St Andrews Castle -Center of Religion

St Andrews Castle was not really a castle, but has been the main residence of the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews since the 1200s. It was the seat of power and administration of the Scottish Church and was the location for some of the turning points in the long history of Scotland. As a part of Robert Bruce’s policy the original structure was destroyed by the Scots in 1337 to avoid it being held by the English.

The new castle was built in about 1400 by Bishop Trail in a way that it could be easily defended. Steep cliffs protected it to the north and east and curtain walls and rock protected the landward side. Inside five square towers provided residence for the bishop and others. More accommodation was constructed on the inner sides of the curtain walls as well as in outer courtyards to the south and west.

The castle had a grim Bottle Dungeon, a bottle shaped pit below the Sea Tower and accessible only via the narrow neck opening through a trap door from the floor of tower. Two massive circular gun towers, called blockhouses, were built on the landward side and heavy carriage-mounted guns were positioned at the wall tops. In 1513, the front wall was strengthened by two round towers. The infamous Cardinal David Beaton, Archbishop was murdered in St Andrews.

The castle came under siege in 1546-1547 and damaged extensively by cannon fire. During this siege, a unique mine and countermine with two false starts were dug from the castle grounds. The siege mine and counter-mine can be explored today.

The next archbishop, John Hamilton, started rebuilding the castle but it was annexed by the crown in 1587. St Andrews Castle fell into ruins after this and in 1654 was dismantled to provide materials for the harbor walls.

Today only two vaulted cellars remain of the kitchen. The seaward buildings have collapsed into the sea. St Andrews Castle displays the results of centuries of neglect since it was abandoned. In spite of this one can still sense the power and grandeur that had existed here and view the unusual features that have survived.


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