10 bedroom equestrian facility for sale

Earlshall Castle, Leuchars, St. Andrews, Fife, KY16


Property Description

Key features

  • 8 reception rooms
  • 10 bedrooms
  • 2 dressing rooms, 6 bathrooms
  • Three cottages
  • Outbuildings. Five car garage
  • Magnificent walled garden
  • Parkland and policy woodlands
  • About 53 acres in all
  • EPC Rating = G

Full description

One of the best kept 16th century houses in Scotland
Beautifully restored by Sir Robert Lorimer. World famous walled garden


Earlshall is set in 34 acres of its own parkland and policy woodland near the village of Leuchars in north east Fife.

St Andrews is renowned worldwide as the home of golf. There are now seven golf courses at St Andrews including the Old Course, regular host to the Open Championship. There are many other golf courses in the area including two courses at St Andrews Bay, The Duke's Course, Kingsbarns, Crail and Elie.

As well as being famous for golf, St Andrews is well known for its University which is one of the oldest in Britain and for the Byre Theatre. It also provides good state schooling at Madras College and private schooling at St Leonards. There are also public schools near Perth (Glenalmond and Strathallan) and Dundee High School is within easy reach. The town has a good range of shops, supermarkets, hotels, restaurants and a cinema.

Beyond St Andrews is the East Neuk of Fife with its spectacular coastline which boasts fishing villages built around picturesque harbours and sandy unspoilt beaches. The venue for the annual Fife Hunt point-to-point is nearby at Balcormo, which also hosts various horse shows and Pony Club events. Both racing and polo take place at Perth. There are some good pheasant shoots in the county. There is a long sandy beach nearby at Tentsmuir.

Access by rail, road and air is good. Leuchars railway station is on the main Aberdeen to London line and provides a fast link to Dundee and Edinburgh. Edinburgh Airport, with its increasingly wide range of domestic and international flights, is only 50 miles away.



Origins of the Castle

Earlshall is believed to have taken its name from the site of the hunting lodge of 'The Erlishall' owned by the ancient Earls of Fife, relatives of Robert de Bruce, King of Scotland. The first recorded mention of Earlshall was in 1495 when Sir Alexander Bruce was granted the lands and barony. His successor Sir William Bruce - a counsellor to successive Scottish Monarchs - was granted additional lands and revenue. With this revenue he began the building of the castle in 1546. It is likely that he built the smaller structure which is now called Dummy Daws before building the main castle.

Surprisingly the castle was built with large windows reflecting the architectural changes in the large new houses which were being built at that time in England, rather than the narrow slit windows used for defensive purposes in Scotland. However, musket loops and smaller windows were provided in strategic places as an insurance against armed incursion. A curtain wall was built between the main castle and the building to the south (Dummy Daws) and probably supported a small stone sentry post above the main gate. Dummy Daws apparently took its name from an 18th century coachman called Daws who resided in these buildings and was unable to speak.

Mary Queen of Scots

Tradition has it that Sir William Bruce received Mary Queen of Scots at Earlshall in 1561 when she was a young girl of 19. Later James VI of Scotland who became James I of England also visited. Both monarchs would have ridden out from the royal palace of Falkland to enjoy the hunting on the lands of Earlshall. Sir William died in 1584.

His grandson Alexander Bruce had his marriage to Euphemia Leslie commemorated on the granite fireplace in the Great Hall on which is carved their quartered coats of arms and initials. Alexander also built the doocot (dove cot) which lies at the end of the lime tree walk - his initials and the date 1599 appear on a stone lintel on the west wide of the building.

The Long Gallery

His son, also called Sir William, and his wife, Dame Agnes Lindsay were responsible for the famous painted ceiling in the Long Gallery which many consider to be the castle's crowning glory. Painted the full length of the 50 foot long roof in grey and black tempera, are the coats of arms of the principal noble families of Scotland as well as those of European royalty and totally imaginary nobles such as David, King of Jerusalem, Hector, Prince of Troy, and Arthur, King of Britain.

The Baron would sit directly beneath the royal coat of arms of James VI of Scotland and I of England when holding his Courts of Barony - signifying that his powers of justice came directly from the King. On the opposite side of the ceiling are the allegorical figures of the Seven Virtues, and numerous smaller squares contain fabulous creatures and mythological beasts. There are also a number of maxims contained in arcades painted on the walls. The most romantic of the paintings is a simple locket of hearts containing the initials of Sir William and Dame Agnes and the date 1620.

