Art, Archaeology & Architecture
the Castle of St Monance

Works of art, reports of digs and records of architecture open up the gates to historical mysteries.  It is these records, the paintings and drawings of professional artists and amateur visitors; the notes of travellers along the roads of the East Neuk the research of professionals and the expositions of architects exploring the efforts of those who went before them who reveal the secrets of the past.

Where to begin, is the question. 

The early 21st century saw modern research begin to open the past for the present. 
And challenged 21st century dreamers to dig through the entrails of the past.

It also produced more questions than were answered. 

For instance,
if the tower was 15th century:  why the shot holes, who was the enemy,
who was the builder and what happened to the dry moat that must have protected the castle:  when was it filled in? 

Why was no licence issued or recorded for the building of such a structure? 

Did no visitor or resident describe this space that most interests the 21st century explorer?  Are there documents yet to be discovered that will provide a picture in words?

What was the arched stone feature to the south west of the castle?

Was there a walled garden as a contemporary map at
Kelly Castle suggests?

What is the bricked structure on the face of the cliff to the south?

Was there a tunnel to the sea or to the village kirk,
as local legend attests?

What was the route taken up from the sea by smugglers, one of whose
ghostly spectre is said to haunt the castle to this day?

Was the sun reflecting off the castles red roof,
according to a contemporary traveller, hitting upon red pantile tiles? 
Many roofs in St Monans village still sport these relics of another time. 
Originally, these tiles came as ballast in ships returning from Holland and
would certainly have complemented General Sir David Leslie's Dutch gables
and been highly compatible with the tastes he developed during the 30 years he spent serving on the continent with the Protestant forces allied against Rome.

This section is dedicated to the arts: 
the paintings, writings, architecture and archaeology
that will meld with the practiced eye of the engineer and dreamer
to recreate the old and new "warks" of the Castle of St Monance of other times.

* * * * * * * * * *

In 1892 a marvelous series of five volumes
describing the architecture of Scotland’s castles was completed. 
David MacGibbon and Thomas Ross, both architects, wrote the monumental work
The Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland
from the Twelfth to the Eighteenth Century
In the fourth volume they describe Saint Monance as follows:


 Newark, Fifeshire.

This castle is situated on a rocky cliff overlooking the Firth of Forth, not far from the ancient church of St. Monans.  It appears to have been built at two periods.  The southern or earlier portion is represented by ground floor vaults and the strong south wall of enceinte, which only remain.  These vaults form an oblong structure measuring about 75 feet from north to south by 28 feet wide.  The later portion . . . is built in continuation northwards, but is only 22 feet in width.  The thick east wall and the round tower, 25 feet 6 inches in diameter at the north-east angle, are evidently erected on portions of the older edifice.  The total length of the edifice is 128 feet.

The castle is approached from the north-east only, being on all other sides well defended by the sea and precipitous rocks.  There has been an arched entrance gateway in the enclosing wall adjoining the round tower at the north east angle.  This was strongly defended with double gates, each secured with bars inside, the holes for which still exist . . .  Facing the gateway is the entrance door to the newer structure.  It is of a Renaissance character, projected in front of a circular –faced tower . . .  In this tower is the staircase, which continues to the top.  Immediately inside the gateway three is another entrance doorway to the castle, leading, by a descending passage, to a half-sunk apartment in the round tower.  From this passage a doorway opens into the kitchen fireplace, and gives access to the kitchen, which has also a door to the staircase.

The kitchen is a fine vaulted apartment, lighted by windows on either side.  Its large arched fireplace just referred to is similarly lighted by windows on both sides.  Besides the above entrance doors, there is a door in the round tower outside the gate.  Its sill is about 3 feet above the ground, being on the level of the first floor, immediately over the half-sunk story.  This door in undoubtedly a late insertion, as it would have been absurd to have made the provision for defence found here and then to have left a door outside of it all.

The round tower contains five floors, each provided with a fireplace.  At every stage the shape of the rooms varies in a most extraordinary manner, no two floors being the same in plan. 

Access to the upper floors is not now attainable, the stairs and floors being entirely ruinous.  We have already remarked on the door opening into the back of the kitchen fireplace.  Another singular arrangement exists on the floor above, where, from the room over the kitchen, a door leads into the flue of the kitchen fireplace, which is a place of considerable size, being about 12 feet by 6 feet.  This flue has apparently been partly joisted over, and some kind of wood and plaster construction seems to have been erected in it, possibly for the purpose of smoking or curing meat.  An arrangement of a similar kind existed at Elphinstone Tower and elsewhere.

The courtyard on the south side of the castle occupies the remaining flat surface of the rock, and contains some remains o walls and vaults, which, like the whole place, are in a ruinous and neglected state.

. . . In 1649 St. Monan’s with the castle of Newark, was sold to the famous soldier, David Leslie, whose career in the civil wars of his time renders his name illustrious in the history of Great Britain.  After the Restoration he was created Lord Newark, with an annual pension of five hundred pounds.  . . .

  It is not unlikely that the buildings as we now see it was the work of David Leslie.  The advanced Renaissance work of the newer portion corresponds with the style of his time.  The north wall seems to have been then rebuilt, and the windows of the tower and east wall enlarged and finished with facings after the manner of the period . . . Pages 264-268  This work was originally published by David Douglas, Edinburgh, 1892.  In 1990 James Thin, The Mercat Press, Edinburgh published a facsimile edition.  This is the definitive work on Scottish castles and is fascinating reading for any lover of these unique buildings.



Mike Salter has spent the last two decades riding about Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland detailing castles and their histories.  These soft cover volumes make great reading for anyone who wants to take along a book illuminating the castles as they are visited.  He also produced a single volume with a few lines on each castle.  It is great to keep in your pocket or purse to keep track of castles visited and when.  Ours notes 11 January 2000 for our first visit to this wonderful ruin.  In his volume, The Castles of the Heartland of Scotland, he writes of St Monance on page 53 under the name of Newark:

In the 15th century the Kinloch family built an unusual type of castle here comprising a “palace” or hall-house 23.6m long by 8.5m wide with a court up to 16m in width between it and the sea-cliff.  The building contained a hall and private room end to end and three spacious vaulted cellars.  It passed to the Sandilands family who in the early 16th century added a narrow extension containing two upper rooms over a kitchen to the north end wall.  On the north east corner is a drum tower 8m in diameter, now much ruined, which was furnished with gunloops protecting the adjacent north-facing gateway of which only the east jamb survives. . . . . In 1649 the castle was sold to General Sir David Leslie.  Between 1661, when Charles II created him Lord Newark, and his death in 162 he remodeled the apartments, adding a further storey and the curvilinear Baroque style gables of which only one fragment remains.  There were outbuildings of this period and earlier in the court, and other outbuildings lay against the cliff edge so that they were mostly or wholly below courtyard level.

Click here to read the Measured Spot Survey of the Castle

Click here to read the Data Structure Report of the Castle