Markle Steading, East Linton
Minor road off B1377
Markle Castle is located near the village of East Linton on a rocky mound overlooking fishing lakes in a secluded part of East Lothian. It consists of the remains of a tower built in the 1300's and a later hall house built in the 1500's, together with a square courtyard. The entire site was once surrounded by a fortified ditch. Access to the site is via a long but lovely walk from the A199, where you can park in a layby. However, had I known at the time the castle was located right next to the car park of Markle Fisheries, off the B1377, this would have certainly been a far easier and quicker way of getting to the castle!
The castle name was originally Merkill and can be dated back to 832 AD, when the Scots/Picts army under King Angus rested here whilst watching the approach of King Athel and his Saxon or Angle forces, who were in hot pursuit of the Scots for having stolen cattle, women and children from Northumberland.
As King Angus withdrew from Merkill over the ford, the white clouds above formed into a diagonal cross against a blue sky, taken as a sign by the Scots.
As King Athel crossed the ford he is killed stone dead from this miracle from God. This sign is adopted as the banner of St Andrew, later patron Saint of Scotland.
~ History ~
1271 ~ The Northumbrian knight 'Adam de Hepburne' is captured in battle by Lord Dunbar, Earl of March.
Later 'Hepburne' saves Lord Dunbar from a wild horse and is rewarded by marrying Lord Dunbar's daughter and becoming a vassal Lord, holding Hailes castle and lands which includes Merkill.
1300's ~ The Hepburn's raise a tower at Markle. They later rise from being vassals, to Lords in their own right, holding the castles of Hailes, Markle, Waughton and the town of Haddington.
1401 ~ George Dunbar, exiled Scottish owner of Dunbar Castle, together with the English knight 'Hotspur' Percy and his 2,000 men, attack and burn Markle castle.
1434 ~ Adam Hepburn of Hailes and Markle, together with William the 'Red' Douglas of Tantallon Castle, seize Dunbar Castle by Royal decree when Dunbar again falls from grace. Dunbar with his family and retainers flee across the border into England.
They return the following year with English backing to retake Dunbar Castle but are defeated by the combined forces of the Hepburn's, Douglas's and Ramsay's, near Cockburnspath Tower.
1544 ~ The English Earl of Hereford's forces burn Markle Castle during an aggressive campaign to force the Scots into agreeing the marriage of the young Mary, Queen of Scots to King Henry VIII's son, and future King Edward of England, in order to ensure the Scots do no make an alliance with the auld enemey France. Later referred to as the wars of the 'Rough Wooing'.
Markle is left in ruin whilst the Hepburn's retreat and concentrate their forces at Hailes & Waughton castles.
1548 ~ Hailes & Waughton castles are captured by the English. The heavily damaged Markle castle remains in ruin.
1550's ~ Markle castle is rebuilt.
1567 ~ The Hepburn's fall from grace is swift and total following James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell's escape from Scotland. As third husband to Mary, Queen of Scots, he is instigated in the assassination of Lord Darnley, Mary's second husband.
Following the defeat of Mary's forces at Carberry Hill, Hepburn is forced to flee to Scandinavia where he dies insane in the prison of Dragsholm Castle. Hailes & Markle castle pass to the Stewart Earls of Bothwell some twenty years later.
John Caekettle of Markle is served a summons for treason.
1600 ~ Robert Hepburn resides at the "Place of Markle" when his kinsmen abduct Margaret Carkettle from Mookrigg, and bring her to Markle, treating her in "abominable and destable form".
1620's ~ The castle passes to the White family.
1630's ~ Markle castle becomes a quarry for its stonework.