Ghost of the Bloody Bruce and Decline of the Castle

Sir William was succeeded by his son Sir Andrew who in turn was succeeded by his son of the same name. He was the most notorious Baron of Earlshall and was known as the Bloody Bruce. An officer of Claverhouse's dragoons in the last quarter of the 17th century, he won the Battle of Killecrackie and earned his name in his brutal putting down of the Covenanters. Ironically he became a Presbyterian himself prior to his death in 1696. His footsteps are said to be heard on the spiral stairs of Earlshall to this day.

The direct male line of the Bruce's of Earlshall died out in 1708 with the death of Robert Bruce. The castle passed to his daughter Helen who married James Henderson and it was inherited by Sir John Henderson of Fordell on her death. He was succeeded by his younger brother Sir Robert Bruce Henderson of Fordell and Earlshall who suffered financial misfortune and in 1824 was forced to sell Earlshall to Colonel Samuel Long of Bromley Hill in Kent.

Colonel Long never lived in the castle which ceased to be a family home. A family of farm workers occupied the castle during this period, no maintenance was carried out and it gradually slipped into a state of dereliction. By 1890 more than half a century's decay and neglect had taken their toll. Although the roof was substantially present, all the window frames and shutters had disappeared and been replaced with wooden bars. In addition a colossal growth of ivy was threatening the stability of the west tower.

Restoration by Robert Mackenzie and Sir Robert Lorimer

Robert Mackenzie, a bleach merchant from Perth, purchased the castle from the Trustees of Colonel Long in 1890 and employed a newly-qualified young architect and family friend to undertake its restoration. The concept of restoring an old dilapidated building to live in was unique in the 19th century. The young architect was Robert Lorimer who was later knighted and earned the reputation as arguably Scotland's greatest architect. He considered Earlshall to be one of his finest works.

Lorimer set about its restoration with sympathy and sensitivity - sparing Earlshall from the excesses of Scottish baronial architecture. He created a workable home without compromising the building's character - including building new kitchens and service accommodation cleverly concealed behind the curtain wall. Lorimer employed only the best workmen and used only the finest materials. He paid great attention to the smallest detail including the design of door hinges and light fittings. He installed the beautiful oak screen dividing the dining room from the Great Hall and added stained glass windows in the smaller window openings formerly intended for defensive purposes. At the very top of the main spiral staircase is a pierced iron screen, possibly the product of Thomas Haddon of Edinburgh. His new works were notable but perhaps his greatest single achievement was rescuing the Long Gallery and its painted ceiling.

Lorimer also built the arched Gate House, the Dowry House, Lindsay's Cottage (with five stone monkeys frolicking along the roof ridge) and the Garden Pavilion in around 1890.


Earlshall does not conform to the traditional 'L' plan or 'Z' plan Scottish castle design, with its plain west facing facade making it unique in constructural form. It is closest to the 'Z' plan principle, having a central block with off-set towers at each end and a romantic and pleasing aspect from the gardens to the east. The castle was built in two parts with the main castle lying to the north of a courtyard and Dummy Daws forming a separate building to the south.

Earlshall is approached by a paved roadway through the arched Gate House to a paved square in the shape of the Union flag to the west of the castle. There is a door leading into the servants' quarters and an arched gateway leading to the Courtyard which is cobbled with flagstone pathways and has a central well. A stone wall and a cast iron gate leads to the gardens.

From the courtyard a studded solid timber door leads to a circular hall with spiral stairs off. Passage with flagstone floor, fitted timber coat hooks, original servants' bells.

Cloakroom: Vaulted ceiling. Quarry tiled floor, built-in wooden floor cupboards and central division with bench and coat hooks. Shower, WC and wash basin.

Bathroom: Vaulted ceiling. Quarry tiled floor. Stone bench. Twin wash basins with fitted mirrors above and cupboards below. WC. Tiled wall dividing the room with the bath situated behind. Shower compartment with glass surround.

Utility Room: Vaulted ceiling. Quarry tiled floor. Stainless steel sink. Plumbed for washing machine. Built-in cupboards. Outside door to garden.

