St Andrews Castle

St Andrews Castle, Fife

~ History ~

1140 ~ King David I gives permission for the founding of an ecclesiastical centre to be known as St Andrews. This in turn becomes the seat for the Bishop of Scotland.

1200 ~  Work starts on St Andrews Castle to provide a defensible  luxury residence. The castle takes the form of an enclosure castle with a substantial curtain wall providing the primary line of defence.


1286 ~ King Alexander III dies without a male heir and successor, leaving his three year old niece, the Norse princess Margaret of Norway, in-line for the throne. Robert Bruce and his son press home their claim  to the throne against their rivals the Ballios by capturing castles in Galloway.However, Robert Bruce seems to have overestimated his chances of successfully pressing his claim, as further support is not forthcoming.  The rebellion quickly fizzles out and the castles are handed back. Ambassadors are sent to King Edward I of England in Gascony.

1289 ~ King Edward meets Robert Bruce and some of the Guardians of the Crown at Salisbury. The Treaty of Salisbury defers any decision to her marriage until the princess arrives in Scotland.

1290's ~ King Edward and the Guardians continue their negotiations, based on the collective assumption that Margaret will be queen and the young prince Edward king, but all these plans, including those of King Alexander, are brought to nothing as Margaret dies of the effects of sea-sickness in the Orkney Islands whilst sailing to Scotland. Her remains are taken to Bergen in Norway and interred beside her mother.

A number of Scottish magnates - including Bishop William Fraser of St Andrews - invite Edward I of England to arbitrate between claimants. However the King, fresh from his conquest of Wales, seizes the opportunity to take control of Scotland. He eventually choses John Balliol on the assumption he would be a puppet King through which England would dominate. However, Edward immediately places John in an impossible position when he demands the new Scottish ruler provides Scottish soldiers to fight for the English in a continental war. When John refuses English forces sack Berwick-upon-Tweed, then Scotland's foremost port, and then advanced north achieving a rapid victory at the Battle of Dunbar. With resistance effectively quelled, English forces took control of much of central and lowland Scotland including St Andrews.

The Scots however fight back with the rebellion of Sir William Wallace. Although his insurrection is dealt a crushing blow at the Battle of Falkirk.

1304 ~ Resistance continues and St Andrews hosts King Edward I as he comes north to recapture Stirling Castle. The English order lead to be stripped from the St Andrews cathedral for use as shot for their trebuchets.


1305 ~ William Wallace is captured and executed by the English.

1306 ~  Supported by Bishop William Lamberton of St Andrews, Robert the Bruce rebels against King Edward. He murders his rival John Comyn following an argument, and is excommunicated by the Pope. Bruce moves quickly to seize the throne and is crowned king of Scots.

King Edward I's forces defeat Robert in battle, forcing him to flee into hiding in the Hebrides and Ireland with the help of loyal Highland Clans.

1307 ~ Rober the Brice returns to defeat an English army at Loudoun Hill and wage a highly successful guerrilla war against the English. Bruce also defeats his other Scotish enemies, destroying their strongholds and devastating their lands.

Leading his army once again north to crush the rebellious Scots, King Edward I dies. With Edward 'Hammer of the Scots' dead and his feable son, King Edward II on the throne, Bruce's rebellion gains momentum. Bruce sets about destroying castles to prevent the English from using them to control the country. St Andrews Castle however escapes destruction as Bruce doesn't want to antagonise Lamberton.

1314 ~  The Scots deliver a hammer blow to the English with a decisive victory at Bannockburn.

1329 ~ Bruce the Bruce dies at Culross.

1333 ~ Following Bruce's death, the English return capturing and using St Andrews Castle asa critical foothold to their campaign which results in the Scots being defeated at the Battle of Halidon Hill. The castles defences are strengthened by the English to ensure they retain this key strategic strongold.

1337 ~  Andrew Moray, Regent of Scotland, in the absence of King David II, lays siege to the castle, capturing it from the English. He then orders the castle to be destroyed to prevent the English from using again in any future campaigns.

1385 ~ St Andrew's castle remains ruined until Bishop Walter Trail has it rebuilt, taking 15 years to complete.


1402 ~ David Stewart, Duke of Rothesay, is imprisoned at St Andrew's castle.

1425 ~ Duke Murdoch is imprisoned at the castle.

1445 ~ King James III is born at St Andrews castle.

1478 ~ Archbishop Patrick Graham, who is judged to be insane, is imprisoned in his own castle at St Andrews.

1513 ~ King James IV invades England on behalf of his French allies but is killed at the Battle of Flodden. Alexander Stewart, Archbishop of St Andrews is also killed in the battle.

1521 ~ James Beaton, Archbishop of Glasgow is appointed Archbishop of St Andrews. He modernises the castle to include provision for artillery.

1538 ~ James dies and is followed by his nephew, David Beaton. He harbours a vigorous hostility to protestant ideas and is actively anti-English, especially as King Henry VIII has broken with the Catholic church. For this reason he strongly opposes the proposed marriage of Mary, Queen of Scots to Prince Edward of England resulting in the outbreak of war with England five years later.

1546 ~ David Beaton's continued persecution against protestants culminates in him ordering the execution of the Protestant preacher George Wishart at St Andrews, by being burnt at the stake infront of the castle walls. Cardinal Beaton calmly watches the execution and then leaves to attend the wedding of his own illegitimate daughter. This prompts fury amongst the Protestant nobility. A number of Protestant Fife lairds gain access to the castle and murder Beaton, hanging his naked body by an arm and a leg in the shape of a cross from the castle's walls. These attackers, who are also backed by the English, then take control of St Andrews Castle, prompting the Scottish Government to besiege it. A truce is eventually brokered during which John Knox, Protestant preacher and later leader of the Scottish Reformation, joins the rebels but the arrival of a French fleet see's the castle bombard it into surrender. The rebel garrison, including Knox, are seized and condemned to be slaves on French Galleys.


Following the siege St Andrews Castle is left a devastated ruin.

John Hamilton becomes the new Archbishop and he makes some repairs to the castle.

1560 ~  The Reformation Act outlaws Catholicism. St Andrews Cathedral is abandoned and the Archbishops castle drifts into ruin.

1571 ~ Archbishop John Hamilton supports Mary Queen of Scots, but is hanged, having been accused of being involved in the murders of Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, and James Stewart, Regent Moray.

1587 ~ The ruined castle is annexed to the Crown.

1612 ~ The castle is restored to the new Protestant bishops. However, the castle has by now lost its importance, and later the town council has stone removed from the castle to repair the harbour.

1679 ~ Archbishop James Sharp proves to be an unpopular Protestant bishop, and he is brutally murdered in front of his daughter at Magus Moor.


St Andrews


The Scores


KY16 9AR

A religious community has existed at St Andrews since the early eighth century and later the Bishop of Scotland's chief residence.

Today the ruins of the castle overlooking castle beach provides a magnificent reminder to St Andrews history.

St Andrews is a popular tourist destination so expect crowds when visiting both the town and castle. There is limited parking at the castle, but plenty nearby which will involve a pleasant stroll through the historic town or walk along the promenade.

There are few castle of such historical importance and is well worth a visit to explore its walls and pleasant beaches and surrounding old buildings.