Hidden amongst the dense greenery of Perthshire, barely peeking out from the surrounding foliage, are the fairy tale stone towers of Kellie Castle. This stunning castle dates back to the 14th century, although its pristine condition would leave you to believe that Castle Kellie was built considerably later. Guests can look forward to numerous attractions, including Victorian architecture, beautiful artistry, and thriving gardens.
Kellie Castle is where history and art meet. We’ll be breaking down the fascinating history of the castle, how to get there, and unmissable attractions to see along the way.
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History of Kellie Castle
Kellie Castle’s history is unique compared to many of the other historic castles in Scotland, and it likely avoided many turbulent wars during this time. Kellie Castle’s origins are hazy, with evidence showing that the castle has been around since the 1100s. Its initial historical debut came when the Lady of Kellie, Helena Siward, passed the castle to her cousin Walter Oliphant in 1360.
The Oliphant family would go on to own the castle for over 250 years, adding to the earlier castle with the addition of an east tower and a reinforced outer frame. Other major structural changes happened to the courtyard and towers during this time, forming much of the Kellie Castle you see today. In 1613, the 5th Earl of Kellie sold Sir Thomas Erskine, who became the Earl of Kellie.
The Erskine family lived at Kellie Castle for 180 years, but when the 10th Earl of Kellie Castle died in 1829 with no clear descendants to pass the castle onto, it slowly fell to ruin and was abandoned. In the 1870s, James Lorimer discovered Kellie Castle during a family holiday and fell in love with the potential of the ruined castle.
A 38-year-old lease was signed, and the Lorimer family, along with the Earl of Mar, would make an effort to repair the exterior and interior of Kellie Castle. Even after James’ death, the Lorimer family would play a vital role in restoring the castle, with Sir Robert Lorimer, an architect, adding to the interior. Later, Hew Lorimer would take over the lease with his wife Mary and adequately bring the castle back to life. In 1957, the Earl of Mar offered the Castle to the Lorimer family, and the two would be closely linked ever since.
Hew Lorimer became a renowned sculptor who would display his works in the castles, with his most famous work being “Our Lady of the Isles”. Once Mary Lorimer passed, Kellie Castle was passed to the National Trust for Scotland and has become a beautiful attraction.
How to Get There
Kellie Castle sits near Perthshire’s east coast, a 20-minute drive from St Andrews and Anstruther. If you plan to reach Kellie Castle from a more populated area like Edinburgh, the drive should take just over an hour. Head out from the A902 out of Edinburgh, then onto the A90 until you reach the M90 northwards. From there, take the A92 and A915 until you reach Pittenweem.
There’s a car park available near Castle Kellie, and an adult ticket costs £11. Opening times for the Castle are between dawn and dusk. Castle Kellie and the surrounding Castle Garden are open during the summer months (November – March).
Attractions at Kellie Castle
There’s a lot to look forward to when visiting Kellie Castle, but here are the attractions you need to add to your to-do list:
Take a tour of Kellie Castle
Kellie Castle’s interior is one of the many highlights you can look forward to, with a beautiful blend of Victorian-style furniture that complements the prominent Medieval architecture of the building. The Lorimer family have added many lavish additions to the castle that give it a truly magical feel, including crow-stepped gables, ornate plasterwork, and beautiful embroidery that elevates the great hall and drawing room.
After you’ve completed your tour, make sure to stop by Kellie Castle tea room to cap off your visit.
See the 17th Century Plaster Ceilings
Kellie Castle’s library has a secret that you may miss if you need to look more carefully. If you look up, you’ll be treated to one of the oldest ornamental plaster ceilings in Scotland, the crown jewel of the castle that pairs well with the fine furniture that Robert Lorimer installed.
While exploring the indoors, elaborate plaster ceilings are a common sighting, along with the embroidery that the Kellie family did.
Explore the Kellie Castle Garden
Kellie’s exterior is just as, if not more, stunning than the interior. Mary Lorimer grew flowers in the beautiful walled garden, with old roses being a centrepiece. As you walk through the Arts and Crafts Garden, taking in the waft of fragrant roses, you can imagine the wealth of care and creativity that went into the herbaceous borders and old-fashioned roses here.
Some fruits and vegetables are also grown organically to supplement the delicious treats at the Kellie Castle Tearoom.
Visit the Hew Lorimer’s Exhibition
One of the final attractions at Kellie Castle is the Hew Lorimer’s Exhibition, located in the stables of the Castle. The exhibition commemorates sculptor Hew Lorimer’s life and is a permanent exhibition at the castle. You can see famous sculptures and Hew Lorimer’s studio, which has been reconstructed to resemble what it looked like in life.