North Berwick - Encyclopedia

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NORTH BERWICK, a royal and police burgh of Haddingtonshire, Scotland. Pop. (1901) 2614. It is situated on the south shore of the entrance to the Firth of Forth, 222 m. E.N.E. of Edinburgh by the North British railway, being the terminus of a branch line from Drem Junction. It was created a royal burgh by Robert III. (d. 1406), and though once a port of some importance it dwindled to a fishing hamlet. In the latter half of the 19th century, however, it gradually became a fashionable watering-place, much frequented for its firm sandy beach and bathing, and especially for its two golf-courses. Near the station are the ruins of the abbey of Cistercian nuns founded by David I. Immediately to the south rises the fine cone of North Berwick Law (612 ft.), which was utilized as a signal point at the period of the Napoleonic scare.

About 3 m. E. stand the strikingly picturesque ruins of Tantallon Castle, which probably dates from the end of the 14th century and was for many generations the stronghold of the Angus Douglases. Though the 6th earl successfully resisted the sieges of James V. in 1528 and 1530, the castle had at last to be surrendered by treaty. It was besieged and captured by General Monk in 1651, and some time after the restoration became the property of Sir Hew Dalrymple, lord president of session, whose family still own it. It was then dismantled and fell into decay.

About 2 m. S.W. of North Berwick is Dirleton, with a castle dating from the 12th century. Edward I. took it in 1298, and in the reign of Robert Bruce it was acquired by the Haliburtons, from whom it passed to the family of Ruthven. On the failure of the Gowrie conspiracy (1600) the castle was forfeited and given to Sir Thomas Erskine (1566-1639), who became Baron Dirleton in 1604, two years later Viscount Fenton, and in 1619 earl of Kellie. Monk laid siege to the castle in 1650, and in 1663 it was purchased by Sir John Nisbet (1609-1687), lord advocate, afterwards a lord of session and Lord Dirleton.

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