NO5116 : St. Andrews Castle from the Scores

taken 7 years ago, near to St Andrews, Fife, Great Britain

St. Andrews Castle from the Scores
St. Andrews Castle from the Scores
The ruins of the dramatically situated castle of the bishops and archbishops of St. Andrews, built on the edge of a cliff overlooking the sea, close to Scotland's largest medieval cathedral. The castle figured prominently in the 13th and 14th-century Wars of Independence, was remodelled in the 14th century and had residential ranges added in the 16th. In the course of time it served as a fortress, an episcopal palace and a state prison, and was a main focus of events during the turmoil of the Scottish Reformation in the 16th century.

Bishop Roger (1189-1202) built the original castle as his residence near the Cathedral around the year 1200 in the reign of William the Lion (1165-1214). In the Wars of Independence it was captured and recaptured, dismantled and rebuilt by the opposing sides. Edward I of England is believed to have stayed here in 1303. After the battle of Bannockburn in 1314, again in Scottish hands, it was repaired by Bishop William Lamberton (1298-1328), one of the earliest supporters of Robert the Bruce (1306-29) in his claim to the Scottish throne. In 1336, in the reign of Bruce's son and heir, David II (1329-71), it fell again to the English who rebuilt it, but in the following year it was besieged and demolished by Sir Andrew Moray, Guardian of Scotland, to deny its further use to the enemy.

Bishop Walter Trail (1385-1401) was chiefly responsible for rebuilding the castle to the plan which is the basis of the present remains. Bishop Henry Wardlaw (1403-40), who founded the university of St Andrews in 1412, tutored the young James I (1406-37) in the castle; and it was here that the latter's nephew, Bishop James Kennedy (1440-65), demonstrated to the young James II (1437-60) how to break the power of the nobles by separating a sheaf of arrows and breaking them singly. James III (1460-88) is believed to have been born in the castle in 1451.

In 1504 James IV (1488-1513) nominated his 11-year-old son, Alexander Stewart, archbishop of St Andrews. A promising scholar, Stewart studied under Erasmus of Rotterdam who regarded him as one of his best pupils. After his death alongside his father at the battle of Flodden in 1513, four rival candidates competed for the vacant archbishopric. The successful contender was Archbishop James Beaton (1523-39) who tried to suppress the new protestant heresy which was penetrating Scotland through the east coast ports trading with the Continent. In 1528 protestant sensibilities were inflamed when a Lutheran scholar, Patrick Hamilton, was burned at the stake in St Andrews for spreading the new ideas.

Beaton was succeeded by his nephew, Cardinal David Beaton (1537-46), the strongly Catholic leader of the pro-French party in Scotland during the regency of Mary of Guise, mother of Mary, Queen of Scots (1542-67). In 1542 Henry VIII of England declared war following Beaton's refusal to ratify a previously agreed marriage contract for a match between the infant queen and his 8-year-old son, Edward, Prince of Wales. From 1543 onwards Beaton had the castle's fortifications strengthened in anticipation of attack.

In 1546 the castle fell by stealth to a small band of Protestants who gained entrance by disguising themselves as stonemasons engaged in the building work. The Cardinal was brutally murdered and his body hung from a wall near the spot where three months earlier he had watched the burning of the protestant preacher, George Wishart, on a charge of heresy. The Protestants, now joined by the reformer John Knox, who had been Wishart's personal bodyguard, held out for a year with English support despite an attempt to undermine the castle walls which was foiled by the defenders digging a countermine. In 1547 the castle fell finally to an attacking French fleet which did considerable damage to its seaward defences. The east side was also badly damaged, suffering direct hits from guns fired from the wall-tops of the nearby cathedral. Knox, taken prisoner, spent the next two years as a French galley-slave on the Loire, returning eventually to Scotland in 1559.

Although most of the castle, as seen today, dates from Bishop Trail's rebuilding, extensive additions were made by Beaton's successor, Archbishop John Hamilton (1546-71). He converted the gateway into a residential tower and provided palatial accommodation for himself in a new range built along the south front. The west wing, left of the tower, incorporated a new entrance. Hamilton tried to reform the Scottish church to appease its critics, but failed to stem the rising tide of religious emotion. In 1571 he was hanged at Stirling for his part in the previous year's assassination at Linlithgow of Queen Mary's protestant half-brother, James Stewart, the Regent Moray (1567-70).

In 1587, in the reign of James VI (1567-1625), the castle suffered the fate of all church property after the Reformation, passing to the Crown by that year's Act of Annexation. It was awarded to the Earl of Dunbar in 1606. By 1654 the castle had lost its political importance to the extent that the Town Council ordered its masonry to be quarried to repair the walls of the burgh's harbour.


This holie bischop schew ane similitud [comparison] to the king, quhilk might bring him to experience how he might invaid againes the Douglass, and the rest of the conspiratouris. This bischop tuik furth ane great scheife of arrowes knitt togidder werrie fast, and desired him to put thame to his knie, and break thame. The king said it was not possible, becaus they war so many, and so weill fastened togidder. The bischop answeired, it was werrie true, bot yett he wold latt the king sea how to break thame: and pulled out on[e] be on[e] and tua be tua, quhill [until] he had brokin thame all; then said to the king, 'Yea, most do with the conspiratouris in this manner, and thair complices that are risen againes yow, quho are so many in number, and so hard knit togidder in conspiracie againes yow, that yea cannot gett thame brokin togidder. Butt be sick pratick [by this method] as I have schowin yow be the similitud of thir arrowes, that is to say, yea must conqueis and break lord by lord be thameselffis, for yea may not deall with thame all at once.'" -- Lindsay of Pitscottie's Chronicles of Scotland, c.1600
Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   © Copyright kim traynor and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
1:50,000 Modern Day Landranger(TM) Map © Crown Copyright
TIP: Click the map for Large scale mapping
Change to interactive Map >
Grid Square
NO5116, 452 images   (more nearby )
  (find more nearby)
Date Taken
Wednesday, 1 February, 2012   (more nearby)
Monday, 6 February, 2012
Geographical Context
Historic sites and artefacts 
Subject Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NO 5126 1689 [10m precision]
WGS84: 56:20.5106N 2:47.4029W
Camera Location
OSGB36: geotagged! NO 5128 1686
View Direction
North-northwest (about 337 degrees)
Looking for a postcode? Try this pageExternal link
Clickable map

Other Tags
Castle  Reformation 

Click a tag, to view other nearby images.

Image classification(about): Geograph
This page has been viewed about 115 times.
View this location: KML (Google Earth) · Google MapsExternal link · Bing MapsExternal link · OS Map Checksheet · Geograph Map · geotagged! More Links for this image
W Go E
You are not logged in login | register