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Aberdour Castle

Overview

Aberdour Castle has enjoyed a boost in its visitor numbers thanks to its appearance in the "Outlander" TV show where it featured as the setting of the Benedictine Monastery where Jamie recovers after being rescued from imprisonment by Captain Jack Randall. If you are staying in Edinburgh and want to visit an "Outlander" filming location, Aberdour is one of your better choices as it is very easy to get to by train and the railway station is just a 200 metre walk from the castle.

The real history of Aberdour Castle is morte interesting than its brief appearance in "Outlander". This was the home of the Douglas Earls of Morton, a powerful family that held influence in Royal Courts. The  4th Earl of Morton was appointed as "Regent of Scotland" in 1572 and ruled the country for child king James VI, the son of Mary Queen of Scots whom the Earl had opposed and plotted against. During his reign as Regent, the 4th Earl of Morton seems to have taken adavantage of his position and spent too much of his time living the highlife and embellishing his home at Aberdour Castle. It was during this period that he built the ornate terraced gardens which were inspired by his trips to Renaissance France. 

A good thing can't last forever, and the Earl of Morton lost his position as Regent of Scotland in 1578. He was later implicated in the murder of Mary Queen of Scots husband, Lord Darnley, and executed in 1581 under the orders of James VI. Lord Darnley wasKing James VI's father so James had good reason to want revenge on the Earl of Morton.

The castle is claimed to be the oldest standing castle in Scotland. This claim is based on architectural clues that suggest it was built in the 1100's using similar techniques to the 12th century St Fillan's Church that stands nearby. St Fillians is a charming little church from the Norman period and is well worth including with a visit to Aberdour Castle. From the castle, you can walk through the walled garden and exit the garden via the east gate. The church is then just a short walk away via a lane that follows the perimeter of the walled garden.

The castle that you see today can really be thought of in 3 sections,

  • the original 12th century Tower House built by the de Mortimer family and expanded in the late 15th century.
  • the "Central Range" which was mainly built in the 16th century by the 4th Earl of Morton when he was Regent of Scotland. It is now a ruin after being destroyed by fire in 1715.
  • the "East Range" is the most complete section of the castle retaining its roof, floors and a well preserved painted ceiling in a small room just off the "Long Gallery". The "Long Gallery" is partially furnished to give an impression of its appearance when built in the 17th century.

Enough of the castle remains intact for you to appreciate its role as a grand home for the Earls of Morton and the gardens are still an attractive feature. It doesn't take too much imagination to picture Jacobean Ladies and Gentlemen enjoying a promenade around the terraces in the 1600's. 

Unfortunately, a large section of the Tower House from the oldest part of the castle collapsed during a storm in 1919. The collapsed section of the tower now lies as a big block of masonry at a disjointed angle to the rest of the tower and it is hard to figure out quite how it originally integrated into the castle structure.

If you are staying in Edinburgh for a few days and are looking an easy day trip out of the city by train, Aberdour Castle and St Fillians Church are certainly worthy of your consideration. There is enough of the castle remaining intact to give you a sense of its 16th - 17th century heyday and the location is pretty. Also, if the weather is really good, you might wish to walk from the castle down Hawkcraig Road to the lovely little beach at Silver Sands Bay. 

Save money on visiting this attraction by buying an Explorer Pass

Address:

Aberdour, Fife, KY3 0SL. Tel:01383 860519

Operated by:

Historic Environment Scotland (formerly Historic Scotland)

Opening Hours:

1 April - 30 September: Mon - Sun 9:30 - 17:30, (last entry 16:30) 1 October - 31 October: Mon - Sun 10:00 - 16:00, (last entry 15:30) 1 November - 31 March: Sat - Wed 10:00 - 16:00 (last entry 15:30)

Admission:

Adult: £6, Concession: £4.80, Children 5 - 15: £3.60, Under 5's Free

Parking:

Yes

Languages:

Information boards in English.

Accessibility:

The castle has uneven floors, spiral staircases and uneven steps. It is not suitable for wheelchair users, but some of the grounds and the walled garden would be accessible by wheelchair.

Toilets:

Yes

Shop:

Yes

Cafe/Restaurant:

Yes, There is a small cafe on the ground floor of the castle and there also picnic tables outside in the castle gardens.

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