~ the shoreline below Ravenscraig Castle
~ seaglass from the south Fife coast.
~ A dramatic part of the beautiful Fife
coast next to and below historic Ravenscraig Castle. The castle was instigated by James
the Second, who had a passion for artillery, in the 1450s : at Ravenscraig he wanted a castle that could
withstand the latest guns then available.
Ravenscraig is a small castle, built on a narrow rocky promontory in the
Firth of Forth. It is naturally defended on three sides by steep cliffs dropping to the sea, and the
main part of the castle forms the northern, landward, defence. This comprises two D-plan towers, with outer
walls 13.9 ft. thick, designed to withstand cannon fire. Battlements between the towers formed an artillery
platform, with gun holes pointing to landward. The whole is defended by a deep, rock-cut ditch, and is
accessed via a bridge.
To Ravenscraig Castle's east side is a curving bay
with a shingled
beach. This may have
beenpart of the defended area of the castle, for a defensive wall projects from the east (far)
end of the bay out to a point below the high water mark.
The construction of Ravenscraig Castle by the mason Henry Merlion and
the master carpenter Friar Andres Lesouris was ordered by King James II (r. 1437-1460) as a home for his
wife, Mary of Guelders. The castle is considered one of the first - perhaps the very first - in Scotland to
be built to withstand cannon fire and provide for artillery defence. The king was involved with the planning
but, ironically, was killed in a tragic accident with a loaded cannon at the Siege of Roxburgh Castle near
Floors Castle in the Scottish Borders.
The castle was
eventually started around 1460 by his wife, Mary of Guelders, as a memorial to him and as a dower house. Mary
lived in the castle until her death in 1463, when only the east tower and the basement of the central section
were built. Ownership passed to her son James III (r.1460-1488) but in 1471 he gave the castle to William
Sinclair, Earl of Orkney and Caithness in exchange for the Earldom of Orkney and associated lands which James
annexed from Norway to the Scottish Crown. After 1471 Ravenscraig was finally completed by the Sinclairs, who
also had an interest in artillery fortifications.
During the 1650-51 invasion of
Scotland by English forces under Oliver Cromwell, Ravenscraig was invaded, attacked and
damaged. The castle remained in the ownership of the Sinclairs, who
built nearby Dysart House on the estate, and later passed to the
Sinclair-Erskines, Earls of Rosslyn. The estate and castle remained in the family until sold in 1896, by the
5th Earl, to linoleum magnate Sir Michael Nairn.
The castle was used as an ammunition depot during the First World
War. In 1929, 85 acres of the
estate, including the castle, was given to the town of Kirkcaldy as a public park. Ravenscraig Castle was passed into state care in 1955 and has been open to the public by
the owners Historic Scotland since 1971.It is now managed by Historic
Scotland, and is protected as a Scheduled Ancient Monument, and a
category A listed building.
Ravenscraig is the setting for the ballad
Rosabelle, sung by Lord St. Clair's bard, Harold, at the wedding feast in the sixth canto of Walter Scott's Lay of
the Last Minstrel.
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