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Crail Castle

Castle (Medieval), Chapel (Medieval)

Site Name Crail Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Chapel (Medieval)

Alternative Name(s) Castle Of Crail

Canmore ID 70949

Site Number NO60NW 19

NGR NO 61323 07476

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2020.

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Administrative Areas

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

Archaeology Notes

NO60NW 19 6130 0747

(NO 6135 0748) Castle (NR) (Remains of)

OS 6" map (1912-38)

No trace remains of the castle of Crail which would give any adequate idea of its extent and appearance. It was probably the earliest dwelling place in the locality. There seems little reason for doubting that it was once a royal residence and it is indisputable that it became the manor house associated with the office of the Constable of Crail.

In 1310, Robert I confirmed the constabulary to Lawrence de Weirmerstoun, the charter declaring that his ancestors had held the office from ancient times.

A charter dated 1563 stated that the castle had become ruinous, nothing remaining but the moat and that it was to be given to David Spens of Wormistoun with power to rebuild the castle.

It is not known if Spens did rebuild the castle, but as Sibbald refers to "the ruins of a strong castle", it is probable that Spens had built some kind of castellated structure as it is unlikely that the place would have been left in a desolate condition until 1710.

R Sibbald 1803; A H Millar 1895.

David I (1124-53) frequently resided at the castle of Crail, now demolished. A modern tower has been built on the side. There was also within the castle a chapel dedicated to St Rufus.

W Wood 1887.

Within the castle of Crail was a chapel dedicated to St Rufus. 'Capella Beatti Ruffini in castello' (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot, 31 August 1458) and "capella S Malrubii in castrum de Crail" (Reg Magni Sig Reg Scot, 21 June 1512). This St Rufus was not St Ruffus of Capua but St Maelrubha of Applecross (A P Forbes 1827).

E Beveridge 1893.

There is no surface trace of this but the site is very overgrown.

Information from D C Baird, 1952.

'Castle (remains of). You misleadingly print these words in the middle of a poece of ground to the SE of the former castle, nowadays called Castle Yard Park. The castle remains are so slight that they could, I think, be ignored. Could you not put Castle (site of) inside the enclosure now given as "Castle Garden" (sheet xxiii, 2) ?'

Information from J K R Murray letter to OS, 29 January 1961.

The only visible remains of this castle is a rough portion of mortared masonry (5.2m long x 1.4m wide and 1.4m high) at NO 6130 0747. This would agree with Murray's report that the castle was in Castle Garden. The Castle Yard Park is featureless and situated at a much lower level. The Rev W Milne, retired parish minister of Crail, agrees with Murray. Visited by OS (WDJ), 28 August 1968.


Publication Account (1981)

The castle at Crail boasts a largely uncharted history. There was a castle at Crail in the reign of Malcolm IV (1153 x 1165) (Barrow, 1960, 282) and in 1264 occurs the record of payment in regards to the repair of the structure (ER, i, 4). By the mid-sixteenth century the castle had apparently become ruinous. In a curious charter of Mary Queen of Scots to David Spens of Wormiston, it is alleged that the Spens were for many centuries past keepers and constables of the castle, now ruinous, so that there is nothing remaining but the moat ... (Millar, 1895, i, 375). The ruinous property was thus given to Spens but it is unclear whether he or his heir rebuilt the castle. In the early eighteenth century it was said that ruined masonry occupied the site of the castle (Millar, 1895, i, 375), and in the present day the only visible remains of the castle of Crail include a rough portion of masonry (Ordnance Survey Record Cards, NO 60 NW 19).

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


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