Yester Castle is a 13th Century courtyard castle situated in the grounds of the privately owned Yester Estate. It passed to the influential Hay family who went on to become Marquesses of Tweeddale and who eventually abandoned the castle for the nearby Yester House.
The first castle built on the site was a motte-and-bailey. The lands were granted to Hugo de Giffard by King David I of Scotland. It was probably one of his descendants, also Hugo de Giffard, who built the first castle here in the late 13th Century.
Hugo de Giffard of Yester was one of the guardians of King Alexander III of Scotland. He was reputed to be a powerful warlock and necromancer. Local tradition says that the castle was built by hobgoblins under Hugo's control. He was also thought to practise his sorcery in the undercroft of the castle.
The 13th Century castle was a motte-and-bailey. It was built it on a peninsula with steep banks to the east and west leading down to Hopes Water. Ditches defended the northern and southern sides.
The 13th Century tower was demolished to make way for later building. The only trace left of it is the Goblin Ha'. It's a vaulted hall which was built partly into the motte and covered over by later construction.
There were some additions made to the west range in the 14th Century.
Toward the end of the 15th Century Yester was converted to a castle of enceinte. The new walls were about 2 metres thick with towers at the south end and in the western corner. The east range was built into the curtain walls. The buildings were three storeys high and would have comprised the accommodation in the castle.
In 1357 Yester Castle passed from the Gifford family to the Hays via marriage. The Hays played a prominent role in Scottish politics and in 1457 David Hay of Yester became the first Lord Hay of Yester.
The defences at Yester were put to the test in 1547. During King Henry VIII's "Rough Wooing" of Mary, Queen of Scots, Yester was attacked by English forces. John Hay, 4th Lord Hay of Yester put up a strong defence at the castle.
After the death of the John, the 4th Lord, the 5th Lord abandoned Yester Castle and moved to a new tower house about a mile away. The new tower house was eventually converted to Yester House. Yester Castle was mined for building materials and very nearly disappeared.
The Yester Estate was sold to the operatic composer Gian-Carlo Menotti in 1972 and the estate is still in private hands today. It is classed as a Scheduled Ancient Monument. Access to Yester Castle is via paths in woodland on the estate. There are no facilities at the castle.
Owner: Menotti Family
The vaulted entrance to Yester Castle
Yester Castle Barbican