Believed to be the oldest standing castle in Scotland, austere Aberdour overlooks the Firth of Forth and has its origins in the 12th century. Built of stone and starting life as a narrow, tall ‘hall-house’, it was the work of the aristocratic De Mortimer family and was later fortified and repeatedly extended until the 17th century.
Today sections of the castle’s gently crumbling ruins are open to the public and visitors can wander around at will. The roof has caved in on the older part of the construction but the later additions are better preserved; the chapel retains some of its original stained glass and there’s a quasi-preserved ceiling painting depicting fruit and trees on the first floor of the eastern wing. Adjacent is a fragrant 17th-century walled garden with formal plantings of flowers and a round hive-shaped dovecote to admire.
Recently the castle has reached a brand-new audience as the stand in for Sainte Anne de Beaupré’s monastery in France from the hit television series ‘Outlander’, written by US writer Diana Gabaldon.
The ancient church of St Fillan’s stands right next to the castle and is also worth stopping by; it dates from 1123. Aberdour Castle is included on private ‘Outlander’ tours and royal tours of the palaces of central Scotland, both of which depart from Edinburgh.
The castle is open April–September daily 9:30am–5:30pm; Oct–Mar Sat–Wed 10am–4pm. Adverse weather conditions may force unexpected closures. Admission for adults is £5.50; seniors & students are £4.40; children aged 5–15 are £3.30. Admission is free with Historic Scotland Explorer Pass. The castle is just off the A921 coast road between the Forth Road Bridge and Kirkcaldy. Alternatively, it is a five-minute walk from Aberdour train station.