Door to:

Gun Room: Vaulted ceiling. Flagstone floor. Arched stone fireplace. Two steel gun cabinets.

Inner Hall: Vaulted ceiling. Flagstone floor. Dumb waiter to dining room above.


Doors to front of castle and garden. Passage with larder off with wooden slats, fly screen and stone shelf. Guest WC.

Kitchen Roof light. Panelled ceiling. Wooden fitted floor and wall cupboards with slate work surfaces. Sink and wash basin. Lacanche cooker with extractor fan above. Stone tiled floors. Integrated dishwasher and fridge freezer. Arch to:

Sitting Room Panelled walls. Cast iron fireplace with tiled inset.

Corridor to four guest bedrooms and two bathrooms. There is a wine store reached through one of the bedrooms. The end bathroom has twin wash basins, a shower compartment, bath with glass surround and heated towel rails.


From front door spiral stairs up to:

Great Hall: Flagstone floor. Great fireplace with carved stone inscription above and cast iron grate. Timber panelled walls. Window seat. Carved timber screen with Lorimer inscription to:

Dining Room: Carved stone fireplace with inscription above. Panelled walls. Corner alcove with window seat. Tiled floor. Recess with fitted glazed display cupboards and dumb waiter.

'Sma' Room: Painted timber ceiling. Panelled walls. Recess with fitted glazed cupboard and mirror. Door to spiral stairs.

Library: Timber panelled walls. Stone fireplace. Concealed WC.

Study: Timber panelled walls. Built-in glazed bookshelves. Stone fireplace with inscription.


The main spiral stairs lead up from the Great Hall to:

Bedroom 1: (Green Room). Ornate beamed ceiling. Stone fireplace. Built-in cupboard. Secret stairway leading up to Long Gallery.

The second spiral stairs lead up from the Laird's study to:

Bedroom 2: (Lorimer Room). Ornate coombed ceiling. Ornate cornice mouldings. Panelled walls with built-in drawers. Corner hanging cupboard. Sculptured head of Lorimer concealed behind panelling.

Both spiral stairs connect to:

Long Gallery: Magnificent long room with coombed painted ceiling. Window seats. Two stone fireplaces.

Bedroom 3: Traditionally called Mary Queen of Scots Room. Ornate beamed ceiling. Panelled walls. Built-in cupboard. Cast iron fireplace.

The main spiral stairs continue up to:

Bedroom 4: (Bruce's Room or Blue Room) Ornate beamed ceiling. Cast iron fireplace with tiled brick surround.


Landing with cast iron railings believed to have been made by Thomas Hadden. Door to:

Dressing Room Cast iron fireplace. Under eaves cupboard. Steps up to:

Master Bedroom Half panelled walls. Cast iron fireplace with stone surround. Turret with hanging rail. Steps up to second dressing room. Door to tower stairs.

Corridor with doors off to:

Bathroom Bath with shower attachment, two wash basins, WC and heated towel rail.

Shower room Twin wash basin. WC. Double shower compartment.

Bedroom 6 (Bentley Room). Cast iron fireplace.


Situated in the courtyard opposite the front door of the castle is a secondary building which is believed to pre-date the castle. Covered porch and outside stairs.

Garden WCs Two WCs.

Billiards Room (Original kitchen). Bay window to south. Large arched fireplace. Fitted pine seat. Boiler room off.

WC. Separate shower room with WC and wash basin. Inside and outside stairs to first floor:

Bedroom with vaulted ceiling and solid fuel stove. Sitting room with fully panelled coombed ceiling and walls. Stone fireplace with solid fuel stove. Kitchen with vaulted ceiling with decorative plaster work, wooden floor and wall cupboards, sink unit.

Second Floor Bedroom with vaulted ceiling with decorative plasterwork. Wooden panelled walls, stone fireplace, tiled floor.


Gate House

At the entrance to Earlshall is a magnificent Gate House with a central gate arch with rooms arranged above and to either side.

West door to dining room with beamed ceiling. Kitchen off with door to outside porch.. Shower room and WC. Spiral stairs up to first floor sitting room with low ceiling with beam. Three bedrooms on second floor. Steps down to bathroom with bath, shower, WC and two wash basins.

