Built by the Douglas family, this 13th century fortified house was later extended in the 15th, 16th & 17th centuries. The finished result provides accommodation with a gallery and fine painted ceiling. There is also a walled garden with beehive-shaped doocot.
Aberdour Castle served as a home and residence for three noble families over a period of some 500 years - the Mortimers, Randolphs and Douglases. The present complex of roofed buildings and ruined structures perfectly illustrates how a medieval castle could be extended and modified over time.
The castle was first built to provide its owner with a secure place of strength, it was later enlarged in several stages until it became an extensive, outward-looking residence surrounded by delightful gardens and pleasure-grounds. It tells the visitor a great deal about changes in architectural and domestic fashion, as well as about the developing fortunes of the noble families who owned it.
The 12th-century hall-house is possibly the oldest standing stone castle in Scotland. Hitherto the accolade of oldest standing castle in Scotland has gone to Castle Sween, in far-off Argyll, which is dated to the end of the 12th century. However, Aberdour’s hall-house could conceivably have been built around 1150 (along with St Fillan’s church) by Sir Alan Mortimer, the first of that family to hold the barony, which he had acquired through marriage in the 1120s.
The original tower-house was built in the 14th Century and part of a fallen corner now sits precariously below the ruins. The central range, which contained a kitchen in the vaulted ground floor and bed chambers above, was added in the 16th Century. William, Earl of Morton, built the East range between 1606 and 1648. The ground floor contains a stable and exhibition room; the upper floor has an attractive gallery, 63ft long, with furniture and medieval music. A couple of small rooms are located off the gallery.
The grounds contain an impressive 16th Century beehive dovecote, with 600 nests, sundials, 50 feet deep well, gardens and walled terraces. The walled garden was for some time a Bowling Green.
Aberdour Castle has been in Douglas ownership since 1342. James, 4th Earl of Morton is noted as being a Regent and the murderer of Darnley, second husband of Mary, Queen of Scots. In 1642 the 7th Earl of Morton made Aberdour his principal seat, remaining as such until 1725 when the Douglas family moved to Aberdour House. The castle remained occupied successively as a barrack, school, Masonic hall and house.
Visitor access is limited to part of the ground floor which includes a tearoom, the walled garden and the upper terrace to the south of the castle. The upper floors and terraces are not suitable for visitors using wheelchairs or with limited mobility as access is by turnpike stairs.