Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

Rossend Castle (Fife) - Past and Present

Rossend Castle stands on a plateau above the Firth of Forth in Burntisland, Fife. It is a fine example of a Scottish Tower House dated 1552, but hidden within its walls is an earlier building. A reference to: ‘ye fortalice sumtyme callit the Abbotis Hall’ suggests that at an ecclesiastical structure, perhaps as early as the 13th century, once stood here.

rossend harbour
Burntisland Harbour with Rossend top left circa 1900

This is one of the castles where Mary Queen of Scots did sleep - in 1562. In fact, the French poet Chastelard was found hidden below the bed and as it was the second time the had been found there it was his last as he was beheaded.

In 1651 it was occupied by Cromwellian soldiers, and later in the century by the Wemyss family who remodelled the top floor to create the present, somewhat awkward, appearance.

rossend past
Rossend Castle circa 1890 in its hey day

Rossend was acquired by Burntisland Town Council in 1952 in a derelict state but nothing was done to arrest its decay. In the 1970s, by this time almost roofless, they posted their intention to demolish. This was halted in 1972 after a public enquiry and in 1975 its future was secured when it was purchased and restored by an architectural firm to be used as their offices.

In 2011 it was placed on the market at £450,000 only to be later removed.

When I visited in June 2015, the castle was closed but in good condition apart from the peeling notice board of the late architectural practice.

rossend present
Restored but empty – note corbel course of earlier tower

It would appear that Rossend has, once again, fallen out of favour and lacks an appreciative owner – anyone out there willing to give it the attention it deserves?

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 23 Aug 2015 Updated: 24 Jan 2018
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