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Kilspindie Castle

Castle (Medieval)

Site Name Kilspindie Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval)

Canmore ID 55053

Site Number NT48SE 3

NGR NT 4617 8004

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


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

  • Council East Lothian
  • Parish Aberlady
  • Former Region Lothian
  • Former District East Lothian
  • Former County East Lothian

Archaeology Notes

NT48SE 3 4617 8004.

(NT 4617 8004) Kilspindie Castle (NR) (remains of)

OS 6" map (1968)

The remains of Kilspindie Castle, which dates to the late 16th century, consist of some 33' of the N wall, which stands to a height of 7', and the return of the W wall.


The overgrown remains are as described. The walls are some 0.8m thick and stands to a height of 1.5m.

Visited by OS (SFS) 21 July 1975

NT 461 800. The remains of the 16th century castle lie in a field known as the Glebe or Butcher's Field N of Aberlady. A gradiometer survey was carried out to attempt to produce a context for finds recovered from the topsoil.

A number of features of archaeological interest were detected, including possible structures, enclosures, clusters of pits and isolated examples as well as two rows which seem to define an 'avenue', as well as anomalies of unknown function. Any suggestions as to dating of the features would be premature, although it is probable that at least two phases of activity are represented. Letters on the interpretative plot (fig.20) refer to the more detailed description of the survey present in a report lodged with the NMRS.

It is hoped to carry out a resistivity survey on the area. This should produce a more definte picture of any buried structural remains that lie within the field.

Sponsor: Historic Scotland

T Neighbour, W Shaw and E Cavanagh 1995.

An 8m section of the north wall is all that remains of this castle. This wall is 1m thick and stands 1.60m high and is composed of dressed sandstone pointed with a light grey mortar. One gun loop and two doorways remain in this section. A 20m line of rubble stretches to the east of the wall. The castle stands in a rough grass pasture which has been ploughed in the past. The rubble may be a clearance cairn produced by ploughing. The remaining section of the castle is threatened by two trees growing by the walls and by rabbits burrowing beneath it. The field around this castle has produced a considerable range of finds. There are coins, strap ends and an enamelled mount, all of Anglian type, and the terminal of a Scoto/Irish crosier. Much medieval and later material including coins and pot sherds has also been found. The neighbouring field has also produced medieval material. Information from David Caldwell, National Museums of Scotland.

Site recorded by GUARD during the Coastal Assessment Survey for Historic Scotland, 'The Firth of Forth from Dunbar to the Coast of Fife' 20th February 1996.

NT 461 800. The remains of the 16th-century castle (NMRS NT48SE 3) lie in Glebe Field, N of Aberlady. A resistivity survey, complementing an earlier gradiometer survey (Neighbour, Shaw and Cavanagh 1995), was carried out in order to establish the position and nature of any settlement within the field.

Several features of archaeological interest were detected and at least three phases of activity are clearly present within the survey area. The latest features include the possible remains of an enclosure. Earlier features include the remains of two timber halls (one overlying the other at right angles) of possible Anglian or earlier date; a series of ditch-defined enclosures of probable Anglian morphology; a roughly pear-shaped enclosure (within which there appears to be a double palisade line); and annular features which appear to be the footings of ring-groove houses.

A full report has been lodged with the NMRS.

W Tulloch and C Davies 1998.


Field Visit (2 June 1913)

The ruin of this castle lies 200 yards north of the Parish Church of Aberlady within the glebe. The remains are fragmentary and consist of some 33 feet of the north wall, which is nowhere higher than 7 feet, containing the entrance and a gunloop, and the return of the west wall. The north wall is 2 feet 4 inches thick and the return of the west wall 3 feet 9 inches thick.


In 1561 it is recorded that ‘Aberlady teind and ferme (i,e. rent) wes set of auld to Archibald Douglas of Kilspindie’ (1). Aberlady was the property of the bishopric of Dunkeld and in 1612 there is a royal confirmation of a grant of these lands by the bishop with consent of his chapter, to Alexander Hay, Clerk-Register, including ‘the castell toure and fortalice biggit be Patrick Douglas of Kilspindie upon the north part of the saidis landis of Abirladie towards the sey’; and of infeftments by Hay in favour of Patrick Douglas, junior, son of the builder of the tower and son-in-law to Hay (2). The tower is therefore of a date in the later part of the 16th century.

RCAHMS 1924, visited 2 June 1913

(1) Rental. Dunkeld. p. 345; (2) Act. Parl. Scot. iv., p. 501

Excavation (23 April 2016 - 9 May 2016)

NT 461 800 (NT48SE 3) An evaluation was carried out, 23 April – 9 May 2016, in the Glebe Field. The excavations targeted geophysical anomalies reported to be two timber buildings of possible Anglo-Saxon date. The work

uncovered structural remains, all were of stone, including cellular buildings and a possible, but still yet undefined, large wall, probably part of a larger structure identified in the earlier geophysical surveys.

The recovered artefacts are indicative of activity from the mid first millennium AD into the post-medieval period. More specifically, bone combs and an Anglo-Saxon coin show activity during the c7–9th centuries, a date supported by a C14 date on material from under one of the stone

features, which returned a date between the 7th and 9th centuries cal AD.

Archive: NRHE (intended)

Funder: Aberlady Conservation and History Society

Ross Murray – AOC Archaeology Group

(Source: DES, Volume 17)


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