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Balcomie Castle

Castle (Medieval), Farmhouse (Period Unassigned), Garden (Period Unassigned)(Possible)

Site Name Balcomie Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Farmhouse (Period Unassigned), Garden (Period Unassigned)(Possible)

Canmore ID 35346

Site Number NO60NW 4

NGR NO 62482 09851

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

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

Archaeology Notes

NO60NW 4.00 62482 09851

(NO 6248 0983) Balcomie Castle (NR) (Remains of)

OS 6" map (1919).

NO60NW 4.01 NO 62470 09913 Farmsteading

NO60NW 4.02 NO 62591 09824 Walled Garden

Sibbald states that from Malcolm IV (1153-65) to James II (1437-60) the castle belonged to the Hays, then the Leslies and latterly the Learmonths. A stone bearing the date 1602 found in the barn floor by the tenant is probably that missing from between the two armorial panels on the courtyard gateway.

New Statistical Account (NSA) 1845 (A Merson).

The principal part of Balcomie Castle is the six storeyed tower at the NW corner and the large square building attached to its SE corner, which probably date form from the end of the 16th century. A stone on the arched courtyard gateway bear the arms of John Learmonth and Elizabeth Myrtoun and the date 1660.

Mary of Guise landed at Balcomie and was entertained there in 1538, but it is likely that the buildings where she was received were those pulled down by the Earl of Kellie about the beginning of the present century.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1887.

'The tower (of Balcomie Castle) may have been built when the estate was acquired by the Learmonth family in November 1526. This theory is rendered probable from the fact that by the charter of the lands granted to James Learmonth of Clatto...liberty was given to him to erect a mansion at Balcomie.

There must have been a dwelling of some kind here long before this time as the name of the estate can be traced back to a very remote date. In 1278, Balcomie was in the possession of John de Haia (Hay) who is described as 'de Balcolmy'...The manor house is mentioned in a charter of 1511.'

The courtyard gateway bears the date 1602. By a misprint in Leighton's History of Fife this date is given as 1662 and is repeated in the latest work on the subject, but as Elizabeth Myrtoun died in 1621 and her husband four years later, the date must be 1602.

A H Millar 1895.

Balcomie Castle. The remains of a large mansion of the later 16th century, to which a modern house with offices and farmstead has been attached.

The old building formed the southern side of a courtyard and was apparently laid out on a symmetrical plan, having a main block lying east and west, with a wing projecting from each of the southern corners. The main block has been four storeys in height, while the west wing has had five floors. The masonry is of coursed rubble.

The gatehouse, built of ashlar, has been altered and a modern building is now attached to it. In the north spandrel of the outer arch is a sundial and above the arch are three armorial panels. The central panel, which appears to be a later insertion than those on either side, Bears the arms of Learmonth of Balcomie, and a label apparently dated 1602. The dexter panel bears the arms of and initials of James Learmonth, while the sinister bears the arms of Myrton and the initials of Elizabeth Myrton.

James Learmonth of Clatto had a grant from the King of the lands of Balcomie in feu-farm in 1526. Part of the reddendo was the building of a mansion (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot). A later Sir James Learmonth of Balcomie perished in 1598 as one of the Fife Adventures in Lewis (Woodrow Soc) and the estate passed to his brother, Sir John Learmonth of Birkhill. It is therefore Sir John's Arms which appear on the panel date 1602.

Within the castle courtyard is a draw-well. A walled garden or orchard lies south east of the castle enclosure. The entrance date from the late 16th or early 17th century.

RCAHMS 1933.

Balcomie Castle is as described by RCAHMS, a modern wing having been erected on the north. The older part of the building is no Longer occupied. The date 1601 is visible on the central armourial panel above the gatehouse.

Visited by OS (DS) 15 October 1956

As previously described. The site of the draw-well (NO 6248 0985) is covered by a modern brick-pillar. The walled garden or orchard is now occupied by a small garden and a pasture field.

Visited by OS (WDJ) 27 August 1968.

Possible 17th century garden.

N Hynd 1984.


Photographic Survey (July 1960)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record in July 1960.


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