Scheduled Monument

Wine Tower, towerSM90344

Status: Designated


Where documents include maps, the use of this data is subject to terms and conditions (


Date Added
Last Date Amended
Secular: tower
Local Authority
NJ 99937 67511
399937, 867511


The monument is a 16th century stone tower, visible as a standing building with a rectangular plan. It measures 8.1m northwest to southeast by 6.4m and stands around 8.2m high. The monument is located on the rocky coastline of Kinnaird Head at about 10m above sea level

The tower is rubble built with three vaulted storeys, each containing a single chamber. The original entrance is at second floor level, reached by an external stair. This entrance leads into a small vestibule beyond which is the main chamber. The upper chamber has a window in each wall and a fireplace at the north end of the east wall. In the northwest angle a doorway gives access to a small turnpike stair leading to the roof and a closet with latrine located at the foot of the stair. The chamber is decorated with seven carved stone pendant bosses, depicting heraldic emblems commemorating the spiritual, political and dynastic affiliations of the Frasers. The first floor chamber is reached from the upper floor by a hatch in the floor of the upper chamber and is lit by a single window on the east. The ground floor is lit by a single slit window in the north wall. It was also originally accessed by a hatchway through the vault , located in a recess in the southwest corner. It can now be accessed by a later doorway in the south wall which is an adaption of the earlier recess.

The scheduled area is irregular in plan, to include the remains described above, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling specifically excludes the outer wooden stairway.

Statement of National Importance

Assesment of Cultural Significance

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows:

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument consists of the upstanding remains of a 16th century tower, originally an ancillary building associated with the nearby Kinnaird Head Castle. The tower retains its original scale and form and contains unusual sculptural detail in the form of seven carved stone bosses. The bosses depict heraldic symbols of the Frasers and affiliated families, the royal arms of Scotland and the coat of arms of Christ. They demonstrate the familial connections and interests of the Frasers of Philorth.

The tower was built in the 16th century, probably in the latter half of the century. One of the carved bosses bears the Arms of Fraser impaling Ogilvie, commemorating the marriage of Sir Alexander Fraser, 8th Laird of Philorth, and his first wife Magdalen Ogilvie in 1559. This suggests the tower could not have been built before this date unless the bosses are insertions into an older building. The figure of eight gun loops below the windows in the upper floor also suggest a late 16th century date.  

The purpose of the tower is uncertain. It originally stood at the edge of the courtyard of Kinnaird Head Castle flanked by the now demolished doocot tower, and was part of the castle complex. It has been interpreted as a private chapel built for Magdalen Ogilvie, the Roman Catholic wife of Alexander Fraser (Bryce 1987). The semi-defended nature of the upper chamber may support this interpretation, along with the decoration of one of the carved bosses with the symbols of Christ, known as the Arma Christi. However, the room is not obviously a chapel; it is oriented north-south with a fireplace occupying the east wall and there are no features indicating a specific ecclesiastical use. The remaining bosses depict the heraldic symbols of the Frasers and other families, rather than religious symbols.

It is likely the tower has served several different purposes since its construction in the 16th century. The tower was used as a powder magazine and store during the 19th century and is recorded as being used as a store for the nearby lighthouse in 1914. Scientific study of the monument would allow us to develop a better understanding of the overall form of the tower (for instance did it have additional fllors) and its relationship with the wider castle complex.  It would also help our understanding of the chronology of the site, including its date of origin, original purpose and changing use and status.

The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the date of construction and function of the tower and its relationship to the nearby castle. It can add to our knowledge of construction techniques and architectural preferences of the time, and the way in which the fashion and function of such buildings developed. The carved stone bosses have the potential to further the study of craftsmanship, design influences and artistic significance and enhance our knowledge of sculpture and heraldry. They can add to our knowledge of the religious, social and political history of late 16th century Scotland.

