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between 12:00 Friday 15th December and 12:00 Monday 18th December


Kinclaven Castle

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Kinclaven Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Canmore ID 28498

Site Number NO13NE 31

NGR NO 15813 37730

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number AC0000807262. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

  • Council Perth And Kinross
  • Parish Kinclaven
  • Former Region Tayside
  • Former District Perth And Kinross
  • Former County Perthshire

Archaeology Notes

NO13NE 31 15813 37730

(NO 1581 3772) Kinclaven Castle (NR) (Ruins of)

OS 6" map (1901)

Kinclaven Castle was erected by Malcolm Canmore (1057-1093) (T Hunter 1883). It is now a square enclosure measuring externally 130ft, with walls 7'6" thick. There were evidently towers, probably square, at each angle, and the courtyard was entered by narrow doors, parts of their rybats still remaining. The principal entrance was near the S end of the W side, and a postern was situated in the centre of the S front. There is no vestige of interior buildings. Indications of a ditch are visible in part, and there is an early reference to a drawbridge.

An inscribed plate states that the castle was taken and wrecked by Wallace in 1299, but was repaired again by 1335. It was purely a garrison castle, and must have been abandoned for many centuries judging from the old fruit trees growing in the courtyard.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887

The OS Reviser found the walls in a crumbling condition, varying from 6-10ft high.

Visited by OS Reviser (FER) 13 June 1955

As previously described. No trace of a ditch was visible.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 20 February 1969.


Project (10 February 2015 - 13 March 2015)

This project was carried out in February and March 2015 by RCAHMS as a Special Survey. The site was selected because of the poor quality of the record, and has benefited from the Arts and Humanities Research Council Collaborative Doctoral Award to William Wyeth to study Early Stone Castles, 1050-1350 under the supervision of Professor Richard Oram of Stirling University and Dr Piers Dixon, RCAHMS. The survey team from RCAHMS included Heather Stoddart, John Borland, Georgina Brown, Ali McCaig, William Wyeth and Steve Wallace.

Measured Survey (February 2015 - March 2015)

RCAHMS surveyed Kinclaven Castle between February-March 2015 producing a ground plan of the castle and two section drawings (scale 1:250). Detailed drawings of the entrance to the north tower (scale 1:20), garderobe passage (scale 1:50), castle entrance (scale 1:20) and profiles of south-west wall exterior (1:20) were also produced. EDM and GPS data was collected to set out a network of control pegs for the survey and to capture data for the castle sections and plan. A series of plane-table surveys were then undertaken, utilising the EDM and GPS data previously collected, to produce the final castle plan and sections. The detailed survey drawings were recorded by tape.

Laser Scanning (10 February 2015 - 10 April 2017)

Laser scan data was collected to enable an accurate set of interpreted building plans to be created. Some of the facade was obscured by vegetation.

Field Visit (13 March 2015)

This castle is situated beside the River Tay and its confluence with the River Alyth, and both rivers are now bridged, but before 1905 this was the location of a ferry crossing of the Tay. Although hidden in the trees, this castle has an associated landscape that includes outbuildings and enclosures, possibly for gardens. The castle is of one phase of construction and some 35m square, within walls 1.9m in thickness, still standing up to c6m in height, despite being robbed of much of its facing stones. The castle has no ditch, but sits on a low ridge orientated from NW to SE that runs up to and is cut by the river Tay on the SE, to which it drops steeply. The castle once had squared towers at each corner and has a shallow buttress or pillar midway along the NW wall, which is mimicked by a garderobe pillar midway along the SW, but collapse of the NE wall precludes any confirmation that there was anything to match it on that side. Mid-wall or corner buttresses or pillasters are a feature reminiscent of Castle Sween and Romanesque architecture, suggesting a date as early as the 12th century for this castle, but its documentary history suggests an early 13th century date (see below). Nearer to hand, the castle at Kincardine is a close parallel for a square enclosure castle of similar size without a ditch (Canmore id 36061), and is dated to the reign of Alexander II.

The base of the wall is marked by a sloping plinth on all sides and where the castle runs across a hollow on the SW there is a second lower plinth. It is no accident that this is the side on which the garderobe chutes were to be found and also the internal buildings with basements. A broad entrance c2.5m in breadth, which has been robbed of its dressed stone, opens onto the ridge to the NW and is offset to the SW of the NW curtain. Inside it to the NE there is an open flight of stairs up to the wall walk. The thickness of the wall on either side of the entrance and as far as the stairs is thicker at 2.3m than that beyond, which at 2.1m is itself thicker than that on the other sides of the castle. While this indicates a wider wall-walk than the rest of the walls, it suggests special treatment of the wall-top at the entrance.

