Font Size

100% 150% 200%

Background Colour

Default Contrast
Close Reset

St Andrews, Kirk Hill, St Mary's Church

Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (12th Century), Gun Emplacement(S) (19th Century), Watch Tower

Site Name St Andrews, Kirk Hill, St Mary's Church

Classification Burial Ground (Period Unassigned), Church (12th Century), Gun Emplacement(S) (19th Century), Watch Tower

Alternative Name(s) Church Of The Blessed Mary Of The Rock; Kirkheugh, St Mary Of The Rock; Kirkhill

Canmore ID 34358

Site Number NO51NW 7

NGR NO 51564 16665

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2018.

Digital Images

Administrative Areas

  • Council Fife
  • Parish St Andrews And St Leonards
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District North East Fife
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NO51NW 7 51564 16665

See also NO51NW 14, NO51NW 23, NO51NW 38.

(NO 51561666) St Mary's Church (NR) (Remains of)

OS 25" map (1914)

A charter by James Learmonth who was provost of the church of Kirkheugh in 1565, was signed at the chapel, suggesting that the building had survived the Reformation.

A H Millar 1895.

According to a 17th century legend it originally stood on a rock beyond the end of the pier. The rock, now reduced by quarrying, is covered by every tide, but is still known as the Lady Craig. Whether originally situated on the Lady Craig or the Kirk Hill, the Celtic monastery was in existence before the middle of the 8th Century. A fort was built on or near the site of the church in 1645 (For fort see NO51NW 14).

D H Fleming 1914.

The remains of the Church of the Blessed Mary of the Rock, consisting of little more than foundations, stands on the cliff overlooking the harbour but outside the abbey walls from which it was separated by the Kirk Heugh, a hollow now levelled up.

The remains are those of a cruciform church. The nave is believed to be the older part, but its walls are represented merely by their core, from which, however, fragments of carved stones were recovered. The foundation stones were bedded in clay. At the north-west angle are the foundations of a heavy buttress of Romanesque type, and, on the north wall, of a single intermediate pilaster of slight projection. These data suggest a 12th century date for the nave. The other parts show 13th century masonry of ashlar. When the church was cleared in 1860, a Celtic cross shaft and a tombstone of c.14th century were found in the choir.

This church probably occupies or is near to the site of the house of the Culdees at St Andrews: in the list of 'provostries' attached to the Scotichronicon it is said to have been founded by Constantine II who died in 877. Before 1290, however, it had become a provostry or collegiate church of St Mary and a royal chapel (Laing Charters No.15). It is specified in presentations of the first half of the 16th century as 'the collegiate church of the Blessed Virgin Mary of the Rock or 'of the Kirk-Heuch'. In June 1559, the Earl of Argyll 'caused to pull doune the college kirke of Heuche' (Bannatyne Club).

D H Fleming [undated]; RCAHMS 1933.

A charter by James Learmonth who was provost of the church of Kirkheugh in 1565, was signed at the chapel, suggesting that the building had survived the Reformation.

A H Millar 1895.

The plan of this Church is almost complete except for some parts of the N and S transepts and the nave. The walls are 1.5m thick and attain a maximum height of 1.0m. An Ancient Monument plaque states that the Church dates from the 12th century, was probably on the site of a 9th century Culdee Church; and in the 13th century was a collegiate Church and Royal Chapel. Before the east gable is the foundation of the altar.

Visited by OS (JLD) 17 October 1956.

As described above.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 29 May 1965.

(Location cited as NO 515 166). St Mary of the Rock, Kirkhill, St Andrews and St Leonards Parish: cemetery and gun emplacements. Excavation in advance of cliff consolidation has revealed two gun platforms, 3.5m wide by 5m long, known to have been constructed in 1860. These platforms were cut into a medieval cemetery (NO51NW 38) from which over 150 discrete skeletons have so far been uncovered. These appear to relate to the Collegiate Church of St Mary, of which the N wall of the N transpt has also been uncovered.

Sponsor: SDD (AM).

J Wordsworth 1980.

NO 5156 1664 A watching brief and small-scale excavation was carried out along the line of a footpath on the cliff edge of St Andrews. The area to the N of St Mary's Church, Kirkheugh, revealed extensions to the visible stonework of the church and the remains of an extensive medieval cemetery.

Sponsor: Anderson Jeffrey Associates.

AOC (Scotland) Ltd 1996.

Coastguard watchtower/lighthouse

20mtrs above sea level set up on high behind shorehead next to St Mary's Church. Polygonal building 3mtrs high with stairs to door at rear and windows to front and side.

Site recorded by Maritime Fife during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, Fife Ness to Newburgh 1996


Publication Account (1981)

The church of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an ancient church site dating back to the age of the Culdees. The remains are on the cliff overlooking the harbour and are those of cruciform buildings (Cant, 1945, 23). The surviving nave is of twelfth-century date while the remainder is thirteenth. These foundations were discovered in 1860, and show the church to have been nearly 100 feet (30.4m) long (Groome, 1903, iii). As late as 1344, it was still designated 'St. Mary's of the Culdees although it had been raised to the status of a chapel royal in the late thirteenth century (Cowan, 1976, 225).

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


MyCanmore Image Contributions

Contribute an Image

MyCanmore Text Contributions