The Castle and Estate
Interior marble from the castle
- unroofed - e.g. the
surface divots on the moss are tirr'd before cutting peat
Rothiemay or "Rath-may" means the fortress in the meadow.
No record of the early fortifications exists but W. Douglas Simpson
has suggested that the location fits all the requirements for a Norman fortification, so it is
likely that a wooden baillie stucture existed on the site before any
stone tower was erected.
Historically, Rothiemay was made into a Barony
with associated Church and Castle during the thirteenth century - the
first mention comes in 1264 when it was recorded that the lands had been
escheated to the Crown; it remained in royal hands until 1291.
Harding's Map of Scotland of about 1465 shows the "Castells of
Strathbolgy, of Rothiemay and of Dony Doure (Dunideer)," which testifies
to its importance.
In 1577 an English agent reported of "the Lord
Saltoun and Rothiemay, by name Abernethy,"
that "his house called Saltoun beside Haddington stands in Lothian;
but "his chief house and continual residence called Rothiemay is in
the north, a palace, very fair."
Rothiemay Castle in 1767 (from SW)
Plan of castle
The word "palace
" in old
Scottish usage signifies a house built with a hall or courtyard plan; so
it appears that by this time the barmkin wall, which will have adjoined
or enclosed the ancient tower, had been in part at least absorbed by
domestic buildings erected against it. Tompkin's painting of 1767 shows
a separate tower on the NW corner apparently connected by a low wall, to
the SW gable of the main building.
In 1780 Lord
's agent reported that a storm of wind had "tirr'd"
the old tower and "great part of the south side." Extensive rebuilding
work in the Scottish Classical Style
was carried out in 1788 by the 2nd Earl of Fife to make a modern mansion
In 1795 the Earl himself visited, and finding it in sorry disrepair,
announced his intention of "pulling down the old side as the roof in
some parts is fallen in," and making the rest of the building "watter
The old Statistical Account of the parish, published
only two years later, records that "the most ancient part of the house,
which was fast going to ruin, his lordship has "lately taken down, and
has repaired and furnished the rest in a mannner which does honour to
The walls of the oldest part of the castle formed an L-shape, facing
south and east, and these walls were constructed of enormous field
boulders built in places almost 2.4m. thick. Within these walls the
ceilings were low and stone vaulted on the ground floor, and formed the
kitchen, cellar and servants' quarters. Signs of subterranean building
extending from the SE corner of the kitchen, suggested that a passageway
of some kind may have existed from there some way underground.
Above the kitchen and servants' rooms, extending the whole length of the
eastern side, was the Baronial Hall, measuring 19.3m. by 6.2m.; at the
top or northern end of the hall was one of the massive cross-walls
(about 1.37m. thick) which divided the main room from the Solar, later
known as Queen Mary's Room
measuring 6.7m. by 6.2m. The whole of the original east wing measured
22.9m. by 6.2m.
Rothiemay Castle in the 20th Century (from NW)
Further important alterations and additions were made by Major Tayler
, who was
granted a lease of Rothiemay House in 1809, when his wife's father
became the third Lord Fife. In the 19th century the main hall was
divided up and a thin partition was put up in order to form the Drawing
Room and Dining Room.
In 1901 Col. Forbes added the tall porch tower in the Scottish
The castle was completely demolished in 1964.