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Dairsie Castle

Castle (Medieval), Dovecot (Period Unassigned)

Site Name Dairsie Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Dovecot (Period Unassigned)

Canmore ID 32942

Site Number NO41NW 5

NGR NO 41368 16037

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NO41NW 5 4137 1603.

(NO 4137 1603) Dairsie Castle (NR) (In ruins)

OS 6" map (1920)

Dairsie Castle dates from the 16th century, and the plan has been that of an oblong main block three storeys in height, with two circular towers projecting from diagonally opposite angles. All that is now left, however is a mere shell, thickly overgrown in places with ivy. The masonry of the main block is rubble with heavily chamfered ashlar dressings, while the towers have been entirely ashlar faced.

RCAHMS 1933; Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot 1432; A H Millar 1895

MacGibbon and Ross (1892), Millar and the RCAHMS agree that Dairsie was in the possession of the Learmonts in 1520, but while MacGibbon and Ross suggest that it may have been built by Archbishop Spottiswood of St Andrews, they also say that it was sold to him about a century later. Millar points out that the general plan as now existing corresponds to a style in vogue about the beginning of the 17th century, and suggests that possibly the original castle was built by Bishop Lamberton of St Andrews (1298-1328) and says there is little doubt that extensive alterations were made by Archbishop Spottiswood. He further suggests that if this were the case the original castle may have been that in which the meeting of Scottish nobles was held in 1335; although McGibbon & Ross say that "it is quite certain that this is not" the castle where this meeting was held, it may have been at the earlier structure on the same site.

Visited by OS (CJP) 19 August 1957

The north-west and south-east walls of Dairsie Castle stand to a height of 5-6m, the north-east end being only 1.2m above the interior of the building. The basements of both north and south angle towers are vaulted, and the upper portion of the latter, which is almost entire, has been used as a dovecot. The springing of a vault can be seen in the basement of the main block. Windows, fireplaces, and recesses still exist in the fabric. The window lintels have been renewed at a comparatively recent date.

Visited by OS (JLD) 24 October 1956

OS (JLD) confirmed.

Visited by OS (RDL) 25 May 1964

Excavations in advance of consolidation revealed the foundations of the west wall and an early square stair tower at the NW corner, within which evidence of a spiral staircase was found. The entrance to the castle must have been in the re entrant angle. Midden deposit located on south side of castle.

M Lind and E Proudfoot 1988

Three trial pits were dug at Dairsie Castle to examine the foundations and the depth of deposits, prior to an application to rebuild.

Large quantities of bone, including butchered bone and fish bone, bottle and window glass, floor tile and pottery were found as were fragments of stone roof tile. The majority appear to be of 17th century date, but some of the pottery and tile is earlier.

Sponsors: St Andrews Heritage Services and the owner.

E Proudfoot 1992.

A rescue excavation was carried out in advance of the rebuilding of this ruinous castle. An area 5m wide was excavated around the ruins and the interior was also examined.

Numerous architectural features were uncovered, including the lower courses of an NW stair tower, a water inlet with an ogee lintel, an oven in the corner of the SE wall, within the blocked up fireplace and two garderobe chutes, both with built sumps. Garden rigs and an oval paved area, possibly for a statue or a sundial were uncovered on the S of the castle. Finds were numerous, including pottery and bottle glass. Quantities of window glass, many pieces still with lead adhering, others large enough to show the panes had been diamond-shaped, were recovered, along with many lead fragments.

(Archive with Fife Archaeological Index: record no. FAI/14/5).

Sponsors: Mr C Ruffle, St Andrews Heritage Services.

E Proudfoot 1993.


Excavation (1988)

Excavations at Dairsie Castle.


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