A keep, known as the Tower of Kingorne Wester, was in existence on the Rossend Castle site from 1119. It was later referred to as Burntisland Castle, and by 1382 was called Abbot's Hall, as it was the home of the Abbot of Dunfermline. The present building is largely of the 16th century, though with a 13th-century basement, which contains lancet windows and may represent the remains of a chapel. It was rebuilt by Peter Durie of Durie from 1552, and the arms of Abbot George Durie, and the date 1554, appear over the main door.

During the war of the Rough Wooing the English soldier John Luttrell landed at Burntisland on 28 December 1547. He burnt boats and buildings at the pier, and the owners of Rossend surrendered the castle to him.

Mary, Queen of Scots, visited during her short personal reign (1561–1567). On 14 February 1562, the French messenger and poet Chastelard was discovered hiding under Mary's bed in the castle.

On 11 May 1590 Sir Robert Melville hosted the Danish Admiral Peder Munk who was travelling to Falkland Palace to take possession of the lands granted to Anne of Denmark as part of her dowry.

In April 1594 James VI came to Rossend from Leith with his guard, and unsuccessfully tried to capture two rebel supporters of the Earl of Bothwell, Archibald Wauchope of Niddrie and John Wemyss of Logie.

The castle was acquired by the Town Council in 1952. In 1957, an early 17th-century painted timber ceiling was discovered; it is now in the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. The ceiling includes the initials 'SRM' for 'Sir Robert Melville of Murdocairney' and emblems copied from the Devises Heroïques of Claude Paradin. The council threatened to demolish the property, which had been allowed to deteriorate, but it was saved after a public inquiry in 1972. It was bought in 1975 by the architecture firm Robert Hurd & Partners, who restored it and retain the building as their offices.

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