Known as the Kingdom of Fife, this county lies north of the Firth of Forth and the Scottish capital Edinburgh. Home to the monarchs of Scotland for more than 500 years, it has a strong identity that differs from the rest of the country. Not only was this the home of Scottish monarchs, but also a Pictish Kingdom – meaning Fife is packed with history.
That can be seen in its country houses, palaces, and castles, which are scattered across this kingdom. In this post, we’ll look at nine of the most fascinating castles in Fife. Many are easy to reach on a day trip from Edinburgh, but it’s definitely worth staying in this stunning county.
10 Castles to Visit in Fife
1. Abbot House, Dunfermline
The oldest surviving building in Dunfermline, this category A listed building is located in the heritage quarter of this ancient Scottish capital. It is the only building that remains from the Great Fire of Dunfermline in 1624.
Abbot House is surrounded by the Dunfermline Abbey and the Carnegie Library and Galleries. Visitors can enter Dunfermline’s Abbot house to view a museum that celebrates the town’s impressive royal and industrial heritage.
When: 16th century
Style: Z-Plan Tower House
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 daily from April to September. 10:00 – 16:00 from October to March – closed on Thursdays and Fridays.
2. Aberdour Castle
While it is impossible to confirm, Aberdour Castle might well be the oldest standing castle in Scotland. Not everything you see comes from the 1100s, though; much was added later, and some of the styles of architecture you can see include Renaissance.
The castle was the home and pleasure gardens of one of the most powerful men in Scotland – the Regent Morton. From the walled gardens, you’ll get exquisite views of the Firth of Forth.
When: 12th century
Style: Medieval and Renaissance
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 daily from April to September. 10:00 – 16:00 from October to March. Café closed from October to March
3. Ardross Castle, Fife
The ruins of Ardross Castle stand overlooking the Firth of Forth from Elie. The castle consisted of a small tower house with a vaulted chamber standing on sandstone cliffs. It was built in the 14th century and occupied for 200 years.
Other than that, little is known about its history. However, it is known that the castle was owned by the Dishington family; one of the members was married to the sister of Robert the Bruce. Ardross Castle in Fife should not be confused with a castle of the same name in the Highlands. That one is much bigger and grander!
Where: Elie, Leven
When: 14th century
Style: Manor House
Open for Visit: Yes. Open to visit at all reasonable times.
4. Balgonie Castle
TV addicts will love Balgonie Castle. After all, it was used in the Scottish love story Outlander and inspired the red wedding scene in Game of Thrones. The keep dates back to the 14th century, but the other structures were added around 400 years later.
Balgonie is located around the same distance from both Edinburgh and Dundee, meaning it’s an easy day trip from both. It’s not just a filming location and fascinating castle; it’s also a hub of paranormal activity. Said to be one of the most haunted castles in East Lothian, there’s supposedly a 17th-century soldier here, as well as a dog, hooded man, and Green Jeanie.
When: 14th century
Style: Medieval but with other styles too
Open for Visit: Yes. Visitor centre open from 12:00 – 17:00 from Wednesday to Sunday.
5. Ballinbreich Castle
On the southern shores of the Firth of Tay, the ruins of Ballinbreich Castle can be seen around three miles east of Newburgh. Ballinbreich comes from the Celtic phrase Balan-breac, meaning town of trout, a reference to the high number of salmon found in the waters nearby.
The castle initially had a rectangular keep and courtyard, but more buildings were attached in the 16th century. The castle belonged to the Leslie family, but they sold it to raise money for refurbishments when their family seat burned down. Nowadays, the ruin is overgrown, and it may be dangerous to go in.
When: 14th and 16th centuries
Open for Visit: No. The ruins are on private property.
6. Falkland Palace
Known as one of the finest Renaissance Palaces, Mary Queen of Scots was a regular visitor to Falkland Palace. The castle is home to the oldest surviving tennis court in the world, but there’s no word on how much Andy Murray enjoys it here.
The castle was built neither as an attacking nor defensive structure, instead, a pleasure palace for the royals at the time to engage in falconry and hunting. Nowadays, it is one of the most popular castles in Fife with visitors.
Falkland Palace is said to be one of the most haunted castles in Scotland; a Grey Lady lives in the Tapestry Gallery. She awaits her soldier, who rode off into battle and has still not returned to her!
Where: Falkland, Cupar
When: 16th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 11:00 – 17:00 Monday – Saturday from March to October. 12:00 – 17:00 on Sundays. Closed from November through February.
7. Kellie Castle
Another haunted castle in East Lothian, Kellie Castle is a medieval structure dating back to the 14th century. Although it was built way back when, it was largely updated by the Lorimer family in the 19th century, which is why it has such a distinct Victorian touch.
The castle library boasts one of the oldest ornamental plaster ceilings in Scotland, and it’s well worth a look. The ghost in question in Kellie Castle is thought to be Anne Erskine, who fell from a tower window… or perhaps she was the victim of something far more sinister…
Where: Pittenweem, Anstruther
When: 14th century
Open for Visit: 11:00 – 17:00 from June to September. 11:00 – 16:00 during October.
8. Newark Castle
One of three Newark Castles in the UK alone (the others are in Nottinghamshire and Glasgow), the ruins of this one stand looking out over the North Sea. Located near the village of St Monan’s on the shores of the Firth of Forth, this third Newark Castle is largely forgotten – its ruins surrounded by cliffs on three sides.
It makes for quite an impressive photo! The castle was home to the Kinloch family in medieval times, and although you wouldn’t guess it now, it was still occupied in the 19th century.
Where: St. Monan’s, Anstruther
When: 13th – 15th century
Open for Visit: Yes. Open 24 hours
9. Ravenscraig Castle
Standing in Kirkcaldy’s Ravenscraig Park, the ruins of a castle of the same name can be found. For a short period, after it was initially built, the castle was a royal residence for Queen Mary of Gueldres.
However, it was soon passed onto the Sinclair family, who made it into a defensive artillery fort. Although you can visit the castle from the outside, it is not safe to go into the castle and visitors are forbidden.
When: 15th century
Style: Artillery Defence Fort
Open for Visit: Yes. Open 24 hours to view from the outside.
10. St Andrews Castle
Although little is left of it now, St. Andrew’s Castle had a number of roles in its 450-year history, including a palace, fortress, and prison. It sits on a rocky promontory looking out over the North Sea – very foreboding for those incarcerated when this place was a prison!
The town is one of the best known in Scotland – both for its university and golf courses. The castle is a lovely place to visit and learn about the history of this charming town.
Where: St. Andrews
When: 13th century
Open for Visit: Yes. 09:30 – 17:30 from April to September. 10:00 – 16:00 from October to March.