Yester Castle: From wizards to goblins, the history of this East Lothian castle is spectacular
Necromancer, wizard, commander of goblin builders – the history of this castle has it all.
"Old tales tell that his castle, or at least his cellar and keep, were wrought by witchcraft, for there is there a marvellous underground cavern wonderfully constructed and extending under a large area of ground.”
A necromancer. A Lord. A Castle-owning wizard. A goblin tamer who made a pact with the devil. Commander of a ghost army. The myths and legends around this East Lothian Lord are endless and each one is more spectacular than the first.
Sir Hugo Gifford, also known as Sir Hugh Giffard, also known as the Laird of Yester was a feudal Lord who, oddly enough, owned the land where the village of Gifford now sits. Nestled in the stunning Scottish countryside just over 20 miles outside of Edinburgh, this quaint village sits next to the ruins of Yester Castle – Sir Hugo’s home.
The story goes that hobgoblins built his castle for him – as part of his pact with the devil – which included an underground cavern known as the Goblin Hall. It was in this hall that Hugo would practise his magic, and raise his armies of the dead to do his deadly bidding.
Putting the magic and ghosts to one side, Sir Hugo was real.
A Hugh de Giffard was thought to have come over with William the Conqueror and was gifted the land now known as Yester, from the word Ystrad meaning dale. Each son and grandson carried on the family name, and is was descendant Hugo who built the castle – or asked the goblins to – around the year 1267. It was visited by King Alexander III around May 1278.
In 1357, there were no more male heirs, so Joanna Gifford married into the illustrious Hay family, who took care of the Yester lands. In 1557, the 4th Lord Hay did and his son John high tailed out of there, moving into what is now known as Yester House. The castle fell into ruin, with much of the stone taken for building material elsewhere.
The Goblin Hall is still intact, buried in the woods on the outskirts of Gifford, and many have said that they feel the presence of Sir Hugo himself.