Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Aberdour Castle

Aberdour Castle is located in the village of Easter Aberdour, Fife, Scotland. Parts of the castle date from around 1200, making Aberdour one of the two oldest datable standing castles in Scotland, along with Castle Sween in Argyll, which was built at around the same time.

The earliest part of the castle comprised a modest hall house, on a site overlooking the Dour Burn. Over the next 400 years, the castle was successively expanded according to contemporary architectural ideas. The hall house became a tower house in the 15th century, and was extended twice in the 16th century. The final addition was made around 1635, with refined Renaissance details, and the whole was complemented by a walled garden to the east and terraced gardens to the south. The terraces, dating from the mid-16th century, form one of the oldest gardens in Scotland, and offer extensive views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh.

The castle is largely the creation of the Douglas Earls of Morton, who held Aberdour from the 14th century. The earls used Aberdour as a second home until 1642, when their primary residence, Dalkeith House, was sold. A fire in the late 17th century was followed by some repairs, but in 1725 the family purchased nearby Aberdour House, and the medieval castle was allowed to fall into decay. Today, only the 17th-century wing remains roofed, while the tower has mostly collapsed. Aberdour Castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public all year.
The barony of Aberdour was acquired in 1126, by Sir Alan de Mortimer, on his marriage to Anicea, daughter of Sir John de Vipont.  Sir Alan built St Fillan's Church, which still stands, next to the castle, in around 1140, and his family probably built the original hall house in around 1200, or possibly even earlier. In 1216, another Alan de Mortimer is recorded granting land to the monks of Inchcolm Abbey. There is no record of what happened to the de Mortimers, but in the early 14th century, King Robert the Bruce granted Aberdour to his kinsman, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray (d. 1332). Moray's grandson granted the barony in turn to Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale (c. 1300-1353), in 1342.

In 1351, Sir William Douglas gave the lands of Aberdour to his nephew, Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith, although he retained the castle for himself until his death two years later. The grant was confirmed by King David II in 1361. In 1386 Aberdour and Dalkeith were combined to form a single barony, with the principal seat at Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, and Aberdour as a secondary residence. James, fourth Lord Dalkeith, succeeded to the joint barony in 1456, and was created Earl of Morton in 1458, prior to his marriage to Joanna, the deaf and dumb daughter of James I. The newly-created earl expanded the existing hall house, heightening and rebuilding the structure to suit his elevated status. The second earl carried out extensions to Aberdour Castle around 1500, building a new stair tower and south block.

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