St Andrews Castle is a ruin located in the coastal Royal Burgh of St Andrews. The castle sits on a rocky promontory overlooking a small beach called Castle Sands. There has been a castle standing at the site since the times of Bishop Roger (1189-1202), son of the Earl of Leicester. It housed the burgh’s wealthy and powerful bishops while St Andrews served as the ecclesiastical centre of Scotland during the years before the Protestant Reformation.

Middle Ages

During the Wars of Scottish Independence, the castle was destroyed and rebuilt several times as it changed hands between the Scots and the English. It remained in this ruined state until Bishop Walter Trail rebuilt it. His castle forms the basis of what can be seen today. He completed work on the castle in about 1400 and died within its walls in 1401.

Several notable figures spent time in the castle over the next several years. James I of Scotland (1406-1437) received part of his education from Bishop Henry Wardlaw, the founder of St Andrews University in 1410. A later resident, Bishop James Kennedy, was a trusted advisor of James II of Scotland (1437-1460). In 1445 the castle was the birthplace of James III of Scotland.

During these years, the castle also served as a notorious prison. The castle's bottle dungeon is a dank and airless pit cut out of solid rock below the north-west tower. It housed local miscreants who fell under the Bishop's jurisdiction as well as several more prominent individuals such as David Stuart, Duke of Rothesay in 1402, Duke Murdoch in 1425, and Archbishop Patrick Graham, who was judged to be insane and imprisoned in his own castle in 1478.

Reformation

During the Scottish Reformation, the castle became a centre of religious persecution and controversy. The Siege of St Andrews Castle (1546–1547) followed the killing of Cardinal David Beaton by a group of Protestants at St Andrews Castle. They remained in the castle and were besieged by the Governor of Scotland, Regent Arran. However, over 18 months the Scottish besieging forces made little impact, and the Castle finally surrendered to a French naval force after artillery bombardment. The Protestant garrison, including the preacher John Knox, were taken to France and used as galley slaves.

Decline and current condition

Following this Protestant defeat, the castle was substantially rebuilt by Archbishop John Hamilton, the illegitimate brother of Regent Arran, and successor to Dr. David Cardinal Beaton. But following his death in 1571 it was mainly occupied by a succession of constables. Parliament separated the castle from the archbishopric in 1606, and it was granted to the Earl of Dunbar, constable since 1603. In 1612 it was returned to Archbishop George Gledstanes, but further attempts to re-establish the former estates of the Archbishop failed. With the eventual success of the Reformation in Scotland, the office of the bishop was increasingly eroded until it was finally abolished by William of Orange in 1689. Deprived of any function, the castle fell rapidly into ruin by 1656, it had fallen into such disrepair that the burgh council ordered the use of its materials in repairing the pier. The principal remains are a portion of the south wall enclosing a square tower, the 'bottle dungeon,' the kitchen tower, and the underground mine and counter-mine.

The castle's grounds are now maintained by Historic Environment Scotland as a scheduled monument. The site is entered through a visitor centre with displays on its history. Some of the best surviving carved fragments from the castle are displayed in the centre, which also has a shop.

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