12th-17th century series of connected buildings: Roofless 12th century trapezoidal-plan ruined tower house to NW, heightened 15th century; cubical ashlar to ground floor, ashlar elsewhere. Remains of 16th century single-storey L-plan service wing incorporating brewery and bakehouse set to SW of tower, well to NE. Roofless 16th century 3-storey L-plan range incorporating ruined turnpike stairtower to SE of tower house; random rubble with ashlar long and short quoins, moulded stone surrounds to openings, relieving arches set above windows, remnants of moulded, stepped string course to NE and SE elevations. 17th century 2-storey 6-bay rectangular-plan range advanced to E of 16th century range; squat wing at centre, stair tower to left at NE, 3 storey jamb to SE with lean-to stairtower set flush to S; random rubble with ashlar long and short quoins, stone roll-and-hollow moulding to windows and doorways at ground floor, stone double roll-and-hollow mouldings to window margins at 1st floor, cavetto eaves cornice. Fragmentary remains of inner courtyard wall running from NW stair tower to fragmentary remains of former circular-plan tower to far NW, modern single storey toilet block and kitchen adjoined at far NE.
NW ELEVATION: Tower house to far right: collapsed low wall, rising in centre to 1st floor height, internal wall of SE gable visible, reaching original full height. Remains of courtyard wall to NW terminating at W with curved remnants of bakehouse chimney. NW elevation of 16th century range: setback to centre; rectangular 1st floor windows to right and left, remnants of buttress to far left. NW elevation of 17th century range: 6-bay range setback to left of 16th century range; stairtower at 2nd bay, shorter wing advanced at 4th bay. Small ground floor window at 1st bay, 1st floor window above, raggles of former courtyard wall extending to 1st floor height. Full height stair tower at 2nd bay; ground and upper floor central windows, door in right return, 3 windows at 2nd bay, similar arrangement at 6th bay. 2 windows to short wing at 4th bay with remains of pilastered window surround close to eaves height. Ground floor door at 5th bay. Recessed half gable of SE wing to far right; window to ground, 1st and 2nd floors. Moulded stone surrounds to all windows.
NE ELEVATION: Tower house: large ruined buttress to far left, foundations of wall visible above ground, remains of ruinous vaulted chamber visible. NE elevation of L-shape 16th century range adjacent to tower house buttress: recessed stair tower; doorway set close to tower, moulded string course above, window to centre-right at 3rd floor, stepped string course to upper left, missing wallhead above. Flanking buttress; central ground floor window. Advanced 3-storey gable to left; aedicule window at 1st floor flush to advanced 17th century range; narrow pilasters surmounted by pediment with strapwork and flanking finials; pilastered 2nd floor window above; panelled string course between 1st and 2nd floor, collapsed section to right, remains of window jamb to upper section. NE elevation of 17th century range: ground floor doorway to right, square window above. Large aedicule window to 1st floor; narrow pilasters supporting pediment with flanking finials, carved monogram to tympanum 'E.W.M? (William Earl of Morton). 3 storey SE wing advanced to left: advanced modern single storey toilet block and kitchen at ground floor, small rectangular window at 1st floor, breaking eaves window to 2nd floor at centre left.
SE ELEVATION: Tower house to left: collapsed wall rising at left to 1st floor height, 2 narrow arrow slits at ground floor to centre. Surviving full height section of tower to right, corbels and moulded parapet to uppermost section. Large section of collapsed tower on ground, ruined outbuildings to far left. SE elevation of advanced 16th century range; advanced tall lean-to stair tower with uppermost wallhead missing; various windows, doorway to right return. Main elevation of 16th century range slightly setback to right; 2 square windows to left, narrow rectangular window to right at ground floor, 2 large rectangular windows evenly arranged at 1st floor, remnants of stepped string course above. SE elevation of advanced 17th century range; 2 ground floor windows at 1st bay, door at 2nd bay, 3 evenly spaced 1st floor windows at eaves. Large rectangular window set close to setback 16th century range to left return. Lean-to stair tower advanced to right; door at ground floor, various windows to left return. Advanced wing to far right; ground floor window to right, 1st and 2nd floor windows to left. Niche to left arris at 1st floor height with dated 1635 single face sundial, carved monogram to upper corners 'E.W.M' and 'C.A.M' (William Earl of Morton, Anne Countess of Morton). Garden wall extends from right quoin. Ground floor, 1st floor and 2nd floor breaking eaves windows to left return, lean-to stair-tower to re-entrant angle.
