Fabulous coastal scenery and the sheer drama of the ruins, which are surrounded by cliffs that fall 100 to 150 feet. Fast Castle is a hidden gem in Berwickshire, South-East Scotland, in the Scottish Borders.
Used as the model for Wolf’s Crag in Sir Walter Scott’s The Bride of Lammermoor, this dramatic medieval fortress sits on a rocky head named Fast Castle Head.
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We don’t know the exact date that humans first inhabited the castle, but it seems certain that there was some type of defence here as early as the Iron Age. The first recorded reference to the fortress was in 1333, but it was the first authoritative date is 1404.
At this point, we know the castle was occupied by English forces. The strength of a coastal fortress consisted in its isolated and remote site.
The castle’s turbulent history
has seen it change hands between the English and Scottish many times. The castle was originally destroyed in 1515 due to the Battle of Flodden.
It was then rebuilt by the Home family in 1522 and it remained that way until Henry VIII’s troops stormed it in 1547. At that point, Scotland gained control of the castle again when Mary Queen of Scots stayed there in 1566.
It was soon again in English hands for a while in 1570. In 1580 the castle became the property of the Logans of Restalrig, who employed renowned mathematician and inventor John Napier to search for any treasure that may have been hidden there.
With the Union of the Crowns in 1603, the importance of the castle declined and it was allowed to drift into ruin. In time, it became a haunt for smugglers.
This is a very interesting story
that I found while researching the history of the castle. In ancient England, it was common to have bonfires on the coast to guide incoming ships.
These fires were lit by either open fires or torches, here, smugglers mislead the ships and caused them to be smashed on the rocks, their sailors killed and their goods were stolen. It is from this that the current name derives – “Fast” being a corruption of “Faux” meaning false.
Fast Castle Walk
The path to the castle is challenging, but the views are outstanding. The Fast Castle is not signposted; you need to walk or drive around 2 miles through Dowlaw Farm.
From the small parking area, the path runs through grassy fields and then descends along the unsupported edge of the cliff. It’s just 3/4 of a mile with some steep sections.
Hiking poles are a must for supporting your knees and I would not recommend hiking to the castle during or after the rain as the path becomes muddy in some places and great care should be taken to avoid slipping.
It’s not recommended to take a dog as a working farm and sheep wander around. Because the path is narrow and steep, I would not recommend taking children as well.
Fast Castle walk can be combined with a walk to St Abb’s Head. A detailed description of the Dowlaw to St Abbs walk find here