Late 15th century; later additions and alterations. Set around courtyard, comprising: ruinous remains of late 15th century gatehouse and 16th century gateway to N range, modified 1690; remains of late 15th century W range and rectangular plan tower; 1597 E curtain wall and E range, modified and embellished in 1622; late 15th century bridge, largely reconstructed 1597 with substantial later repairs. Squared and coursed pink sandstone rubble.
W (COURTYARD ENTRANCE) ELEVATION: 2 storey, irregular 5 bay with single storey, single bay of former (2-storey, 3-bay) hall remaining roofed to outer right; ruinous hall walls adjoin to S; curtain wall adjoins to N. Moulded base course; moulded eaves course; crowstepped gable to N; carved paterae to architraves. Variety of glazing patterns to timber sash and case windows. Graded grey slate roof; 2 corniced ashlar gablehead stacks to N gable; ridge and gablehead stacks to S; cast iron rainwater goods. Delicately carved architrave with lintol initialled "SWS" and dated 1622 to principal doorway; boarded timber door with decorative iron hinges; architraved niche above doorway; single window above set hard under eaves. Small square architraved window to left of doorway; single window above set hard under eaves. Corbelled turnpike stairtower projecting in bay to outer left; architraved leaded glass window between floors; leaded glass window beneath eaves. Large architraved window at ground to centre of range; 1st floor window breaking eaves in finialled and pedimented dormerhead (right finial missing); heraldic device set in pediment. Single window to left, breaking eaves in cat slide dormer.
E ELEVATION: 4- and 5 storey, 5 bay with advanced tower to outer left. 2 bays to outer right, 5 storey, with outermost top floor window breaking eaves in dormerhead. 3 lower bays and tower to outer left roofless. Single window to each floor of each bay, increasing in size from lowest floor.
S ELEVATION: crowstepped gable with lower gable adjoining below. Blocked rol-moulded doorway and 2 single windows at ground; blocked opening above. Window set in crowstepped gable to outer left.
INTERIOR: lower 3 floors vaulted; scale and platt stair; timber panelling and highly decorative coffered plaster ceiling (dated 1623) to N room at courtyard level. Timber panelled room above. Moulded and carved fireplace to W wall of roofless former hall.
W RANGE AND TOWER (RUINOUS)
E ELEVATION: single wall remaining, comprising arcade of 6 barrel vaulted former window embrasures. Remains of tower with rounded SE angle to outer left.
W ELEVATION: rounded buttresses flanking blocked round-arched window openings.
N GATEHOUSE AND GATEWAY (RUINOUS)
Substantial fragments of NW and SE angles of former gatehouse, including springing of gateway arch.
Substantial late 15th century S pier with later round-arched bridge, probably reconstructed late 16th century, with W segmental arch at higher level and including deck and coped parapets. Curved abutments to N.
Statement of Special Interest
Scheduled Ancient Monument.
The castle was begun by Henry St Clair, the 1st Earl of Orkney, circa 1330, on the site of victorious battles against the English. However, the earliest remaining work is that of the 3rd Earl, dating from the 15th century. It was burned by Hertford, but rebuilt for the 5th Earl (William St Clair) in 1597 and embellished for his successor in 1622. Sold in 1735 to James Sinclair and passed to James Patterson in 1762 and then to Sir James Erskine of Alva; he succeeded as the Earl of Rosslyn in 1805.
The service levels cut into the rock to the rear, are virtually identical in plan and are connected horizontally by a series of corridors and vertically by communication tunnels in the vaults of the end rooms. Further, large tunnels at the foot of the stairs appear to have accommodated some kind of hoist. By the 18th century the castle had become derelict. The most recent scheme of repairs was undertaken, 1982-1988, by Simpson and Brown architects, and the Castle is now let as holiday accommodation, through the Landmark Trust, for the present Earl of Rosslyn.