Walk: Fast Castle quickens the pulse

Scottish Borders | Dowlaw | Short walk | ★★★

[Fast Castle]

Towering over a vertiginous, rocky headland with just a narrow drawbridge connecting it to the mainland, Fast Castle must have been the ultimate defensive location at the time of its construction during or around the 1300s. Today's visitor gains access via a (slightly) newer, concrete causeway with a short scramble at the far end aided by metal chains. Although more extensive than at first appears, the castle itself isn't that exciting. But its clifftop setting is: if more of the ruin was still standing, this could be just as famous an attraction as Dunnottar Castle in Aberdeenshire. Dramatic coastal scenery surrounds the site, with rock stacks stained white from seabird guano, and long views north towards East Lothian. While the walk from the car park is short in distance, it involves a steep descent of nearly 200 vertical metres to reach the castle. Just remember that you have to do it all in reverse for the return journey...

[View northwest along the coast from the castle's curtain wall (right)]

📌 Walk: Fast Castle quickens the pulse ★★★
Start / finish at car park at minor road end, Dowlaw, G.R.: NT 855702 ///income.apart.shields

▶ 2 km / 1 mi | ▲ 190 m | ⌚ Short | Moderate
Features: Fast Castle & coastline
Terrain: Grassy then stony paths, sometimes with big drops nearby. Steep descent to castle, which has a rocky step (needs hands) to get onto the headland.

Route & map

Car park - Telegraph Hill - Fast Castle - return by outward route

Route credit: Scotland Off the Beaten Track

On our visit

Wildlife: Various seabirds on the cliffs and stacks near the castle; sheep with lambs in the fields; swallows, Speckled Wood and Red Admiral butterflies near the car park.
Weather: Sunny intervals with temperature in mid teens; blustery wind, especially on the exposed castle headland.

Also on this walk

📌 Fast Castle ★★
Half a mile north of minor road at Dowlaw, G.R.: NT 861711 ///mailboxes.snuggle.usual
Always open | Free

Anything else? The castle is a 30-min walk from the car park (longer on the way back), with quickest access by the walk route described above.

Chronological photo guide

[The section of path nearest the start is a little overgrown, though still easy to follow]

[Speckled Wood butterfly seen on the woodland section]

[Once out of the trees, the path contours Telegraph Hill]

[Good views on the middle, clifftop section]

[Soon the castle comes into view far below]

[Fast Castle]

[View northwest along the coast from the castle's curtain wall (right)]

[Looking southeast along the coast from the causeway]

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