The SCA accepted an invitation to Dowhill Castle to form an opinion regarding its suitability for restoration.
Dowhill is situated on hillside overlooking Loch Leven in Kinross. It has all the appearance of a ‘palace plan’ dating from the 16th century but appearances can be deceptive.
Viewed from east with early tower to left and barmkin turret to right
Close examination shows that at the eastern end was a dedicated tower house to which a later (but not much later) wing was added. The whole is carried out in stonework of a standard seldom met with in castle studies - in short, it is superb. This, together with its carefully crafted vaulting and floor plan marks Dowhill as something special.
Ground plan with oldest portion in red
Splendid vaulting in the basement kitchen
The original entrance lay in the south east but this was blocked when the castle was extended. It seems highly probable, from a study of the south façade, that the early tower was cut down (if indeed ever completed) in order to merge with the new wing evidenced by the seamless row of windows at first floor level. An 18th century engraving depicts it roofed at the present level.
Hall windows at first floor level. Note the corbelled round to left and the crosslet shot holes.
A new entrance was created on the north side which gave access via a square stair tower. At the same time a passage was slapped through the west wall of the old cellar to connect it with the new kitchen.
A rubble built barmkin can be traced on the north side of which a small, circular tower (later converted to a doocot) remains. The entrance to the palace complex presumably lay between this and the south wall of the old tower.
Original entrance in south east wall
The hall is on the first floor whose generous fenestration would have afforded splendid views over the south facing gardens. An unusual feature is the ‘pit’ which opens off the hall. This could have been a strong room but the presence of an urinal would suggest a prison.
The whole is in a state of neglect having been used as a byre and the stones carted off for building purposes. What remains is sound and the vaults are intact. Dowhill would form a splendid project for restoration and we can only hope that it comes to fruition.
The castle is private and not open to the public due to health and safety concerns.
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle