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Kellie Castle


The estate at Kellie Castle is a remnant of a larger estate sold off in 1769. There are shelterbelts, a tree-lined drive and a 19th-century pond, but the main feature of the gardens is the 17th- and 18th-century walled garden, which was redesigned in the late-19th century by Sir Robert Lorimer. It is divided into compartments, following an earlier design, and these are further divided by trellises covered in climbing plants. The garden grows a profusion of fruit, flowers and vegetables and is managed organically.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

Location and Setting

Kellie Castle lies 2 miles (3km) north of the towns of St. Monance and Pittenweem on the south-east coast of Fife. The site is bounded by minor roads to the west, north and east, and the B9171 forms the southern boundary. The surrounding landscape is low lying and gently undulating, sloping towards the coast to the south. The Castle is well protected by shelterbelts to the north, east and west, which screen it from view. The garden is walled and hidden from view from the main approach from the south-west. There are views from the Castle south across the Firth of Forth to the Bass Rock and beyond to the Pentland Hills.

The Castle sits to the south of Kellie Law, a small hill rising to 597' (182m) above the surrounding flat agricultural landscape. The designed landscape has remained similar to the layout shown on the 1st edition OS map of 1855 at which time the Castle lay amongst fields, protected by shelterbelts and enclosed on the north and east sides by the long walled garden. By the date of the 2nd edition OS map, c.1900, a small burn, shown on the 1885 map to the west of the Castle, had been used to form a pond. There are some 35 acres (14ha) in the designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Kellie Castle, listed A, was built from the 14th century onwards, added to over three or four centuries, and restored by Professor James Lorimer in 1878. The style of the house is traditional, domestic Scottish architecture with towers four storeys in height, crow-stepped gables and four turnpike stairs. The original south-west tower has conical roofed, corbelled angle turrets at the fourth floor. The east tower is dated 1573 and was originally linked to the west tower only by a passage. The linking building was built in the 17th century. There are fine plaster ceilings within.

The Stables and Doocot lie adjacent to the east side of the Castle. The Garden House was designed by Sir Robert Lorimer in the north-west corner of the walled garden and is characteristically surmounted by a small animal, in this case a cockerel. The Gatepiers at the main entrance date from the early 19th century, are surmounted by urn finials, and are listed C(S). There is also a Mausoleum to the south-west of the Castle. Within the gardens are several ornaments, including a central Sundial, an Urn mounted on a plinth designed and made by Hew Lorimer, a wrought- iron gate designed by John Lorimer, and a Garden Seat designed by Hew Lorimer (a second similar garden seat has been designed by Hew Lorimer but not yet carried out).


Kellie Castle was originally set in a much larger estate, most of which was sold off in 1769. The surrounding fields are in agricultural use, much as shown in 1855 on the 1st edition OS map, the field to the south of the Castle being in pasture. The main approach to the Castle is from the south-west, along a tree-lined drive, where the National Trust for Scotland is carrying out replacement planting. The shelter plantings around the Castle are mainly of sycamore, with some elm, and the latter are to be replaced, There is a pond to the west of the Castle, which was put in in the late 19th century, in which the Castle is beautifully reflected.

Walled Garden

The walled garden extends north and east from the Castle, and the walls are thought to date from the 17th and 18th centuries. The gardens have always been entered directly from the Castle, a feature much admired, and later put into practice elsewhere, by Sir Robert Lorimer. In the 1870s, when the Lorimers first visited Kellie, the garden was in as derelict a condition as the Castle, and early photographs show only a few remaining rose bushes and a few decrepit fruit trees. The 1st edition OS of 1855 showed that the garden had been divided into six compartments with a main west to east path extending the length of the garden. Louise Lorimer wrote in the 1870s that the garden 'still encircled by a tremendous wall, was a wilderness of neglected gooseberry bushes, gnarled apple trees and old....roses, which struggled through the weeds, summer after summer, with a sweet persistence.' Sir Robert Lorimer drew up a plan for the garden in 1888, which has formed the basis for the layout of the garden as it remains today. This has retained the earlier framework of four compartments in the west half of the garden; and in the other half Sir Robert designed two corner gardens in the north-east and south-east corners. The whole garden was replanted with the aid of trellis-work, to form small gardens within the larger compartments, filled with a mixture of flowers, fruit and vegetables.

