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Innerwick Castle



Innerwick CastleSeveral miles east of the village of Innerwick, near Dunbar, perched on top of a sandstone outcrop overhanging the Thornton ravine stands the vaulted basements of Innerwick Castle. The present ruin dates from the 1400’s and 1500’s and was a Keep with an outer courtyard wall, with gradual infill of additional buildings as time went on. The original castle site though dates back to the 1300’s when it was built by the Stewarts. In 1398, the castle then passed to the Hamilton family, ancestors of the Earls of Haddington.

In 1403 Innerwick was besieged by the English knight ‘Hotspur’ Percy and Archibald ‘Black’ Douglas, 4th Earl of Douglas, a Scot held captive since the defeat of the Scots army at the battle of Homildon Hill, near Wooler, in 1402. However, the siege of Innerwick and its near neighbour Cocklaws Tower, a Glastone house, proved to be a mock affair and a smoke screen, for when the Duke of Albany arrived with a large Scots army to save Innerwick, Percy and Douglas had already headed south-west to contact Douglas vassals and march on Shrewsbury. Percy and his men were now in league with Owen of Glendower in open revolt against King Henry IV of England. But at the battle of Shrewsbury Percy was killed, Douglas retaken captive and the rebels defeated.

In 1547 Innerwick was attacked by the English during the wars of the “Rough Wooing”. This was where the English insisted by force that the child Mary Queen of Scots be married to the English Prince Edward. One English force attacked Thornton Castle, a Home stronghold, directly across the ravine from Innerwick. A separate English unit of Hakbutters (riflemen) besieged Innerwick itself. The Master of Hamilton and eight other gentlemen barricaded the doors and defended from the battlements. Part of the castle was set ablaze and the hakbutters entered by storm, killing eight of the defenders on the spot; the ninth jumped from the castle battlements falling some 60 to 70ft into the ravine and river below. The English commander conducting the siege of Innerwick was so impressed by this feat of daring that he called for the man’s life to be spared. However, as the Scot scrambled along the river bed he was shot dead by the other English force attacking Thornton Castle. Following this Thornton Castle was demolished and Innerwick dismantled.

The castle of Innerwick can’t have been completely destroyed as it was being used by Scots horsemen, in 1650, as a base to attack Cromwell’s supply lines, in conjunction with the raids made by the ‘desperado gallants’ of Tantallon Castle and the ‘Moss troopers’ of Dirleton Castle. It appears though that Innerwick was ‘quitted’ by the Scots as only Dirleton and Tantallon are recorded as being bombarded and stormed in letters to Cromwell.

The occupation of the Lothians by Cromwell, and his systematic destruction of castles therein, proved that the days of mighty stone castles was over. Modern cannon and mortar pieces could fell any monument great or small. For this reason from 1650 onwards castles were no longer repaired or built as the expense made it a futile exercise. Innerwick like so many other castles fell the fate of being viewed as the local quarry for walls and cottages locally.


Andrew Spratt

1995 AD



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