SW ELEVATION: Tower house: collapsed wall to near 1st floor height. SW elevation of 16th century range: stair tower set back to right of tower house; doorway to right, window to left, gunloop to far left. 2 1st floor and 2nd floor windows, remains of corbelled tower above to right, collapsed upper wallhead. Slightly advanced block to right of stairtower: large, flat buttress at ground floor, small gunloop set above to left. Slightly advanced lean-to tower to far right, 2 set high small windows with further window above.
Tower and 16th century range: roofless without doors and glazing. 17th century range: timber boarded doors with nail studs, timber multi-paned casement and sash and case windows. Pitched grey slate roof to main range and SE wing, catslide dormers to 2nd floor breaking eaves windows at jamb. Ashlar crowstepped gables to main range and wing, beaked skewputts, (ball finial to NE gable at main range). Corniced, shouldered wallhead stack to SE elevation, corniced ashlar gable apex stacks to wing. Piended grey slate roofs to stair tower and short wing at NW, mono-pitch grey slate roof to stairtower at SE.
INTERIOR: Tower house; surviving fragmentary remains of turnpike stair to SE jamb, vaulted small store to E. 2 obtusely pointed doorways one above other leading to vaulted room to W, joist holes to former timber mezzanine floor. 16th century range: ground floor; remnants of steps to ruined turnpike stair, long passageway to S with kitchen to SW; tunnel-vaulted with semi-elliptical arched fireplace with oven to E, vaulted store to E. Roofless 1st floor comprising of 2 apartments with bedchamber, close garderobe and closet. Small passageway from large turnpike stair to E and W apartments, E end walled off with bedchamber closet behind. Closet to W apartment (probably Earl's bedchamber) in SW jamb above stair to S, remains of narrow dogleg stair in W wall giving access to former bedchamber above (probably Countess' bedchamber). 17th century range: ground floor divided by pend running N to S, store to W with joist holes to former mezzanine floor, stable to E, flagged stones to ground. Long gallery to 1st floor to full length of range, moulded large mantelpiece to centre, exposed timber rafters. 3-storey SE jamb; square-plan room to each floor with moulded stone mantelpiece. At 1st floor tempera-painted timber ceiling decorated with fruit, foliage and grotesques to main panels, red heart emblem of Douglas family to joists.
BOUNDARY WALLS AND TERRACES: terraced garden to S stepped down; random rubble retaining walls with ashlar copes. Original upper 16th century terrace running to full length of castle, 3 reconstructed (1981) L-shaped terraces running below terminating at dovecot (see separate listing). 16th century square-plan pedestal sundial set to 3rd terrace (see separate listing). Church boundary wall with pyramidal copes to far E of terraces, doorway to churchyard set at steps descending from upper terrace to 3rd terrace. Walled garden to E of castle (see separate listing).
