Carberry Tower

King David I of Scotland (1124-53) granted ‘Crefbarrin' to Dunfermline Abbey around 1143, the land staying in the abbots' hands until 1541, when Hugh Rigg, the King's Advocate, leased Carberry from the abbey.  This lease was apparently to last until 1585, but the Scottish reformation rendered this agreement invalid.  The reformer John Knox, writing of Hugh, stated that he advised Regent Arran to change the position of his army before the battle of Pinkie in 1547 to keep the attacking English away from his new home.  This contributed to the defeat of the Scottish forces, but saved Carberry Tower from destruction. 

Twenty years later Carberry finally saw a battle.  In May 1567, Mary Queen of Scots had married Earl James Hepburn of Bothwell, the supposed murderer of her husband, Lord Darnley.  This act forced many of her supporters into opposition.  Despite the fact that most of them had signed the Ainslie Tavern Bond that April, pledging support for the marriage, Maitland, Morton, Balfour, and Murray of Tullibardine amongst others, now decided to move against her.  After Darnley's father had refused to give evidence in the inquest on his son's death due to military activity and Bothwell's refusal to face trial by combat over the accusation, the rebels assembled at Edinburgh and proclaimed their intention to deliver the queen from her new husband, Bothwell, revenge Darnley's murder and protect the prince [later James VI (d.1625)].  On 15 June 1567, Queen Mary and Bothwell advanced from nearby Fawside castle - another tower house.  Their small army then occupied an entrenchment made by the English before the battle of Pinkie 20 years before.  The rebels advanced from Edinburgh, moving past the royal position, to place themselves to the south where the ground was more favourable to an assault.  Both sides are said to have had about 2,000 men, the queen having 200 harquebusiers and 300 pikes brought from Dunbar castle.  Their enemies consisted mainly of volunteers, but only a few harquebusiers.  A stand off ensued with the queen's party standing on the their defences and the rebels declining to attack.  After desultory cavalry raids by the rebels, inconclusive negotiations and threats of single combat, 2 of Bothwell's supporters, Edmund Blackadder and the laird of Wedderburn, understanding that Bothwell was intending to leave, withdrew from the field.  At this point the queen ‘dressed only in a short shabby robe, that scarcely reached below her knee' agreed to surrender herself to Lord Kirkcaldy, while Bothwell and 25 cavalry retired to Dunbar castle.  This effectively ended the battle, although the Dunbar pikes were then looted by the locals, causing the Privy Council to write to the villages around Carberry asking for their return.  A monument still stands on the Queen's Mount commemorating the abortive battle.  After the action the rebel lords took the queen to Edinburgh.  However, they did not allow her any freedom, but, betraying their oath at Carberry Hill, imprisoned her in Lochleven castle.

Twenty years later, after the Scottish Reformation, Carberry Tower was annexed by the Crown in 1587, the Riggs remaining in possession.  On 1 April 1600, Queen Anne of Denmark, the wife of James VI, granted the Riggs a charter for 'Carberrie'.  Extensive renovations and enlargements were carried out for John Fullerton after 1760.  In 1801 the house passed by marriage to the Elphinstones who began more renovations in 1830.  These continued spasmodically throughout the century.  The sister of the Queen Mother (d.2002) married an Elphinstone, giving the castle royal connections.

The earliest part of Carberry consists of a massive tower which may date from the early 1500s.  This has walls about 7' thick, 34' wide by 30' long and rises 4 storeys to a probably later set of battlements.  There is an early seventeenth century oblong block added to the south.  This is of 3 storeys and has a garret and square projecting tower to the south-west.  This has been much altered when the Victorian mansion was added.  It has been suggested that the original tower possibly has an earlier predecessor hidden within the structure, although, considering its history, this seems unlikely.  Within the grounds are 2 seventeenth century sundials.

Why not join me at Carberry and other Great Scottish Castles this Spring?  Information on tours at Scholarly Sojourns.


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