The main A198 road bypasses the village of Dirleton about two miles west of North Berwick. This keeps the through traffic out, and does much to enhance the extremely attractive atmosphere of a beautiful village, much of which is built around its village green.
Dirleton Castle dates back to the late 1200s and there was probably a settlement of sorts beyond the castle walls from an early date. But the origins of modern Dirleton date back to the redevelopment of the castle in the 1400s by the Halyburton family.
A map drawn in 1600s certainly shows a village here by then. And Dirleton Parish Church, standing at the head of a northern extension to the village green, was built in 1612 to replace the old parish church, St Andrew's Kirk, built from the 1100s in nearby Gullane. The imposing Archerfield Aisle in the new parish church was said to be the earliest example of neo-classical architecture in Scotland when it was completed in 1664.
In 1663 Dirleton Castle and its estate was acquired by the Nisbet family. They abandoned the castle as a residence and built a large new mansion, Archerfield House, to the north west of the village. The name of the site dated back to its use as a practice ground for Edward I's archers. Dirleton continued to grow, now lying between the castle and the Archerfield Estate.
In 1849 Dirleton gained a railway station, albeit in open country over a mile to the south east of the village on the North Berwick line. The station, though not the line, was closed in 1954. By 1869 the Castle Inn was in business, overlooking the main village green. In that year a meeting held at the Inn agreed the formation of the Archerfield Golf Club.
Today's Dirleton remains a highly attractive village of cottages and more substantial houses gathered around the main village green, and its extension towards the church. The Castle Inn continues to provide a draw for visitors, and the Open Arms Hotel sits on the north side of the green looking towards the castle and its gardens.
Archerfield House spent some time being less well treated then the castle it replaced. It was extensively rebuilt in 1733, and Robert Adam remodelled the interior in 1790. There's an oft-told story that in the 1940s the house was the location of a meeting between Winston Churchill and US President Roosevelt to plan the D-Day landings, but this seem to be a myth: the US Embassy in London has said that President Roosevelt never visited Scotland. By the 1950s Archerfield had ceased to be used as a house, and in 1962 the then owner stripped out the interior and knocked a hole in the structure to allow him to install a grain dryer inside.
Thirty years of dereliction followed, despite sporadic plans by various developers for leisure development of the estate. But in February 2002 planning permission was granted for a major redevelopment of the 500 acre estate including golf courses and housing, and work has since been under way to turn this into reality. Archerfield House itself has become an exclusive use venue. The impact of the developments at Archerfield on the surrounding area, and on nearby Dirleton in particular, are less noticeable than might have been expected. And compared to a previous generation's efforts to turn a grand mansion into a grain dryer, the developments taking place certainly represent a change for the better.
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