Contextual Characteristics

The monument is the only surviving ancillary structure of the nearby Kinnaird Head Castle (which was converted into Scotland's first mainland lighthouse in 1787). Although most castles were provided with additional buildings such associated features rarely survive. Additionally, the seven finely carved stone bosses within the tower are of particular significance. Similar carvings are found at the castles of Gight (scheduled monument reference SM2508; Canmore ID 19800), Craig (listed building reference LB2736; Canmore ID 17245), Towie-Barclay (listed building reference LB16405; Canmore ID 19196) and Delgatie (listed building reference LB16421; Canmore ID 19251). The bosses in the Wine Towner are particularly well carved and their presence in an otherwise plainly decorated ancillary tower is unusual. The tower therefore is an unusual survival of a structure associated with a late medieval/early modern castle.

The Wine Tower has the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of late medieval/early modern defensible houses and their ancillary structures, their place within the landscape of northeast Scotland, and the development and use of such sites over time.

Associative Characteristics

The tower is connected with a legend which tells the story of the 17th century daughter of the head of the Fraser family who fell in love with a piper. Her father imprisoned the piper in a cave which supposedly runs below the Wine Tower and locked his daughter in the tower above. During a high tide the piper drowned and the daughter leapt to her death from the window to the rocks below. Until recently the lighthouse keepers threw red paint on the spot as a tribute when they were painting the lighthouse.

Statement of National Importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the date, construction, use and development of late medieval/early modern defensible houses and their ancillary structures. It is an impressive structure that retains its field characteristics and contains unusual sculptural detail in the form of seven stone bosses carved with heraldic designs. The tower makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and would have been a prominent part of the historic landscape. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of tower houses and their ancillary structures. It would reduce our understanding of religious, social and political history during the late medieval and early post-medieval periods, as well as the development of such sites over time.




Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 20780 (accessed on 10/04/2017).

Local Authority Sites and Monuments Record Reference NJ96NE0008 (accessed on 10/04/2017).

Bryce, I. B. D. (1987) The Wine Tower, Fraserburgh.

Bryce and Roberts, I B D and A. (1993) Post-Reformation Catholic houses of north-east Scotland , Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of Scotland, vol. 123.

Cranna, J. (1914) Fraserburgh: past and present. Rosemount Press: Aberdeen, 389-396.

Fraserburgh '400' History Committee The Chapel Tower. Known locally as the "Wine Tower"

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T. (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh. Vol.2, p31-4

Historic Environment Scotland Properties

Kinnaird Head Castle Lighthouse

Find out more

Kinnaird Head Wine Tower

Find out more

Related Designations

  1. WINE TOWERLB31889

    Designation Type
    Listed Building (A)

HER/SMR Reference

  • NJ96NE0008

About Scheduled Monuments

Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designating sites and places at the national level. These designations are Scheduled monuments, Listed buildings, Inventory of gardens and designed landscapes and Inventory of historic battlefields.

We make recommendations to the Scottish Government about historic marine protected areas, and the Scottish Ministers decide whether to designate.

Scheduling is the process that identifies, designates and provides statutory protection for monuments and archaeological sites of national importance as set out in the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979.

We schedule sites and monuments that are found to be of national importance using the selection guidance published in Designation Policy and Selection Guidance (2019)

Scheduled monument records provide an indication of the national importance of the scheduled monument which has been identified by the description and map. The description and map showing the scheduled area is the legal part of the scheduling. The statement of national importance and additional information provided are supplementary. These records are not definitive historical or archaeological accounts or a complete description of the monument(s).

The format of scheduled monument records has changed over time. Earlier records will usually be brief. Some information will not have been recorded and the map will not be to current standards. Even if what is described and what is mapped has changed, the monument is still scheduled.

Scheduled monument consent is required to carry out certain work, including repairs, to scheduled monuments. Applications for scheduled monument consent are made to us. We are happy to discuss your proposals with you before you apply and we do not charge for advice or consent. More information about consent and how to apply for it can be found on our website at

Find out more about scheduling and our other designations at You can contact us on 0131 668 8914 or at


Wine Tower, looking southwest, during daytime, on a clear day with blue sky.
Wine Tower, looking southeast, during daytime with blue sky.

Printed: 23/05/2019 22:26