top of page

Scotstarvit Tower, Ceres, Fife



























Tarvet Tower was built on a ridge overlooking the valleys of the River Eden and Craigrothie Burn in Fife. It is thought that it may have been built not long after the estates in which it stands were confirmed to the Inglis family in 1487. A charter of 1579 mentions a tower existing on the barony of Tarvet. The armorial panel bearing the date '1627' refers to rebuilding undertaken at that time (see later). Tower houses several storeys high like Scotstarvit were typical residences of the Scottish landed gentry in the late Middle Ages. Five storeys and a garret in height, the building is L-shaped on plan, with a main block 33ft by 27ft, and a wing 7ft by 13ft. It is two miles south of Cupar. The black and white graphic on the right was drawn in the late 19th century.

In 1611 John Scott acquired Tarvet and other lands in Fife, to which he gave the name of Scotstarvit, and six years later he was knighted and made a privy councillor by James VI. He was the only son of Robert Scot the younger of Knights-Spottie in Perthshire. According to Wikipedia he was a representative in the male line of the Scottish Border Scotts of Buccleuch (rather than the Scotts of Balwearie in another part of Fife).


Sir John Scot, Lord Scotstarvit (1585–1670), was a Scottish laird, advocate, judge, politician and author. He was Director of Chancery and a Lord of Session. His surname is often spelt as Scott, and Scotstarvit is also spelt in some records as Scotstarvet or Scotstarver. Scott is described by James Grant in Old and New Scotland as "eccentric and sarcastic". He had a varied career of ups and downs and wrote a book entitled "The Staggering State of Scottish Statesmen", not published until a hundred years after his death. Lord Scotstarvit rebuilt Scotstarvit Tower, making additions such as the garret floor and adding the inscription, with his initials and those of his first wife, Anne Drummond, as the builders, with the date (1627) carved on a stone over the door.


The cross section drawing on the right illustrates the various floors of the tower which has a number of odd features, some of which are not immediatelt apparent from this drawing. The building is L-shaped in layout with a spiral stair in the small wing. The ground floor simply has two narrow window slits, and nothing else. The floor above (now minus its floor) has two fine windows with stone seats, but no fireplace. There is no kitchen, one room has no fireplace (not a good idea as fireplaces were the only source of warmth in cold Scottish winters) and one room has no windows. The fifth floor has a fireplace but no windows while the sixth floor, giving access to the fine battlements, was the garret. But what a garret it must have been when its ornate classical fireplace was still in position. This fireplace is dated 1627 and bears the initials of Sir John Scot and Dame Anne Drummond. It was removed, probably in 1696, when Scotstarvit was abandoned in favour of a new mansion nearby, Hill of Tarvit. This mansion and its fine gardens is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and is open every summer to visitors. Those who want to go inside the tower can obtain a key from Scotstarvit Tower Cottage (next door to the tower).


Scotstarvit later passed to the Wemyss family, and in 1948 it was given to the National Trust for Scotland. The Trust still owns Hill of Tarvit mansion but the tower is now in the care of Historic Scotland.

bottom of page