Despite its dilapidated state, it was possible to identify ranges of buildings along three sides of the interior: the NE, SE and SW. The absence of any stonework suggests the internal walls of the buildings were timber-framed. The location of the great hall along the SE facing the River Tay is marked by three tall splayed window openings. From the position of the windows it extended about 23-4m in length and was 6m in breadth on the evidence of a slight hollow. A chamber block probably stood adjacent to it at the SW, suggested by the splay of a window opening at first floor level on the SE wall that coincides with the beginning of a squared hollow in the ground about 0.4m in depth suggesting a basement for a building about 6m in breadth and about 10.5m in length. A range of buildings, which extends for 10m along the SW curtain from the SE building range, has a basement 7m in breadth and of similar depth to that adjacent on the SE with no sign of a sub-division suggesting they were interconnected. At the NW end there is a step up to a much shallower basement, also about 7m in length. In the middle of this compartment there is an entrance to a passage in the thickness of the wall leading to a garderobe lit by a small slit window, suggesting some external light could reach it from the adjacent room. The offset position of the chute in the garderobe pillar to the SE and its size suggests that it also provided adjacent space for another garderobe chute at first floor level. A narrower range marked by a slight hollow continued as far as the corner with the NW curtain. The building along the NE curtain was also marked by slight hollow extending 13m from the NW curtain by 6-7m transversely. It is possible the kitchens were located on the side.

The corner towers appear to have been rectangular and of variable dimensions, providing additional space outside the curtain as well as flanking views of the curtain walls. Those of the S and W are the largest, of the order of about 6m square, both from the evidence of the standing ruin and the platform on which the towers stood, and they were accessed from the adjacent ranges of buildings. Those at the other two corners were smaller on the basis of the visible platforms and the scars on the curtain, but were also accessed from the adjacent buildings: that is from the NE end of the hall and the NW end of the NE range. This would explain the need for a stair on the NW curtain: the only side without a building range along it, providing direct access to the wall-walk by the entrance. This provides an open space or courtyard in the middle of the enclosure about 20m from SW to NE by nearer 30m transversely. No direct access to water was noted within the castle, but a postern-gate in one of the corner towers may have provided external access to the river.

There is a terraced yard on the slope to the NE of the castle orientated at variance to the castle from NNW to SSE in which there is a longitudinal hollow on the NE edge, about 12m in length by 4m in breadth and c0.4m in depth, possibly for a building stance. The difference in angle suggests it is a different period from the castle. Immediately to the S of the castle there is a platform set into the top of the river terrace above the Tay that is aligned with the castle. This overlies a bank that runs up the terrace from the flood plain of the river to the SW end of the platform from which point a terrace cut into the slope that describes a sinuous course along the side of the ridge on which the castle stands continues the line of the bank until it runs up to another bank at rights angles to it on the NW. Yet another bank runs from the platform of the W corner tower to the edge of the sinuous terrace. It would seem likely these linear features are the walls of garden enclosures that are associated with the use of the castle and are likely to be coeval with it, but they could not be fully mapped at the date of survey due to the density of the woods to the SW.

It has been argued that this castle dates to the early 13th century as a replacement for Perth castle which was devastated by floods in 1209 (Duncan, 1975, 469). Alexander II is recorded twice at Kinclaven: on 17th February (‘Kincleuin’) and 24th March (‘Kyncleuin’) 1248 (Rogers 1879, 326, 336). The castle was taken from the English by Andrew Moray in 1336-7 and destroyed (Nicholson 1974, 135) and is not much documented after the Wars of Independence. Indeed, it shows no sign of late medieval features in the surviving structure. However, the castle and lands were included in a grant to the newly elevated Duke of Montrose in 1488 (Paul, 1984, No. 1725) and were subsequently granted to an Elizabeth Charters under Queen Mary in 1549 (Thomson, 1984, No. 374), but there is no evidence for this in the surviving structure.


Mark Thacker – University of Stirling

NO 1581 3773 A programme of landscape, buildings and

materials analysis is being carried out at Kinclaven Castle

within the framework of this project. Buildings analysis

indicated that all surviving upstanding walls at Kinclaven

Castle display a very consistent suite of masonry techniques

and materials, and on this basis can be interpreted

as essentially single phase. The surviving masonry is

characterised by wall faces of quarried sandstone laid

in formal courses 230–400mm high, with the external

face constructed upon a fine-dressed splay-moulded

basal plinth. The wall core, in contrast, is composed of

a geological mixture of stones, including very rounded

detrital quartz, granite and sandstone. High volumes of

surviving constructional mortar are exposed throughout,

in continuous and compositionally-consistent core and

bedding contexts, and this material could be characterised

in situ as a wood-fired limestone-lime mortar. A limited

sampling programme was undertaken to investigate these

materials, and the assemblage included 19 probable relict

fuel inclusions, 2 core mortar fragments, 1 relict limestone

clast, and 1 loose sandstone fragment.

Lab-based analysis of the assemblage included thick and

thin section analysis of all mortar and limestone samples.

These analyses confirmed that the constructional mortar

at the castle had been manufactured from a very fine

sedimentary limestone (included with a fine mixture of

metamorphic rock and mineral intraclasts) and that this lime

had been tempered with a quartz-rich aggregate consistent

with the nearby riverine source. Archaeobotanical analysis

indicated that the relict fuel assemblage was dominated

by wood-charcoal of various taxonomies and four welldistributed

samples were selected for radiocarbon analysis.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: University of Stirling and Historic Environment Scotland


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