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East Lothian
Grid reference: NT619830
Location: 56°2’21"N, 2°36’46"W
Post town: North Berwick
Postcode: EH42
Dialling code: 01620
Local Government
Council: East Lothian
East Lothian

Scoughall is a coastal hamlet in East Lothian, standing to the east of North Berwick, where the coast has turned southeast and faces the open North Sea. The shore here reveals at low tides the formidable Scougal Rocks, so there is no harbour nor anchorage here: the nearest if the tiny harbour at Seacliff just to the north.

The nearest town is North Berwick and the village of Whitekirk a mile or so inland. Another coastal hamlet, Auldhame is found to the northeast, which does ay least have a small bay and beach, and between thenm a hamlet named Seacliff, which descrives its location on the Carr Rocks, an extension of the Scougall Rocks.

Saint Baldred's legacy

It is said that the 8th century Christian missionary St Baldred of Tyninghame had one of his bases at Auldhame,[1] and founded a church at Scoughall. Several local geographical features are named after him hereabouts.

In the sixteenth century while Auldhame belonged to the Otterburn family, Scoughall belonged to the Auchmoutie family. In 1618 the poet John Taylor visited the Auchmouties and ate solan goose from the Bass from a buffet.[2]


Today there is little in the area except farming. The houses at Scoughall are given little thought by those driving to North Berwick or visiting nearby Seacliff or Tantallon Castle. Indeed, such visitors are likely to be gazing towards the Bass Rock rather than considering the scattered houses and cottages at the roadside.

Robert Louis Stevenson

In 1919, John Robert Dale bought the estate of Seacliff, Scoughall and Auldhame after being tenant farmer of Scoughall since 1848, and Auldhame since 1834. The three estates remain to this day in the ownership of the Dale family. The novelist Robert Louis Stevenson was related to John Robert Dale and spent several boyhood holidays at Scoughall. It was here in front of the farmhouse fire that the young Stevenson first heard the story of how folks in these parts on dark stormy nights, when winds used to lash the coast, lured sailing ships onto the rocks by displaying misleading lantern lights.

The 'Pagans of Scoughall' had the worst of reputations. They were said to tie a horse's neck to its knee and attach a lantern to the rope, then drive the horse slowly along the cliffs, so that a vessel out at sea would think it a ship riding at anchor, and come in, only to be wrecked on the rocky reef known as the Great Car and be plundered by the ghoulish people. These tales gave Stevenson the idea for his story 'The Wreckers'.

Stevenson also wrote in his novel 'Catriona' (sequel to Kidnapped) of the 'lights of Scoughall' and purposely put 'Tam Dale' in charge of the prisoners on the Bass Rock.

Outside links

("Wikimedia Commons" has material
about Scoughall)


  1. Yeoman, Peter (1999). Pilgrimage in Mediæval Scotland. London & Edinburgh: B T Batsford & Historic Scotland. 
  2. Hume Brown, P., ed., Early Travellers in Scotland, (1891/1978), 113, 126-127.
  • The Churches of Saint Baldred, by A.E.Ritchie, Edinburgh, 1880
  • North Berwick, Gullane, Aberlady, East Linton & District, by R.P. Phillimore,1913.
  • North Berwick History – Landowners