Motorists visiting Tantallon Castle are politely requested not to block the entrance gate.
W. Douglas Simpson (1896–1968) prepared a series of Ministry guidebook for sites in State Guardianship. He was lecturer in British History at the University of Aberdeen (by 1924), and then He served as Librarian and Registrar for the University of Aberdeen from 1926 through to 1966. He served as Chair of the Ancient Monuments Board for Scotland. He was awarded OBE (1954) and CBE (1962).
In 1959 Simpson prepared Scottish Castles: An Introduction to the Castles of Scotland (HMSO, 1959). In the Foreword he wrote: ‘Those who read this little book will come to realise that, small and poor as it has always been, Scotland yet possesses a distinctive castellated architecture, and one of which any nation might be proud’. There are eight sections:
- The earliest castles
- Castles of enceinte
- The early tower houses
- Bastard feudalism and the later castles
- The later tower houses
- The royal palaces
- Firearms and the later “House of Fence”
- The Scottish baronial style
Several of the castles and abbeys he studied were located around Aberdeen: Tolquhon Castle (1948), Huntly Castle (1954), Kildrummy and Glenbuchat (1957); the Abbey of Deer (1952).
Kirkcudbrightshire: Threave Castle (1948)
Angus: Edzell Castle (1952); Restenneth Priory (1952)
Isle of Bute: Rothesay Castle (1952)
East Lothian: Hailes Castle
Roxburghshire: Hermitage (1957)
Lanarkshire: Bothwell Castle (1958)
Orkney: Kirkwall (1965)
The guidebook for Dunstaffnage (1981) contains his draft.
He also prepared (with V. Gordon Childe) the Illustrated Guide to Ancient Monuments … vol 6: Scotland (1954).
He prepared one guidebook for the National Trust for Scotland: Craigievar Castle, the rock of Mar (1966) (NTS). This castle is located to the west of Aberdeen.
Hall, A. (2004, September 23). Simpson, William Douglas (1896–1968), archaeologist and historian. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography. Ed. Retrieved 5 Aug. 2018, from http://www.oxforddnb.com/view/10.1093/ref:odnb/9780198614128.001.0001/odnb-9780198614128-e-49530.
A narrow staircase led to an opening in the riverside wall of Hailes Castle to provide access to a well. There is a possibility that there would also have been access to the river Tyne below.
The harbour supplying Threave Castle is currently inaccessible by members of the public. Its location is marked by a partially obscured sign. The information board erected by Historic Scotland provides additional information on the original nature of the harbour along with some of the finds made during the excavations.
Tantallon Castle was placed in State Guardianship in 1924. Its first official guidebook was prepared by J.S. Richardson, Inspector of Ancient Monuments for Scotland, and published in 1932 (and reissued in 1937). It was thus one of the earliest of the guides prepared for historic sites in Scotland. The guide starts with a description (pp. 3–11), followed by a history (pp. 12–31). A plan showing the outworks is printed opposite the title page, and a plan and cross-sections are printed on a fold-out sheet inside the back cover. The text is supported by black and white photographs.
Richardson’s guide continued into the 1970s as the blue guide. The format of description followed by history is the same. The fold-out plan continued to be placed inside the back cover. The side headings of the 1930s guide were turned into bold sub-headings.
Chris Tabraham revised the Historic Scotland ‘Official Souvenir Guide’. This contains a guided tour followed by a history. There is a section on the spectacular Bass Rock, home to gannets. There is no plan of the castle, but the guided tour has a number view from the air to help orientate the visitor.
Craigmillar Castle, to the south-east of Edinburgh, was placed in State Guardianship in 1946. W. Douglas Simpson prepared the official guidebook in 1954. At the heart of the castle is the tower house, constructed after 1374 by Sir Simon Preston of Gorton. Queen Mary used the castle as her residence after the murder of Rizzio in 1566.
The guidebook is divided into description and (a short) history. A plan of the castle, and detail of the floors is provided in the centre pages.
Hermitage Castle and the adjacent chapel were placed in State Guardianship in 1930. The ‘blue’ guide was prepared by W. Douglas Simpson. There is a short history indicating that the castle was founded by 1300. It was captured by Sir William Douglas in 1338. There is then a description with a series of black and white photographs, and a ground floor plan.
A short description of Hermitage Chapel, settled by brother William from Kelso. The guide closes with a section on Ballad Lore, and the account of Lord Soulis.
Simpson’s blue guide continued into the period of Historic Scotland. The text is almost identical. The introduction becomes ‘Renouned among Border fortresses’. The history is turned into ‘The strength of Liddesdale’; the seal of William Douglas that served on the cover of the blue guide is inserted in the text. The description became ‘Grim indeed’. Among the photographs is one from the air derived from the Royal Commission. The plan that appears in the double pages of the blue guide appears inside the back cover, although the scale is reproduced in metres. The section on Ballad Lore is included along with a portrait of Sir Walter Scott with Hermitage Castle in the background.
The section on the chapel includes photographs as well as a plan and restoration made in 1900.
This guide included a family tree of the Douglases (and points to other family castles, namely Threave, Tantallon, and Aberdour) and one of Hepburn (with other castles, Crichton, Hailes, Huntly; Spynie Palace; St Andrews Cathedral). There are portraits of James Hepburn, 4th Early of Bothwell, and his second wife, Mary Queen of Scots. (The portrait of Mary in the HS guide uses the portrait in the Scottish National Portrait Gallery.)
Note the different colours used for ‘Hermitage’ and ‘Castle’.
A new Historic Scotland ‘Official Souvenir Guide’ was prepared by Chris Tabraham. This starts with a Guided Tour, followed by the History. There is mention of a possible deer park. No plan is included although a drawing of the castle from the air helps to orientate the visitor.