Yester Castle

Yester Castle, East Lothian

~ History ~

1180's ~ The Norman Hugo de Gifford builds himself an earth and timber castle of Ystrad, meaning Dale, as part of King William the Lion's policy to encourage Norman settlers in return for military service to bring the kingdom of Scotland firmly under his control.

1267 ~ Sir Hugo de Giffard, grandson of Hugo de Gififord, builds a stone keep on the site of the original castle. The upgrade includes construction of the fine vaulted chamber known as the Goblin Ha' - a title deriving from the rumours that Hugo ss a powerful wizard whose armies of goblins had built Yester Castle.

1278 ~ The extensive upgraded castle built by Hugh host a Royal visit from King Alexander III.

1286 ~ King Alexander III dies without a male heir, leaving several claimants for the Scottish throne. King Edward I is invited to arbitrate but in doing so he seeks overlordship of Scotland in the process. His eventual candidate, John Balliol, proves less pliable than he had hoped when faced with Edward's demands for troops to serve in his continetal wars, leading to rebellion against Edward.

1296 ~ The Wars of Scottish Independence eruptss. English forces under the command of John de Warenne, Earl of Surrey invade and achieve success at the Battle of Dunbar.

1297 ~ William Wallace leads an uprising against the English culminating in his victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge.

1298 ~ King Edward I rides north with a large army to stabilise the situation. On his way he takes Dirleton, Hailes and Yester castles.  In doing so Edward grants Yester Castle to Adam de Welles, a Knight from Lincolnshire.

1308 ~ The castle is stormed by the Scots and raised to the ground as part of King Robert Bruce's policy of making castles unserviceable to the invading English.

1357 ~ Following repairs to the castle by the Gifford's, the Gifford line dies out. Yester passs by marriage to the Hays. The name Hay dates back to 8th century France and A La Haya de Puits was a commander with William the Conqueror's army in 1066. A william de Haya was also butler to King William 'The Lion' of Scots (1165-1214). Also de Haya's eldest son was one of several hostages held in England with the King of Scots after he was betrayed and captured at the siege of Alnwick castle in 1174.

On the King's return to Scotland de Haya's two sons were granted the lands of Erroll in the north and Tweeddale in the south. De Haya's younger son Robert became the ancestor of the Hays of Yester.

1402 ~ William Hay of Yester fights at the battle of Homildon Hill against the English  and is captured by the English along with the 'Black' and 'Red' Douglases.

1403 ~ Hay of Yester is back in Scotland signing land charters on behalf of the still captive Black Douglas.

1421-23 ~ Thomas Hay of Yester sides with the Red Douglas of Tantallon castle against the Borthwicks who are loyal to the Black Douglases.

1478 ~ John Hay is created Baron Yester of Yester.

1488 ~ John Hay increasing influence on political affairs sees him raised to Lord Hay. He commences major rebuilding at Yester to convert the castle into a residence that reflected his new status.

1513 ~ Baron Yester and his kinsman Hay Earl of Erroll of Slains castle gather their forces together and march south with King James IV of Scotland to the battle of Flodden where both the Hays, their King and many other Scotish nobles meet their end in the defeat against the English.

1547 ~ During the English invasion of Scotland by King Henry VIII to force the marriage of his son prince Edward to marry Mary Queen of Scots, Yester castle is attacked by a small pioneer force, while the main army march up the coast from Berwick in sight of their support fleet. The castle is strongly defended by the 4th Baron Yester and eventually the pioneers abandoned their siege and move northwards to link up with the main English army and fleet at Pinkie, near Musselburgh.

Baron Yester gathers his garrisoned forces and fights the English at the battle of Pinkie, where the Scots are defeated by combined use of land and ship based bombardment. Baron Yester is thrown from his horse in the confused Scots retreat, captured by the English who then imprison him in the Tower of London for three years.

1557 ~ William Hay 5th Baron Yester abandons Yester castle as a residence in favour of a new towerhouse nearby.


Gifford, near Haddington


B roads of B6355


EH41 4PL

Yester Castle was begun in the 13th century by Hugo de Giffard, the “Wizard of Yester”, who was reputed to be a warlock or necromancer. He is said to have made a pact with the Devil and raised an army of goblins who built him a subterranean chamber where he could practice his dark arts!

This is not the easiest of castle's to find but is well worth the effort to discover.

The castle is situated in the corner of a wood bordering a golf course. We parked at Castle Park Golf Club, and asked if it would be ok to walk along the edge of the course to get to the castle. They were really helpful and gave us clear directions. As you stand in the car park looking at the back of the club house, head north-east to the right picking up a footpath and walk round the edge of the golf course towards the woods ahead of you, where you will see a silver 'Y' shaped tree in the distance at the edge of the woods, behind which is the castle.

You'll find the castle walls poking up through the trees and is much overgrown, but this only adds to the mystery and fun in discovering this hidden gem.

After exploring the remains of this fabulous 15th century castle make sure you walk through the archway in the main wall and take the path that takes you round the back and side of the castle where you will find the entrance to the subteranian world of the Goblin Ha. Take a torch!

On entering through the passage way you'll come to a magnificent hall and a set of steps heading down deeper to a now blocked passageway. A fabulous adventure.