Aberdour Castle
Fife KY3 0SL

View From The Forth

From the broad terraces on the southern side of Aberdour Castle, there are expansive views across the Firth of Forth towards the Lothians. These terraces were laid out during the 16th century, when the castle was an impressive seat of Scottish nobility. Given the money and manpower required to create a flat garden on a site as steeply-sloping as this one, it was also a mark of status.

Today smooth lawns cover the ground, providing a sense of tranquillity for the visitors who come to explore the castle and its surroundings but at one time the beehive-shaped doocot, one of the earliest examples of its kind in Scotland, would have provided not just meat for the castle’s kitchens, but also saltpetre which was used in the production of gunpowder.

Because of the age of the castle – the earliest parts date from the 12th century – the grounds have been explored extensively by archaeologists, who have discovered evidence of a millpond on the Dour Burn. 

Along with the outline of a vegetable plot, these ghosts of earlier gardens show not only how the use of the space has changed over the centuries, but are a reminder that self-sufficiency in mediaeval times could mean providing for defensive needs as well as growing kale and leeks.

Aberdour also has a walled garden which, even late in the season, is filled with colour. The castle is open throughout the year, so as well as climbers and colourful perennials, there are shrubs including cotoneaster and viburnum, which provide colour, form and berries even in winter. 

The space is also home to a productive vegetable garden and an orchard of Scottish apples which are still covered with this year’s crop. More than 18 different varieties are grown here, showing the range of apples that have been bred over the years to flourish in the Scottish climate.

Many of the herbs grown across the garden are cultivated for their aromatherapy properties and the list includes many fragrant plants such as camomile, lemon balm, catmint, rosemary, lavender and Jerusalem sage. Lots of these herbs would traditionally have been used to make medicines and dyes and from Saturday, October 7 until Sunday, October 29, Aberdour will be hosting The Potion-Maker’s Quest, a family trail around some of the most useful and interesting plants in the garden, with a prize at the end.

Ancient Sites

Historic and Environment Scotland (HES), who maintain Aberdour Castle, are responsible for some of the most ancient sites in the country, from standing stones and chambered cairns to brochs and castles. Included amongst these are a number of long-established gardens, often surrounding religious settlements or palaces.

At Elcho Castle, HES cares for an orchard of traditional apples, with varieties including Tower of Glamis and Galloway Pippin.

Dryburgh Abbey in the Borders has one of the oldest yew trees in Scotland, as well as a succession of flowers that starts in early spring with snowdrops and daffodils, continues in summer with a meadow and wildflowers and bows out in a blaze of colour in autumn when the trees along the River Tweed take on bright hues.

Dirleton Castle in East Lothian has topiary yews and a beautiful Arts and Crafts garden that was developed in the 1920s and still delights visitors today. The gardens are also home to the world’s longest herbaceous border, which is filled with flowers until late autumn.
Meanwhile, the ruined walls of Edzell Castle near Brechin overlook a highly-stylised 17th-century walled garden, with heraldic sculptures and panels.


Aberdour Castle sits on the A921, five miles east of the Ferrytoll interchange with the M90.
Because of the age of HES sites, access restrictions may be in place. There is reasonable wheelchair access to the site. Check with the property before visiting.

Aberdour Castle is open daily 9.30 am to 5.30 pm until 1 October, when it opens Saturday-Wednesday, 10 am - 4 pm. Tickets: £6.50/£4.50/under-16s free.
Tel: 01383 860519