Places to Visit - Balwearie Castle, Fife

The Castle

Balwearie is 2.5 miles west of Kirkcaldy in Fife. Michael Scott's son Sir Duncan Scot, married Margaret of Balwearie and the Scotts settled down on the estate in the early 13th century. The building that remains was built after 1463, however.

 

The castle was owned by the Scotts of Balwearie until the end of the 17th century when it passed to the Earl of Melville when this Scottish soldier and statesman was made Lord Raith, Monymaill and Balwearie and Viscount of Kirkcaldy at the same time in the Peerage of Scotland.

 

Originally a 15th century tower, the north gable, east wall and part of the south wall stand fairly complete to their wallheads, about 45ft above ground, showing the tower to have been 43ft long and at least 28ft broad over walls averaging 6ft thick. The masonry, fairly cubical towards the base, is ashlar in 10 to 12 inch courses.

 

Tusking up to a height of 11ft on the SE angle suggests that a barmkin (courtyard wall) extended to the south and west. 

 

One half of the building has collapsed (the photo on the right was taken in 1867 when more of the building was standing than today)

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Although the Scott clan/family is strongly associated with the Scottish Borders from the early 13th century, there were Scotts in Fife descended from the earliest recorded Scott (Uchtredus Filius Duncan Scot aka: Uchtredus Filius Scoti). Uchtred's grandson, Richard Scott (whose line eventually became the Dukes of Buccleuch) had a younger brother, Michael Scott who moved to Fife near Kirkcaldy. Younger siblings often had to move out to establish themselves as the eldest son would inherit the father's estate.

 

This younger son, Sir Michael Scott, built up a considerable estate in Fife in the reign of William the Lion. He married Margaret, daughter of Duncan Syras of Syras, and obtained with her the lands of Ceres. He had a son, Duncan, who succeeded him and who had two sons. His elder son, Sir Michael Scott, was knighted by Alexander II. His son, Sir Michael Scott of Balwearie and Scotscraig is probably the famous "wizard." He became famous during his lifetime not only in Scotland but across Europe due to his learning and writing (including Arabic translations of the Greek Philosophers) and eventually became known as "Michael Scott the Wizard". He is credited with being Scotland´s first scientist, alchemist, sorcerer and astronomer!

 

Over the centuries, Ceres has had many families named Scott as is evidenced from local churcyards.  It has to be said that his fame as a wizard was helped along by later writers such as Dante and James Hogg (the Ettrick Shepherd), embellishing the few facts known about him and perpetuating the "wizard" element of his reputation. Never one to pass over a good local legend when he saw one, Sir Walter Scott also picked up on the stories and wrote extensively about him. It was Sir Walter who wrote that Michael "cleft the Eildon hills in three and bridled the river Tweed with a curb of stone". That's the Eildon Hills near Melrose on the right.

 

A later Michael Scott was a member of the group of nobles who went to Norway to bring Princess Margaret, the Maid of Norway, back to Scotland as Queen after the death of King Alexander III in 1296. It was Margaret's death on that journey that precipitated Scotland into the Wars of Independence against England in the following years.

Historical Background - Michael Scott of Balwearie

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