#181 Dirleton Castle
Near North Berwick, East Lothian, Scotland
~1220 plus ~1450 and 1590
This is NOT an official Lego site

The de Vaux family of Rouen, Normandy, came to the British Isles in the wake of William the Conqueror, and around 1160 were given the small but wealthy estate of Gullane and Dirleton by boy king, Malcolm IV of Scotland.  About 1220 William de Vaux moved his family from Castles Tarbet and Elbottle in the barony to a new massive castle at Dirleton.  Though primarily a noble residence, the castle was built for defense as well, with the south and east sides far stronger due to the sloping terrain naturally protecting the north and west sides.  Life was idyllic until the outbreak of war with England at the end of the 13th century.  In 1298 the castle easily withstood the siege by the English forces under Bishop Beck of Durham, until reinforcements arrived, and starvation forced their surrender. The Scots soon recaptured the castle, but in 1306 Aymer de Valence seized Dirleton again for the English.  By the time of the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, Dirleton was back in Scottish hands, but King Robert the Bruce ordered the castle slighted [= rendered useless], so it could never to used again against the Scots.
The de Vaux line ended without a male heir in the middle of the 14th century, and the ruin passed by marriage to John de Halyburton, knight, when he wed Dirleton heiress Agatha de Vaux.  While John died at the Battle of Nisbet in 1355, the family stayed at Dirleton, maintaining close ties with the Scottish court.  The rebuilding of Dirleton was a protracted affair, occupying the remainder of the 14th and much of the 15th centuries.  The destroyed drum towers on the east side where replaced by a massive residential range with vaulted cellars, a new impressive Great Hall, plus living quarters, a chapel, a prison and, of course, the kitchen.  The original Lord's quarters in the southern tower became steward's apartments and guest rooms.  The Halyburtons did well: in 1402 Walter married Isobel, a daughter of the Duke of Albany and niece of the Scottish king. Their son, also named Walter, was one of the hostages sent to London as ransom for the release of James I,  He was rewarded by being named Lord High Treasurer in 1438.  He married the daughter of Archibald the Grim, 3rd Earl of Douglas.  However, the Halyburtons gradually faded from center stage at the Scottish court, and the last Lord Halyburton died in 1505, leaving his estate to three daughters.
In 1515 the eldest daughter of Lord Halyburton, Janet, married William, second Lord Ruthven. The next century would see Dirleton Castle further converted into a Renaissance mansion, and the Ruthven family fully invested in court intrigue!  Patrick, third Lord Ruthven was a major player in the murder of Queen Mary's personal secretary and favorite, Italian nobleman David Riccio, at Holyrood in 1566.  In 1582 his son William, shortly after being created the 1st Earl of Gowrie, seized the 15 year old King James VI and took over the government.  After the king escaped, Ruthven was tried and beheaded in 1584 at sterling.  Interestingly, William's eldest son, James, was restored 2nd Earl of Gowrie in 1586, and when he died two years later, his brother John became the third (and last) Earl of Gowrie.  In 1600 John and his younger brother, Alexander, were killed in another attempted coup, and the Ruthven estates were gifted by King James to Sir William Erskine, who had killed Alexander.  In 1650 Cromwell's army under General George Monck subdued Dirleton with mortar fire, executed many of the Royalist Monk-troopers, and then 'demolished' the castle.  The damaged castle was left to decay.  The ruin was purchased by lawyer John Nisbet, who took the title Lord Dirleton. The ruin passed into state care in the 1920s, and is now managed by Historic Scotland.
The courtyard looking south The courtyard looking north. The stair from the gardens to the rear postern.


A painting of what the castle might
have looked like at the end of the 13th
century, just before the war with england.
Another painting, this showing
Dirleton just rebuilt after the
war.  This is the basis for my
A cutaway showing life in
the donjon tower, and
adjacent areas.
An interesting cross-section depicting the first,
and subsequent drawbridges.


Ground Floor Plan
of the first de Vaux
Ground and First Floor Plans
from my copy of the official
Historic Scotland guidebook.
Another version of the Ground, 1st and 2nd
Floor Plans from all periods.


Photos of the Lego Model
Under construction in late September plus October, 2022
On September 23, construction
begins with the base laid out.
The view looking north.
The wide view, looking west. And the angle looking south. Much of the castle is built on
a rocky promontory...
...with the north and west
sides sloping down and away.
So on Sept. 27, the outline is
raised so extensive landscaping
can be done underneath.
On Sept. 29 through Oct. 1
bases are firmed up...
...and the level of the courtyard
is established.
By October 3 the courtyard
coverage begins...

...with the base of the
courtyard completed.
The view from the northnorthwest. The courtyard is completed
on October 4.
But there's lots of work to
be done on the entrance!
And the view from the NE.
The next five days see the final landscaping
and lower wall work done on east and SE
sides of the castle.
The southwest and... ...northwest sides have
seen little change.
But the northeast view is
much more finished!
By October 10 an entire level has been
added to the castle.
From the southwest... ...and the northwest... ...and the northeast!
As of October 18, the second story
is basically complete.
The southwest angle becomes
much more formidable looking.
And the less attackable west
and north sides are embattled!
The much altered east curtain wall has
risen to two stories...and I'm off to
cruise the Danube with Uniworld!


Photos of the Lego Model
Built September - November, 2022
My model of Dirleton Castle is
finally complete with minifigs
added on Nov. 14 & 15.
Well, and animals, too.
Here's the south view
with the donjon.
And the very complicated
SW view with three different
building angles.
Here's the west side. The curtain
wall is lower than the front due to
the steep slope down to the gardens.
The rocky NW angle, with a
nice view of the courtyard.
The north side slopes away
similar to the west side.
A good view of my take on
the NE tower.
The east side features both round towers,
torn down in the early 14th century, and
the fortified postern gate.
A close-up of the new,
improved main gate.
A view of the donjon roof
with stair turret and
Here is a view of the entrance
range from the courtyard.
The de Vaux family warmly
greets a neighboring clan.
The parties will soon move
into the Great Hall for a feast,
and perhaps some strategizing.
Meanwhile the blacksmith is
hard at work, and the chickens
are delighted at feeding time!
Finally, a dutiful guard
makes certain all is quite
in the gardens.


Build Your Own
Lego Ground and Roof Plan
Lego First Floor Plan

Other Dirleton Castle pages:

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Castles created by Robert Carney
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Robert Carney