One of Scotland's most dramatically situated castles can be reached easily from Edinburgh using the train and a bicycle. Tantallon Castle is perched on a rocky coastline, surrounded by cliffs, and has stunning views of the Bass Rock with its 150,000 gannets.
From Edinburgh Waverley station take a train to North Berwick (35 minutes). North Berwick station is the end of this line and once had stone buildings and an elegant canopied roof, but this was all demolished in the 1980s. Today there is little more than a small kiosk with a sign stating "confectionery and newspapers."
Take the A198 to the castle
You have to cycle 6km on an A-road that has a steady amount of traffic, but the road is wide enough for safe overtaking. For a large part of the road a pavement runs alongside it. Although this is not marked as a cycle path it is not heavily used by pedestrians. Unfortunately it does not go all the way to the castle and there is no choice but to use the road for a final, short stretch.
This is a coastal road, giving views across golden fields to the blue sea and the Bass Rock. On the return trip the view is even better because you can see Berwick Law, a hill that dominates the landscape for miles. The surrounding area is mainly flat so Berwick Law looks mountainous and gives the impression that it towers over the town.
On reaching the castle car park you have to leave your bicycle here and then purchase a ticket from the kiosk to enter the castle. The approach to the castle involves a walk across this bridge.
The castle has a stunning profile with towers, the sea behind it and the Bass Rock to the left.
There is another wooden bridge to cross to get inside the castle:
The bridge crosses a wide, deep ditch that was an inegral part of the defences. This view shows the ditch and the mighty towers that have stood here since the 1350s:
Once you are through the door and inside you will find this an exciting place to explore. There are plenty of spiral stairs, with rope handrails to grab onto, narrow passages and hideouts.
On leaving the castle I commented on the stairs and passages to the steward and he said, "yes, it's a good fitness regime." If you are disappointed by the short cycle on this route, then fear not! The castle itself is going to give you plenty of exercise.
I peered down a 32 meter deep well and discovered the shaft to be thriving with jungle-like foliage. It was like a lost world down there. The plant in the well is hart's tongue fern.
It turns out that the castle provides a home for many flowers and plants. The old stone walls are like a rock garden for wild thyme and wall pepper, a plant whose leaves have a peppery taste. So, the castle walls are a good place to pick up salad ingredients!
The castle ditches also provide nourishment in the form of scurvy-grass, a plant rich in Vitamin C that sailors once munched to ward off scurvy.
I found a narrow passageway to a latrine where I looked through the hole to a view of the sea lapping far below. I liked the idea of a bathroom with the sound of the sea below.
The sea was gentle during my visit. It made a soothing, calming sound as I made my way around the castle.
There are many windows that give views over the grassy courtyard, out to sea and the Bass Rock.
When you walk out into the courtyard and turn around to look at the castle facade it is equally as impressive as the landward view of the building.
The landside view from the castle looks across fields towards Berwick Law. I could hear geese from a nearby farm and watched two horses grazing. It was peaceful now and almost impossible to imagine the siege of 1491 when King James IV brought catapults and dug trenches. This siege and others failed to take the castle, a testament to the strength of the building.
How to get there
Making use of the train and a bicycle makes it easy to visit the castle, otherwise you need a car or plan a journey using train and local bus to get there as a day trip from Edinburgh.
The train takes 35 minutes from Edinburgh and it is a 12km return cycle trip,
If you want more of a cycle you could ride from Edinburgh to Musselburgh and then take the train to North Berwick.
My name is Colin Baird and I want to see all of Scotland by bicycle.