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A brief history of St Andrew's Castle


Discover the history of St Andrew's Castle, in the royal burgh of St Andrews in Fife.

St Andrews Castle occupies a coastal promontory and is protected on the north and east by the cliffs and sea. It was cut off on the south and west sides by a deep ditch, the approach to the entrance being by a drawbridge.

The castle as it survives today is principally the work of the 14th and 16th centuries, but it incorporates within its walls parts of earlier work. The original castle was built c.1200 by Bishop Roger.

During the wars of independence the castle was captured, recaptured, dismantled and rebuilt by both sides until, in 1337, it was recaptured by Sir Andrew Moray who dismantled it to avoid the risk of it falling under English control again. For about fifty years the castle lay in ruins until it was rebuilt by Bishop Walter Traill.

Turbulent years

The castle’s most turbulent associations are with Cardinal David Beaton, a man of strong Catholic ambitions who had the Protestant reformer George Wishart burnt to death for heresy in 1546. the cardinal was himself murdered three months later by a band of Protestant, and his body then hung from a wll-head. The Protestants, with John Knox as their chaplain, were subsequently besieged in the castle for a year until the arrival of a French fleet forced them to surrender.

They were taken away by the French and Knox spent the next two years as a galley slave. A feature surviving from the siege of 1546-47 is the mine and counter-mine tunneled through the rock beneath the castle.

Discovering that the besiegers were driving a tunnel with the intention of breaching the fortifications in several places, the defenders drove a number of shafts of their own until they succeeded in breaking through to the attackers’ tunnel.

St Andrews Castle, St Andrews, Fife

Tel: 01334 477196


Extract taken from Scottish Castles, published by Pitkin, an imprint of Pavilion Books.

QUICK LINK: History Scotland's ultimate castles guide

Image reproduced with kind permission of Pavilion Books Company Limited/Shutterstock

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