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Aberdour Castle



Aberdour Castle
Castle reconstruction by Andrew Spratt c1500
Click image to enlarge
A 13th-century fortified residence, extended in the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries with splendid residential accommodation and a terraced garden and bowling green. There is a fine circular dovecot.l range added in the 16th century and finally the gallery and stable added in 18th century. The stable was very large and probably housed six horses.
The tower house collapsed in ruins in 1844. In 1791 the east range had been abandoned, there was no one left to care for it. Many of the stones had been plundered to build surrounding farms.

Aberdour was originally owned by the de Mortimer family in the 12th century. It passed to the Douglases in 1342. The Earl of Morton took up residence in 1456 and the Earls stayed in residence until 1790. Thereafter the buildings had been used for several different purposes; schoolhouse, troop housing, masonic hall. In 1924 it was turned over to state care and declared an ancient monument.

While there is a motte nearby, the earliest remnant of a castle here is from 1240-80. THe site of Aberdour was granted by Robert the Bruce to his friend and nephew, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray. The earliest mention of the castle is in the charter of 1351. Aberdour passed to the Douglas family in the mid-14th century. It may have been James, 4th Earl of Dalkeith, who rebuilt the tower in 1456, and added a vaulted cellar and sleeping lofts. A wing containing a wider stair (one of the largest platte staircases in Scotland) was also added at this time. Most of these additions are crumbling.

The 15th century stair wing was subsequently rebuilt when large new block was added in the 1570s. One of the added rooms was a large kitchen and bakehouse, just southwest of the old tower. There are remains of a wall around the courtyard, and a round turret in the north end of the block. The extravagant gallery, now in ruins, once displayed 46 portraits, from when Aberdour was the seat of the Earldom.

The tower, rebuilt in 1456, has long since collapsed.

The castle also belonged to Regent Morton from about 1548 until his execution in 1581. In the 16th century, a new range of buildings was raised on the SE to match the new towerhouse. Yet another range of buildings was added in the 17th century, adding to the rambling footprint of this large building.
The oldest part of Aberdour
Aberdour Castle in 2013

The tower house and new wing were gutted by fire in 1689 or 1715, and rebuilding was never carried out in those parts of the house. It was finally abandoned as a residence in 1725, although part of the wing may still have been lived in during 1791. By the early 19th century, the tower itself had fallen, and other parts of the now crumbling building collapsed in 1844 and even more in 1919. several levels of terracing and a beautiful greenbelt down to the stream that flows nearby. When we arrived, they were in the process of trying to repair bulging retaining walls, which were braced up with wooden scaffolding. The gardens (ok, the erstwhile gardens) were blocked off from visitors, because they were worried that the walls may collapse. From the reconstruction plans, the gardens were beautiful and were complemented by a walled garden beside the nearby 12th century church.


In 1701 ‘fire broke out with great violence and all the apartments were gutted’.
'This accident must now push your lordship to build a new house' wrote Robert Douglas to its owner, the Earl of Morton.
His Lordship never did and Aberdour was left to ruin until recent times when it was rescued and placed in the care of Historic Scotland.

Aberdour castle, 1867
Aberdour Castle in 1867 

In 1638, Aberdour was erected into a burgh of Barony, and the7th Earl's title was altered to Earl of Morton, and Lord Aberdour.


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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024