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Mountquhanie Castle

Castle (Medieval), Dovecot (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Mountquhanie Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Dovecot (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 31810

Site Number NO32SW 19

NGR NO 34753 21237

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NO32SW 19 34753 21237

(NO 3474 2124) Mountquhanie (NR)

OS 6" map (1959)

For Mountquhainie House and associatied sites, see NO32SW 54.00.

The original building was a 16th century keep measuring externally 43 1/2' by 26', with three storeys below the wall-head. It is ruinous and covered in ivy. An outside stair, and a W range were added in the 17th century, two storeys high with a circular tower in the SW angle, which is used as a dovecot. Only the entrance of the S building remains, with a lintel inscribed '1683'. Another stone dated 1592, (not in situ) is above the backdoor of Home Farm. "Munquhane" is mentioned in 1459, and a charter dated 1547-8 specified the "tower, fortalice and manor-house"

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1892; RCAHMS 1933, visited 1927; SDD List

Mountquhanie Castle is as described above. The 17th century range has been restored and is occupied by estate workers.

Visited by OS (JLD) 2 November 1956 and (RD) 10 June 1970


Field Visit (1 June 1927)

Mountquhanie Castle.

Mountquhanie Castle is an ivy-clad ruin standing beside the home farm, 4 ½ miles north-north-west of Cupar. It has been an oblong tower of the 16th century*, measuring externally 43 ½ feet by 26 feet, and has had three storeys beneath the wall-head. The lowest storey is vaulted. The masonry is whin rubble with freestone dressings. The windows are unusually small, and one on the first floor, looking southward, has a broad chamfered margin and has been heightened. At each of the angles there is a turret supported on a corbel of four members. The parapet has only a slight projection over the wall face and is borne on small corbels, each of two members. The tower has been considerably altered, but full examination is at present impossible owing to the growth of ivy, which threatens the stability of the walls. West of the tower there has been a small courtyard open to the north. The western buildings are two-storeyed and have, at the south-west angle, a circular tower, the upper part of which is used as a dovecot. Although the southern buildings have been removed, the entrance remains, and its lintel is inscribed HIC…PONS ESTO I.C M.L 1682, which presumably records the date of the extension. The first pair of initials are for James Crawford, for whom see HISTORICAL NOTE. The entrance to the castle has been from the north, where part of a transe, dated 1683, is incorporated in the farm buildings.

HISTORICAL NOTE. George Balfour was in “Munquhane” in 1459 (1). In 1493 these Balfour lands were erected into a free barony in favour of Michael Balfour (2). A charter of 1547/8 specifies “the tower, fortalice, and manor-house”. The Balfours continued till the beginning of the 17th century, but in 1668 James Lumsden of Montquhanny was returned heir in these lands to his father General-Major Robert Lumsden of Montquhanny (3). Towards the close of the century the lands came into possession of James Crawford (4).

RCAHSM 1933, visited 1 June 1927

(1) Reg. Mag. Sig., s.a., No. 701. (2) Ibid., s.a., No. 2149. (3) Inquis. Spec., Fife, No. 1034. (4) Sibbald's Hist. of Fife, etc. (ed. 1803), p. 411.

*Macgibbon and Ross in Castellated and Domestic Architecture, vol. iv, p. 269, record a Balfour armorial stone, dated 1597, built upside down into an outbuilding. This is not now visible and may be concealed by the ivy.

Photographic Survey (1955)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record in 1955.

Publication Account (1987)

The ruin of this 16th century fortified house comprises an oblong tower-house, formerly of three storeys. There is a courtyard to the west, open to the north and walled to the south. There are two-storey buildings on the west side of the courtyard, the corner tower of which has a conical roof. The courtyard buildings are now occupied as a house known as Feather Cottage.

The castle was deliberately ruined after the completion of Mountquhanie (or Mountquhannie) House in the 1830s. A small single-storey 'Gothic' laundry was constructed to the east of the tower-house. Feather Cottage was used for estate workers' housing and the upper portion of the circular tower was converted to a dovecote. The vaulted ground-floor chambers were converted to an estate slaughterhouse and butcher shop. The slaughterhouse occupied the east chamber and had a large tree trunk built into the walls to support it just under the vault. This was used to hoist the carcases during the slaughtering process. The west chamber contained the butcher shop and two of the blocked window recesses were converted to smoke kilns for the curing of meat.

The cattle were driven from Balquhidder to Mountquhanie each Martinmas and a butcher was brought from Cupar to slaughter the animals and cure the meat This practice continued into the fIrst half of this century when the slaughterhouse was abandoned.

There is also a small domestic icehouse a little to the west of the farm buildings.

To complete the romantic image the ruin was planted with ivy. Its position on the brow of a hill helped to achieve its utilitarian function of disguising these estate buildings and screening the farmstead from the mansion house.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: Fife and Tayside’, (1987).


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