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Cupar Castle

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Cupar Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Canmore ID 31565

Site Number NO31SE 8

NGR NO 3761 1464

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Cupar
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO31SE 8 3761 1464.

(Name: NO 3764 1463) Site of (NAT) Castle (NR)

OS 6"map, Fifeshire, 1st ed., (1854)

'Of the castle of Cupar no trace now remains, and of its history very little is known. It is not unlikely that it was erected by some of the Earls of Fife. The only traces of this castle which have been found in authentic documents are : the record of taking of it by Edward I on 1296; the occuption... by the Prince of Wales in 1303; and a reference to... Sir William Bullock as keeper of the castle from 1335 to 1339... Tradition still points to its site on the School hill, but even the ruins of it have long since disappeared.

A H Millar 1895.

The Castle Hill, Cupar: This is merely a site and is now occupied by the buildings of the Bell Baxter School.

RCAHMS 1933.

Area NO 3761 1464. No trace of the castle is to be seen.

Visited by OS (R D L) 21 May 1964.

It is not certain that it was the earls of Fife and not the King who built the original phrase of the motte and bailey castle of Cupar, which evidently existed by about 1170.

G W S Barrow 1980.

NO 375 146 An archaeological evaluation was carried out in March 2002 at East Burnside in advance of proposed residential development at the base of the E side of the site of Cupar Castle (NO31SE 8), in an area that might contain evidence of the castle outworks or medieval settlement. Close to the site frontage along East Burnside, early modern and modern make-up, garden soil and industrial deposits were found to overlay a deeply buried medieval cultivation soil and a make-up deposit, both of which contained medieval pottery, bone and shell. Waterlogged natural deposits were reached at a depth of c 1.9m below the site surface. Quarried bedrock was found close to the S side of the site near the hill slope. Nothing was identified that could be related directly to any defensive outworks for Cupar Castle.

A watching brief on development groundworks was subsequently undertaken. The slope on the S side of the development leading up to the castle site was terraced by the contractors' excavations. Here, a wide ditch feature containing a few sherds of medieval pottery was found to extend further up the slope. Large fragments of quarry stone were also found on the slope which could represent demolition from the castle. On the W side of the site the medieval cultivation soil was further investigated. Extensive early modern/modern industrial deposits were found to cover the footprint of the new build and a stone-built well was recorded. A trench in East Burnside Road appeared to reveal make-up deposits infilling the low-lying ground at the edge of Lady Burn.

Archive to be deposited in the NMRS.

Sponsor: Taycon Construction Ltd.

R Cachart 2002


Field Visit (11 June 1925)

The Castle Hill, Cupar.

This is merely a site and is now occupied by the buildings of the Bell Baxter School. "In levelling a piece of ground, in order to form the turnpike road that leads from Cupar to the east, there were lately found, in the vicinity of the Castle-hill, several stone coffins containing human skeletons. The coffins were adorned with the figures of warriors, rudely sculptured, and covered with unknown .characters. English and French coins, of considerable antiquity, have been dug up in removing the rubbish from the ground where the castle once stood." - Stat. Acct., xviii, p. 158.

RCAHMS 1933, visited 11 June 1925.

Publication Account (1981)

The history of the castle of Cupar is unclear and the known historical facts about it cannot be stated succinctly. In 1296 the castle was in the hands of Edward I and seven years later, his son Edward, the Prince of Wales, lodged in it. A Sir William Bullock was keeper of the castle from 1335 to 1339 and about this latter date a siege was raised and Bulloch had to send to Edinburgh for reinforcements. It is believed that the structure was destroyed on the orders of David II (Lamb, 1895, i; 122). Tradition points to Castle (or School) Hill as the site of Cupar Castle.

Information from ‘Historic Cupar: The Archaeological Implications of Development’ (1981).


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