Fast Castle, Scottish Borders


Fast Castle at Sunset

Fast Castle at Sunset


Fast Castle is a small and little known ruined castle near Coldingham in the Scottish Borders. Sometimes the light takes photographers well of the beaten track, leading us on journeys I find well worth the struggle down little farm lanes.

When Fast Castle was build, and by whom, is unknown. It’s mentioned as being used by English troops in 1346, our earliest record of the castle. Over the next 300 years it changed hands multiple times as half a dozen local dynasties rose and fell from dominance in the area.

Looking at the castle, situated on a small rocky promontory overlooking the North Sea, one imagines it as a small outpost designed for a small force to hold out against a larger force. Even with the drawbridge replaced today with a concrete causeway, and with the absence of defending soldiers, Fast Castle is barely accessible. It’s gothic solitude inspired Sir Walter Scott, and an exaggerated, fantastical version of the castle appeared under a pseudonym in his novel, The Bride of Lammermoor.

Despite it’s starkness, the castle did host royalty. Margaret, daughter of Henry VII of England, stayed here on her way to wed James IV of Scotland. She did only stay one night, so it’s likely there were not many options for accommodating a princess. Mary Queen of Scots also stayed at the castle, a stay that is mostly responsible for the limited fame the castle enjoys. In this case, the inaccessibility of the castle may have been just what the royal visitor needed.

As a photographer, this was an excellent place for me to visit. The ruin clings to the cliffs as if it were a natural part of them. We can only imagine how difficult it would have been to lay the foundations, and to lay them well enough to last almost 700 years. I was fortunate enough to see it in the golden light of sunset, in order to preserve the moment for any admirer. As always, you can get your own print here.