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Balmuto Tower

House (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Balmuto Tower

Classification House (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Balmuto Castle; Balmuto House

Canmore ID 52776

Site Number NT28NW 1

NGR NT 22081 89721

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council Fife
  • Parish Kinghorn
  • Former Region Fife
  • Former District Kirkcaldy
  • Former County Fife

Archaeology Notes

NT28NW 1.00 22081 89721.

NT28NW 1.01 21813 89597 West Lodge

(NT 2208 8972) Balmuto (NAT)

Tower (NR) (remains of)

OS 6"map, (1967)

The mansion of Balmuto includes a 15th century tower, two 16th century additions, and modern extensions. The earlier parts have been modernised internally.

The tower has been enclosed on all sides except the N. It is 24 3/4' N-S by 32 1/2' over walls about 6' thick. It contains three storeys, the lowest vaulted. The masonry is coursed rubble. The battlemented parapet is modern.

The 16th century addition on the W adjoins the tower and consists of a vaulted ground floor and two upper storeys. That on the S, which may be 16th century, is parallel to the tower and consists of a vaulted, except where altered, ground floor and an upper floor.

RCAHMS 1933.

Balmuto is now unoccupied and semi-derelict. It is as described by the RCAHMS.

Visited by OS (W D J) 11 March 1959.

No change to previous field report.

Visited by OS (S F S) 17 December 1975.

Architecture Notes

Georgian part demolished 1950/55

EXTERNAL REFERENCE: Scottish Record Office

Measurements of the additions to the house.

Masons: John Baxter & Co.

1797 GD 66/1/275

Estimate for mason work of an addition

Estimate of plumber work.

Mason: David Vertue

1815 GD 66/1/281


Field Visit (1 August 1928)


The mansion of Balmuto stands in the western part of the parish, 3 ½ miles north-west of Kinghorn. It includes a 15th-century tower, two 16th-century additions, and sundry modern extensions. The earlier parts have been modernised internally, but with one exception such vaulted ceilings as existed have been allowed to remain.

The tower is best seen from the north, for in other directions it is enclosed by the later buildings. It is oblong on plan, measuring externally 24 ¾ feet from north to south by 32 ½ feet from east to west over walls about 6 feet in thickness. It contains three storeys beneath the wall-head, the lowest being vaulted. The masonry is of coursed rubble. The wall-head is surmounted by a cavetto cornice enriched with small corbels, based on transitional work and resembling those on the window stops of the tower of Dunfermline Abbey. The battlemented parapet is modern.

On the south side of the tower there were two entrances. The lower one, which has been conslderably restored, opens into a small mural lobby giving access on the north to the ground floor and on the east to a mural staircase, now closed. The upper entrance, which led directly to the first floor, was widened in the 16th century but finally blocked up in the 17th, when a small window was inserted in the filling, only to be closed in its turn in similar fashion. Above this doorway two of the original windows, one of which was a lancet light, can still be traced, although built up. The windows in use to-day, when they are not modern, were inserted in the I7th century. There are three such windows in the north wall, two of them having inscribed pediments. In the lower pediment are the initials of David Boswell and the date 1680; the upper pediment bears in monogram the initials of David Boswell and his wife Margaret Paterson of Dunmuir. In the south wall there are two similar windows, the lower of which bears in its pediment a panel with the inscription DEVM . TIMETE / REGEM . HONOR(ATE) . MDCLXXX ("Fear God, honour the King"). The upper pediment also has been inscribed, but the letters are now illegible.

Of the two earlier additions, both now drastically modernised, that on the west, immediately adjoining the tower, consists of a vaulted ground-floor and two upper storeys. That on the south, parallel to the tower, consists of a ground floor, vaulted, except at the eastern end where there has been an alteration, and of an upper floor. The moulding on its windows is similar to that on an old doorway which has been inserted in the stable buildings, at a little distance from the house. The lintel of this doorway bears a panel inscribed I.B.I.S. 1594, for John Boswell of Balmuto, who succeeded in 1582 and died in 1610, and his wife Isabella Sandilands.* The south addition may therefore be attributed to the time of this John Boswell, which on other grounds it would suit. It is less likely to have been the work of his successor, also John Boswell, whose wife was Janet Scott. A fragment of another lintel, inscribed [I5]-3 E.M., is built into the walling of the forestair leading to the stable loft. The initials are for Elizabeth Moncrieff, wife of David Boswell, who was served heir to his father in 1513 and died in 1582. It is not certain whence this lintel came, but, if it originally belonged to the west wing, that wing must be earlier than the wing on the south. On the other hand, the building on the west appears to be later in style than its southern neighbour. This, however, may be the result of subsequent alterations, at the time when anew entrance to the ground floor was inserted on the west side, and a stair of the 18th century constructed in place of the earlier stair on the side towards the courtyard. The symmetrical set of windows on the west front is also an insertion.

HISTORICAL NOTE. - The Boswells acquired part of the Balmuto lands by marriage with a co-heiress of John Glen in the early part of the 15th century (1). In February 1439 /40 the King confirmed a grant by Sir Andrew Ogilvy to David Boswell of Craigencat of his lands of Balmuto, namely the third part "with the castle and head manor” (2). Apparently, then, the tower was built by the Glens, who acquired the property in the time of King Robert the Bruce (3).

RCAHMS 1933, visited 1 August 1928.

(1) Douglas's Baronage. (2) Reg. Mag. Sig., s.a., No. 217. (3) Reg. Mag. Sig., I, App. ii, No. 633.

*Douglas in his Baronage of Scotland gives her name as Elizabeth, and she, is so styled in a charter of 1587. But in charters of 1592 and subsequent dates she is "Isobella Sandilandis" - Reg. Mag. Sig. (1580-93), Nos. 1379, 2016, 2173; (1593-1608), No. 109.

Photographic Survey (July 1962)

Photographic survey by the Scottish National Buildings Record in July 1962.


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