In 1899 Robert Lorimer wrote an article on Scottish Gardens in the Architectural Review, in which he described his ideal:

'a garden that is in tune with the house, a garden that has a quite different sort of charm from the park outside, a garden that is an intentional and deliberate piece of careful design, a place that is garnished and nurtured with the tenderest care, but which becomes less trim as it gets further from the house, and then naturally and gradually marries with the demesne that lies beyond, ... you can stroll right out into the garden inclosed;.... but what a paradise can such a place be made! Such surprises - little gardens within the garden, the month's garden, the herb garden, the yew alley. The kitchen garden too, and this nothing to be ashamed of, to be smothered away far from the house, but made delightful by its laying out. Great intersecting walks of shaven grass, on either side borders of the brightest flowers backed up by low espaliers hanging with shining apples.'

By 1905 the garden had matured and was the subject of an article by Gertrude Jekyll in which she noted the varieties of roses and herbaceous plants which go to make up such a garden, including hollyhocks, Spiraea, tall columbines, Bocconias, Thalictrums and Lilies. A photograph of 1905 shows the Yew bower, with a statue of Cupid, since moved to Gibliston. The late Lord Crawford, the 28th Earl, drew up a record of his memories of the Kellie gardens for the NTS in 1974, including the following extracts:

'The main feature of the garden in its heyday was the grass path running east to west, terminated by arches of roses, and with similar arches on the cross path beside the sundial. This gave scale and stability to an otherwise deliberately fragmented composition. It was rightly treated as a whole and uniform: the different sections of both sides planted in the same way: first a very low strip of pinks, behind which a slightly higher strip of some other perennial and behind again large herbaceous plants backed by clusters - almost a hedge of hollyhocks a great feature. This uniformity and architectural quality emphasised the coherence of the garden in contrast, and as a stable foreground to the elaboration of the Castle's north facade. This coherence and uniformity was all the more emphatic because the whole was predominantly white, and white hollyhocks mingled with coloured ones. This was the only grass path apart from it there was not a great deal of grass, though there was a lawn in the sunless SW corner.

'On both sides of the path crossing the grass path by the sundial were gallica roses; these were the original roses (and their descendants) found by the Lorimers when they first rented the place. There were roses at the inner ends of each cross path, and perhaps at each outermost end, joining the outer paths: elsewhere too: some narrow, others deep. At the East end of the grass path, beyond the cross path was a hedge of Loganberries, and behind that, vegetables. Many artichokes were grown. The combination of fruit, flowers and vegetables, so characteristic of Scottish gardens, was well exemplified at Kellie.'

After Hew and Mary Lorimer moved into the Castle in 1937, Mary Lorimer set to work on the task of reviving the gardens and was assisted in this task by the 70 year old former gardener, Jim Dowie, who replanted the garden based on his memory of its earlier layout, created the several lawns, and relaid the entire box-edging of the herbaceous borders. Mr Dowie died at the age of 80 at work in the garden. After the NTS took over the management of the garden, the north-east corner was restored to 'Robin's Corner' using Hew Lorimer's designs, based on his memories of his father's original garden, and thanks to a photograph in 'Country Life'.

The garden today follows Sir Robert's layout and contains many of the old fruit trees and rose bushes found in the garden in 1905. The garden is entered through a gate in the south wall to the east of the Castle; fruit trees are trained along the outside of the wall, and jasmine and the Chinese gooseberry also grow here. Above the gate-arch is a sundial. Inside the gate is an area of lawn, laid in recent years on a former vegetable plot; shrubs and current bushes line the inside of the wall. To the east is the Yew Bower which features Dr Lorimer's romanesque urn, and also two rose trellis features. To the north of the Yew hedge is a section of fruit and vegetable borders, leading to Robin's Garden in the north-east corner of the garden. Here trellis work is covered with clematis and roses.

A larger area of Garden is now laid with lawn than in the early 1900s, although some of the old fruit trees have been retained and new fruit trees planted in the lawn areas. A broad herbaceous border lines the north wall, in which are mounted bee boles. The pavilion or garden house designed by Sir Robert provides a feature in the north-west corner. The restored herbaceous borders, lining the central paths still provide a striking feature of the garden; the long grass path runs west to east from the west wall and a gravel path runs south of this to the east wall. These have been replanted by the NTS following the early accounts of the garden and feature splashes of colour, emphasised by white flowers. The north/south cross path is lined with old roses, noticeably Rosa mundi. Trellis arches carry rambler roses across the paths and help to divide the separate garden components. A sundial forms the central feature of the cross paths to the north of the Castle.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts


01333 720271

Access contact details

The site is open daily. Opening times vary seasonally.

