Dorothy Dunnett

Dunnett Related Places to Visit
in Southern & Eastern Scotland and the Borders


St. Mary's Loch

This attractive loch nestling in the hills is associated with the meetings of the writers James Hogg and Sir Walter Scott as well as being the setting chosen by Dorothy to base the St. Marys band of mercenaries led by Lymond. Just to the east are the valleys of Yarrow and Ettrick where the 500 men of Lord Grey of Wilton were routed by 20 men of Crawford and 800 sheep in steel helmets at the beginning of Disorderly Knights.


This is the town nearest to which both Boghall - the now ruined and almost disappeared home of the Flemings - and the ficticious Midculter are situated. Nearby is the village of Coulter with Coulter Motte - a 12th century castle mound. There is virtually nothing visible of Boghall now - just a few mounds - but I've seen photographs of it taken in the early 20th century which still had walls of about 10 feet high. One interesting if non-Dunnett item in Biggar is the Gasworks Museum which is apparently unique.

Traquair House

Reputed to be the oldest inhabited building in the country, the first documented evidence of its existence is in Alexander's reign in 1107. It has played host to many of the kings and queens of Scotland, and contains the crib of James VI. It is entered by the side gate as the main entrance - the Bear Gates - are shut. Tradition says they were closed behind Charles Edward Stuart and were not to be opened until a Stuart was back on the throne. Amongst its other attractions is the range of traditional beers brewed on the premises in the old brewery which was reopened in the 1960s.

Map of Southern Scotland


Tantallon Castle

Coveted by Margaret Lennox in Checkmate, Tantallon is a massive and impressive ruin overlooking the 30 metre high cliffs between North Berwick and Dunbar. It was built by the 1st Earl of Douglas in the 14th century and was the scene of sieges by James V and later by General Monk in the English Civil War.

St Mary's - click for larger pictureHaddington

A Royal Burgh and the main town of East Lothian, Haddington has strong religious connections and contains a variety of ruins and the restored 14th/15th century St Mary's Church - the largest parish church in Scotland and second only to St Giles in the Lothians. Mary of Guise climbed the tower of St Mary's to view the English positions during a seige at the time of the 'Rough Wooing', and was fired on by them. It was the Treaty of Haddington that committed Scotland and France to closer ties and betrothed the infant Mary to the Dauphin. The town is twinned with Aubigny-sur-Nere which is still known as La Cite des Stuarts.

Dirleton CastleDirleton Castle

This was rumoured to be the place where Gemini would finish but in the end this turned out not quite to be the case by just a few miles - however it's still well worth visiting especially since it is so close to the area where much of the action occurred. Dirleton is situated in a tranquil village due north of Haddington, about a mile and a half from the coast (and the famous Muirfield golf course) and about three miles west of North Berwick. It is well preserved in parts and has an attractive walled garden.


Scene of the seige of Albany and his supporters before they fled to France. The ruined castle overlooks the harbours and has a long and eventful history. Black Agnes, Countess of Dunbar, held the castle against a large English force in 1338. It was destroyed by order of Parliament in 1488 but rebuilt by James IV. John of Albany had a blockhouse built after James died at Flodden, and that is what is mostly remaining now. The French added more construction but that was removed after the Treaty of Leith. The Earl of Bothwell took Mary there after he abducted her and after she relinquished the crown the castle was again ordered to be destroyed.
Dunbar is also of more modern interest, particularly to Americans, as the birthplace of John Muir - acknowledged as the father of environmentalism and responsible for preserving many important natural areas in the USA. Just west of Dunbar is the John Muir Country Park.

North Berwick

The climax of Gemini occurs in the Priory of North Berwick. An attractive little town with good beaches and harbour from where you can walk out over the black basaltic rock promentory to get lovely views of the coast and the Bass Rock out in the Forth. Above the town is the conical hill of Berwick Law, with a whalebone arch on its summit. From here the whole area can be seen as it is the highest point for miles around. The remains of the Priory itself are within the grounds of an Old People's Home on the south-western side of the town.


Where the intended meeting between Adorne and Albany was to have taken place. As well as the reconstructed church there is a teind barn, one of only two remaining in Scotland, where the church stored the produce it collected each year as teinds or tithes. The western end of this one was a 16th century tower house which was built using stones from the hostels used by pilgrims to the nearby healing well. It was extended in the 17th century into a three story barn.

Lauder KirkLauder

Situated half-way between Edinburgh and the Borders, Lauder is where the hangings took place from the bridge following the rebellion against James III's decision to go into battle against a larger English force. Described as a classic medieaval burgh it contains a 17th century kirk.

The Borders

Smailholm Tower near Kelso - a typical Border tower

Melrose AbbeyMelrose

With its beautiful ruined abbey where Will Scott's marriage took place. The abbey was originally founded as a Cistercian settlement by David I for the monks from Rievaulx in Yorkshire. That structure was mostly destroyed in the 14th century Wars of Independence and was rebuilt as a much more lavish structure with considerable ornamentation. This was made possible by the wealth generated by the very large flocks of sheep which were kept on the abbey's 5000 acres of land and a further 17000 acres which they leased in the surrounding hills. The heart of Robert the Bruce, which was taken to the crusades, is buried in the abbey grounds and was recently unearthed and then reinterred during work in the grounds.


Again with an impressive ruined abbey.


Another fine abbey, and also midway between these two towns and slightly to the east lies Cessford Castle - owned by the Kerrs. Nearby is the village of Crailing where Hough Isa's house was situated.

Floors Castle

A magnificent country house, home of the Dukes of Roxburgh, originally the Kerrs of Cessford. You can also see from the windows the place where the cannon exploded, killing James II.

Branxholme Castle

Home of the Scotts of Buccleuch. Not open to the public but apparently can be viewed from quite close range.

Coldingham - click for larger pictureColdingham - click for larger pictureColdingham - click for larger pictureColdingham Priory

Situated in a pretty village hidden in the folds of the coastal area near the cliffs of St Abbs not far north of Berwick-on-Tweed, the Priory was subject to a number of disputes between Scots and English. A religious house is mentioned by Bede in the 7th century and was destroyed by Danes in 870. A charter was granted in 1098 to monks of St Cuthbert in Durham - a link that wouldn't be finally broken until the 15th century. Curiously the monks were subject to the English King whilst the priors were subject to the Scottish. Sadly the priory was sacked frequently and much of it's structure destroyed. What remains is just the choir and sanctuary and from the outside is rather plain, although the inside is much more interesting and attractive.


Once the most strategically important town on the border and a very important port, it changed hands many times. It now has some of its services run from England and some from Scotland, while the local football team is the only English team playing in the Scottish League. There are extensive and remarkably complete remains of the old fortifications and you can take the delightful walk round the top of the old town walls and visit the military museum. There is also a pleasant riverside walk by the Tweed and you will often see a large flock of swans down by the old harbour near the high railway viaduct crossing the river.


An attractive little market town containing Hexham Abbey - site of the shooting incident where Lymond is almost killed ensuring the secret of Mary's whereabouts doesn't fall into English hands.

click for larger pictureThreave Castle

A forbidding tower built on an island in the River Dee, it was long a stronghold of the Douglases after having been built by Archibald Douglas in the 14th century. After their conflicts with James II the castle eventually passed to the Maxwells - the family that Agnes Herries married into - in 1526. The castle has been extensively preserved and its archaeology investigated, including the medieval riverside harbour.



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