Statement of Special Interest
NOTES: SCHEDULED ANCIENT MONUMENT. A-Group with Aberdour Castle West Gateway, Aberdour Castle Walled Garden, Aberdour Castle Dovecot, Aberdour Castle Sundial. Aberdour Castle is important as it is made up of distinctive building phases, each documenting the building styles and fashions of the times. It is recorded that the barony of Aberdour was acquired by Sir Alan de Mortimer in 1126 on his marriage to Anicea, daughter of Sir John Vipont, it was probably at this time or shortly afterwards that the towerhouse was built (the early date attributed to the tower house can be surmised by the use of cubical masonry and angled buttresses), it is thus an exceptionally early and rare example, one of only a few still remaining in Scotland. The tower is sited on a promontory, with commanding views of the area, the deep ravine of the Dour Burn would have acted as a natural defence to the E. In 1351 the castle became the property of Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith and remained in the Douglas family until the 20th century. During the 15th century the tower house was enlarged and aggrandised reflecting the change in circumstances of the Douglas family with James 4th Lord of Dalkeith created Earl of Morton. It was not until James Douglas 4th Earl of Morton succeeded to the title and lands of Aberdour in 1548 that the Morton family came to real prominence. The 4th Earl was involved in Queen Mary's court acting as Regent from 1572-1578 in the minority of James V. Although Dalkeith was his primary residence he immediately set about improving the castle by building the central range which reflected a large advancement in comfort and convenience to the existing tower. The 4th Earl spent a considerable amount of time at the English court gaining inspiration from the new garden practises at Hampton Court and other palaces from which he built the terraced gardens to the S of the castle, it was also at this time that the dovecot to the far SE was built. The Earl resigned from the office of Regent in 1578, was implicated in the murder of Lord Darnley and was executed in 1581. The last and final building phase to the castle came after 1606 when William the 6th Earl inherited the Morton title. William, like the 4th Earl enjoyed high public office however this was at a time when to be aligned to the Crown was financially draining, his principal seat at Dalkeith was sold and the family took up permanent residence at Aberdour. The E range when built was a fine and imposing building proclaiming the status of the Morton family and employing fine classical detailing such as the aedicule window to the NE gable. Unfortunately some of the fine external decoration has been lost including pedimented dormers to 1st floor windows (probably at the time the roof was lowered) and a fine pilastered window set beneath a pedimented gable to the central short NW wing. An inventory of 1647 records the newly built long gallery to the E range in 1647 was furnished with some very luxurious objects, including 2 black Japan cabinets, 1 red walnut cabinet, 1 marble table, it is also recorded that the walls of the principal rooms were hung with tapestry and had curtains at the windows. However it was not only the castle that was aggrandised, in 1632 the walled garden to the E of the castle was built (see separate listing) and most likely the terraces replanted. In 1650 a letter written by Anne Murray soon to become Lady Halkett states 'I was lead in through the garden which was so fragrant and delightful that I thought I was still in England' (M Apted). The garden continued to be well tended as records of 1691 show that double yellow roses, Persian jasmine, lilac and honeysuckle were supplied from the Physic Garden in Edinburgh. An orchard to the S of the terraces was laid out in 1690 with 42 fruit trees including apricots and peach. In 1690 the 10th Earl commissioned James Smith to draw up plans for a large extension, it was never executed. In 1725 the Mortons left the castle and moved into the adjacent Cuttlehill House, renamed at the time Aberdour House (see separate listing). The tower and central range had been severely damaged by fire twice in the late 17th and early 18th centuries making it uninhabitable, the E range although damaged was repaired and remained roofed. The majority of the castle lay abandoned for the next 2 centuries with the central range and tower falling into further disrepair, in the mid 19th century most of the walls of the tower collapsed, with a further loss in 1919. The E range was used as a barrack, schoolroom and Masonic hall. The gardens to the S became overgrown and were latterly used as market gardens with the majority of the terraces disappearing. In 1890 the new railway line from the Forth Road Bridge to Burntisland was built to the N of the castle cutting off the original line of access. The castle gateway (see separate listing) which stood at the ruined outer-courtyard wall to N was re-sited at the head of a new line of access to the W. In 1924 the castle was placed under the guardianship of HM Office of Works. The terraces to the S garden were reconstructed in the early 1980s. The castle today is a property in care of the state maintained by Historic Scotland.