All hail Hailes Castle

Today’s adventure to Hailes Castle took a week to complete, but as the focus of the adventure took more than 300 years to build, a week isn’t long at all! Of course, those three centuries of construction are not as evident as they once were now that the castle sits in ruins. Although in fairness, the ruins do make a striking view from the banks of the River Tyne!

Well, I say it took a week. But really, it took two days over the course of a week.

The initial attempt to visit Hailes Castle was made last Saturday, starting from Haddington. My adventure partner felt that we would be able to walk all the way to the castle, have time to explore, and walk back – all whilst grabbing a dozen or so geocaches along the way. I was dubious of this plan because I know how long geocaching trails can take, but as I’d never explored this area before I didn’t really know what kind of distances we were looking at.

At the start, we made our way along the path without haste, searching for geocaches along the way. (And stopping for photos. Of course.) The route was a lovely blend of natural beauty and now-defunct man-made structures for industrial and agricultural works such as weirs and mills. It made for a great day of exploration!

But at some point, we realised that we wouldn’t have time to get all the geocaches, see all of the sites, and enjoy the castle. So, the decision was made to abandon the geocaching and walk directly towards the castle, where we would enjoy a picnic lunch from a bench across the river from the castle.

Only people were sitting on the bench! Shock! Horror!

But that’s OK: We found a nice spot along the riverbank to enjoy our sandwiches before hurrying back to Haddington so that we weren’t late for our other (separate) plans for the evening. Of course, the return journey, whilst hurried, was also enjoyable because we still got lovely views even if there wasn’t time to dilly-dally along the way.

For today’s successful visit, we started our trek from the village of East Linton. That way we would not only have a shorter distance, but we would be able to walk along a different part of the River Tyne. The shorter walk also meant that we would have more time to explore the castle, whilst still finishing before dinnertime.

We set out from East Linton at 10 o’clock along the River Tyne path, stopping for photos and a couple of geocaches along the way. We even stopped to admire a great concrete bridge spanning the river valley. Yes, I do appreciate a bit of interesting engineering! The walk to the castle took about 90 minutes, but we could have done it in 45 minutes if we weren’t stopping so much along the way! In fact, the walk back from the castle took less than an hour (we did stop a few times, but not as much as on the way there.)

Once at the castle, we spent more than an hour exploring every little corner of the place. My friend had been before, but even still was more than happy to see it all again. And as anyone who’s explored an old castle with me knows, I want to see it all! There were a handful of other people at the castle, in groups of 2-4. But there weren’t so many people that it felt crowded, and I was especially pleased to see that people were being very generous with other people, giving not only plenty of space but giving people plenty of time to enjoy the different areas of the buildings without making them feel rushed. It meant that I was able to enjoy the ruins a bit more. It was lovely!

After we finished our visit to the castle, we returned to the main river trail and found our way to the bench we had planned to eat lunch at the week before. This time, the bench was vacant, so we were able to enjoy our sandwiches with views of the castle. It was a nice, relaxing way to take in the castle’s grandeur.

From there, we made the walk back to East Linton then enjoyed a wee wander around the village before heading home. It was a wonderful day, and I am so grateful to my friend for helping me to escape from the confines of home again!

The castle is now under the management of Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument. (With free entry, so pack a picnic lunch and go!). It started as a fortified tower house sometime before 1300 and went through a series of additions, remodels, owners, and sieges until it was finally left to ruins sometime in the 1800s. But there are substantial portions of the curtainwall and primary structures remaining which makes for an enjoyable day for exploring nooks and crannies. And if the weather is nice, there is plenty of green space for enjoying a picnic on the castle grounds.

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