.
1590 local tradition claims a Patrick or Peter Livingtoun killed a
notorious wild boar in the woods of Gullane.He was then rewarded with the
lands of Saltcoats close to where he killed the wild beast. Certainly the
Livingtoun heraldry was amended with a decapitated boar's head above the
bend in recognition of this event. Ironically some writers have mistaken
this boar's head to be an otter's head which hardly has the same
significance. Killing a wild otter is unlikely to merit the gift of the
lands of Saltcoats.
built the castle and kitchen in 1590 though the ornate arch may have been
added later since this sections gunloops are in a 1600's style. The
dovecot may have been built by Patrick's son as it is of a 1630 to 1660
style. Patrick's heraldry and that of his wife Margaret Fettis of Fawside
are carved on a datestone of 1590 (which has been recut as 1390 for
reasons unknown) embedded in a panel above the doorway of the modern
cottage. Likely this panel was originally above the castle arch. In 1695 a
G.Livingtoun (possibly Patrick's grandson) built the courtyard wall
connecting the castle, the kitchen and the dovecot. It is claimed there
was a well nearby but since the whole site is based on drained salt marsh
this seems unlikely.
early 1700's the estate passed to the Hamiltons of Pencaitland and was
intact until 1810 when it was turned into a quarry for the next 10 years
to built the modern cottages and farm dykes. Thankfully during this
demolition Saltcoat's "stones were found to be so firmly cemented
together that they were compared to having been sheathed in steel".
So the demolition was abandoned and at least some of the castle survives
for us to view today.