Aberdour Castle – West to East

Aberdour Castle in Fife grew from west to east over five hundred years. The first construction dates from before 1200, when a two storey tower house was built by the de Mortimer family. Parts of this collapsed in1844 and 1919, but some ruins are visible at the western end of the castle. These parts are of one of the oldest masonry castles still standing in Scotland.

In the fifteenth century Aberdour Castle was owned by the Douglas family, the Earls of Morton. They extended the tower house and built several other buildings around a defended service courtyard. Today one can see remains of the bakehouse and brewhouse. The outer defenses and original entrance to the castle from this time were lost when the railway was built here in 1890.

James Douglas, Earl of Morton, who was Regent of Scotland from 1572 to 1578 built the first big structure east of the existing towerhouse. This is now called the central range. It was built on top of some structures associated with the tower house. Aberdour became less a defensive structure and more a home. The new three storeys were linked to the old tower house, which remained in use.

In the 1630s the Seventh Earl of Morton, Lord Treasurer of Scotland, built an L-shaped extension known as the east range as modern accommodation for his family. This is the only complete part of the building today. The castle caught fire in the 1680s and was extensively damaged. Though it was to have been rebuilt only the east range was restored by 1703, the central and west ranges remained in ruins. The family left Aberdour Castle and moved into the neighboring Aberdour House.

The east range was used as barracks and a school over the next 200 years. In 1924 Aberdour Castle was taken over by the state as an ancient monument. Aberdour Castle has restored beautiful terraced gardens to the south, which were rediscovered in the 1970s. They comprise of four walled L-shaped steps going down towards the sea. At their lower end is the site of a 1690 orchard. At the far end of the upper terrace is a sixteenth century beehive-shaped dovecote.

back to Castles