Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Saltcoats Castle (Lothian) - Past and Present

Saltcoats Castle is situated just outside the coastal town of Gullane in East Lothian on the site of an ancient salt marsh. It can readily be viewed from the road but not so readily reached by foot! It is worth tackling the terrain, however, as Saltcoats is a late 16th Century oblong castle forming one side of an extensive courtyard.

Saltcoats Facade
LEFT: Saltcoats Castle façade in 1900
RIGHT: Saltcoats Castle façade in 2017 – note the deterioration

One of the joys of Saltcoats are the twin towers at its west end. These start as round at the base then are corbelled out to the square and bridged at the top by a broad arch above – which was a parapet drained by weepers – the whole covered by quadruple open gun loops.

Saltcoat's showy façade has nothing to do with defence but everything to do with the Scottish love of corbelling and display – and it must be seen to appreciate its genius.

Saltcoats Interior
LEFT: Saltcoats Castle interior in 1900 – note the stair turret is fairly intact
RIGHT: Saltcoats Castle interior in 2017 – the stair turret has been lost
Exterior of Saltcoats Castle showing the same stair turret but corbelled out for effect

The gutted state of Saltcoats is due to it being quarried in the early 1800s, its stone harvested to build houses in nearby Gullane.

It is the greatest of pities that Saltcoats is in such dreadful condition and this is made even more apparent when comparing the photographs of 1900 with those of today. One would think that a substantial property lying so close to Edinburgh, on a desirable part of the coastline, would have been snapped up for restoration but, sadly, this has not been the case to date. Maybe one day we will see Saltcoats restored to its magnificent best.

CLAN CONNECTION - Clan Livingstone

Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 29 Dec 2018 Updated: 13 Oct 2023
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