For more detailed visitor information visit the Kellie Castle website.


The Castle can be reached by Flexibus from local villages by pre-booking (01334 840340). For details see:


The National Trust for Scotland


The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:

Reason for Inclusion

The attractive gardens are an early example of Sir Robert Lorimer's work, containing several features designed by other family members, including his son, the sculptor Hew Lorimer, who designed many of the gardens' architectural features.

Site History

The Castle dates from the 14th century onwards and was restored by Professor James Lorimer in 1878. Sir Robert Lorimer designed the Garden House and Dr Hew Lorimer designed many of the architectural features in the garden. The garden was laid out by Sir Robert Lorimer, helped by his mother, Hannah Lorimer, his sister Louise, and brother John. In later years, his son Hew has made additions and restored part of the original design.

In the 13th century the lands of Kellie belonged to the family of Siward, Earls of Northumbria. Robert the Bruce granted a charter for the barony of Kellie to one William Siward, and in 1360 it passed to his kinsman Sir Walter Oliphant, who was married to Robert the Bruce's daughter Elizabeth. It remained in the hands of the Oliphant family until 1613 when it was sold to Thomas Erskine of Dirleton, later Viscount Fentoun and, in 1619, 1st Earl of Kellie.

The 3rd Earl, Alexander, was a supporter of Charles II and was exiled to Holland; repairs and improvements were made to the Castle on his return. In 1769 the 6th Earl of Kellie sold the major part of the estate, apart from a few enclosures around the Castle, to Sir John Anstruther of Dreel who shortly afterwards sold them to Roger Hog of Newliston whose family retained the lands until recently. The 8th, 9th and 10th Earls died without children and the Earldom was claimed in 1834 by the 9th Earl of Mar. The contents of the Castle had already been sold off in 1829 and it was left uninhabited and slowly deteriorating for many years, the Great Hall at one time being used as a granary for the adjacent farm.

In the 1870s Professor James Lorimer, a professor of law at Edinburgh University, spent his holidays in the East Neuk of Fife and discovered Kellie Castle. His family fell in love with the Castle, and he approached the then Earl of Mar with a proposal to lease the Castle for a summer home as an improving tenant. The Earl agreed and a lease was drawn up for 38 years. The Lorimers, James and Hannah, had six children including John Lorimer the artist, and Robert Lorimer the architect, both of whom became involved in the restoration of the Castle and particularly the gardens. Professor Lorimer was also helped by a local architect and gradually the old Castle was made habitable. After the Professor's death in 1890, the family continued with the work, and his son John became the main tenant until 1937, when he died at the age of 80.

In 1937, Dr Hew Lorimer, the sculptor, and second son of Sir Robert, took over the tenancy and moved in with his wife Mary McLeod Lorimer and their three children; his wife's artistic talents helped to refurbish the interior of the Castle, and to revive the garden, which had been left unmanaged in the years after the death of Sir Robert's mother. The Lorimers finally bought the Castle from the Earl of Mar in 1958 and in 1970, after Mary Lorimer's death, Hew Lorimer offered it for sale to the National Trust for Scotland who purchased it, assisted by a grant from the Secretary of State for Scotland in 1970. Dr Lorimer is now the NTS Representative at Kellie Castle which is managed for the NTS by Dr Stephanie Blackden.

Associated People
Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland


  • Mausoleum
  • Sundial
  • Dovecote
  • Bee Bole
  • Pavilion
  • Description: The pavilion or 'Garden House' designed by Sir Robert Lorimer.
  • Garden Retreat
  • Description: A yew bower
  • Castle (featured building)
  • Description: The Castle dates from the 14th century onwards and was restored by Professor James Lorimer in 1878.
  • Earliest Date:
  • Latest Date:
Key Information


Country Estate



Principal Building






Open to the public




  • Historic Scotland, 'Kellie Castle', {Gardens and Designed Landscapes}, [accessed 11 November 2007]


  • Historic Scotland