Some 51 members of the Scottish Castles Association arrived at Glenrothes on 16-17 September 2023 for our Autumn Tour which had been expertly organised by our chairman John Hunter.
For those members who arrived on the Friday, there was the opportunity to fit in a visit to Pittarthie Castle. It necessitated a long trek over muddy fields on a wet, windy day! Built in 1598 Pittarthie Castle was abandoned in the 19th century and is, sadly, in critical danger of collapse due to wide cracks in its walls.
Collairnie Castle began the trip on the Saturday; a fine 16th century tower house within an abandoned farm steading. It could be made habitable but only if there is the will, the money and immediate intervention
Cruivie Castle is a late 15th century tower set upon a rocky mound encompassed by a ditch. The castle is striking and in no immediate danger due to its strong foundations and the quality of its mortar.
Earlshall Castle is one of the finest castles in the country whose appearance owes much to the year 1890 when it was restored by the eminent architect, Sir Robert Lorimer. No less impressive was its interior – a treasure trove of collectables amassed by our genial host.
Lordscairnie Castle is a late 15th century tower with traces of a barmkin. Someone had gone to great lengths to fence it off so we could only admire it from the road!
Strathendry Castle was the final visit of the Saturday; a strong, lofty, late 16th century tower with an interesting interior. Once again we were made most welcome by an attentive host.
MacDuff Castle was our first stop on the Sunday; a 14th century tower connected to one of the 16th, both defended by a gun-looped barmkin. In 1967 a child fell from one of the towers whereupon it was destroyed by explosives. Our President, Professor Richard Oram, narrated the site’s history.
Ravenscraig Castle is a massive fortress overlooking the Forth. Begun by James II it was designed to withstand cannon but left unfinished at his death in 1460. It is in the care of the local authority who open it on special occasions of which, unfortunately, our visit was not one. Once again Professor Oram filled in the gaps.
Piteadie Castle is a delightful late 16th century tower house with fine details. It was originally entered by a door at first floor but in the 17th century the widows were enlarged and an entrance slapped through at ground floor. The present owner has long-term plans to restore it for habitation.
Lochore Castle is a strong 14th century castle with a barmkin which once stood on an island until the loch was drained in the 18th century. It is well cared for by the local community which carried out some consolidation work in 2016. See a fabulous reconstruction of Lochore Castle by Scottish Castles Association member Bob Marshall and more about the community's work in our article here.
Balcomie Castle is a lofty, late 16th century tower, once part of a much larger structure. A rare survivor is a gatehouse with striking heraldry. Once again our hosts could not have been more welcoming.
Wormistoune House completed the tour. The owners were absent so we were confined to the grounds but could admire its impressive exterior. It is an L-plan tower house of 1612, freed from an enveloping Victorian mansion in the 1980s. Work has continued to the present day and the castle presents a satisfying appearance within its immaculately landscaped gardens.
Our next tour, exclusively for Scottish Castles Association members, is scheduled to take place in April 2024. Become a member – we hope you will be able to join us!
Article by Scottish Castles Association member Brian McGarrigle.