Boiler room in east elevation with outside door.

5 car garage
Built of brick with a corrugated roof and sliding doors opening to front of castle. Apple stores adjoining.

Dowry House
In the north west corner of the walled garden is a small tower with accommodation comprising a kitchen with marble work surface, sink, electric cooker and washing machine. Shower room behind. Outside stairs to wooden panelled room on first floor with vaulted ceiling and stone fireplace.

Lindsay's Cottage

The outbuildings on the north wall of the walled garden have been converted into a gardener's cottage which is built of stone with carved monkeys on the roof. Arched potting shed with door out of garden. Monkeys along roof line above. The accommodation comprises:

Hall with coat hooks. Bathroom with bath, WC and wash basin. Kitchen with tiled floor, wooden wall cupboards with electric cooker and 1½ sink unit. Stairs up to galleried sitting room. Stairs up to two bedrooms on landings above.

Lean-to outbuildings on north wall with iron railing fencing. Corrugated iron roof.

Garden sheds
Four garden sheds. Two brick-built, two timber-built.

Dutch Barn
Five bay Dutch Barn used as log store.

Two storey building built of stone and dating from 1599 situated in front of the castle overlooking the parkland.


Adjoining the castle to the north, east and south are magnificent listed walled gardens. The gardens were laid out by Sir Robert Lorimer who intended them to reflect and complement the castle. Ancient stone walls shelter 3.5 acres of various 'rooms' or 'gardens within a garden'. These rooms are divided by yew and holly hedges and encompass the topiary lawn, orchard, rose terrace, bowling green, yew walk and secret garden. There are also herbaceous borders and shrub borders. Apple and fruit trees surround the vegetable garden. Past the tool house is the dowry border and herb garden and the Dowry House with an apple store beneath.

The topiary lawn is the main room and is Earlshall's best known feature. The mature yews were bought from a disused garden in Edinburgh by Lorimer and are now over 125 years old. 36 yews have been clipped into fanciful shapes planned in the form of four saltires. In a wall at the end of the topiary lawn is a gateway designed by Lorimer, above which is an inscription from Shakespeare's, As You Like It, which reads "Here shall ye see no enemy but winter and rough weather". The gardens are sheltered by the surrounding woodland and grey stone walls.

Immediately to the south of dummy doors is a secret garden which is arranged as a box garden with boxes dated 1893 and 2003. The garden is listed. In front is an orchard with Scottish apple trees and a raised bird bath in keeping with Lorimer's design.

The south east corner of the garden comprises a croquet lawn with a Lorimer corner pavilion with tiled roof and stone pillars. There is an avenue with topiary hedges and a central arch. Along the east wall is an arbour with an original Lorimer bench and a sundial in front. There is a Lorimer stone gate with an inscription above.


To the west of the castle is an avenue which leads past the doocot to the policy woodland. A haha divides off parkland grazing to the west which extends to about 11 acres. The policy woodland surrounds the parkland on three sides.

The parkland, gardens and policies extend to just over 34 acres in all. 2.5 acres in the north west corner is occupied on a long term lease at a rental of £1 per year.

There are an additional 19 acres of grazing behind the Comerton Farm buildings which are further up the lane just beyond the back drive.


Mains water, mains electricity, private drainage to septic tank.

Heating / Hot Water
Part oil-fired central heating and part electric heating

Council Tax:
Earlshall Castle is in Fife Council Tax band H,
Dummy Daws is band D,
The Gate House is band C,
Lindsay's Cottage is band B.


Earlshall Castle and Doocot are listed Category A.

Earlshall Gardens and Parkland are listed on Historic Scotland's Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes.

Farm Number

Earlshall is a registered agricultural holding - Ref: 78/428/0076

Fixtures and fittings

The candlelit chandeliers are moveables and are excluded. All electric wall fittings will remain.

An inventory of furniture will be made available for purchase at a price to be agreed in addition to the sale price.

The missives of sale will bind the following contents to remain at Earlshall Castle in perpetuity:

1. Painting above dining room fireplace
2. Lorimer bench in arbour
3. Sundial in front of arbour
4. Sundial in courtyard
5. The bird bath with cherub in the orchard
6. All electric Lorimer light fittings

Square Footage: 8,398 sq ft
Acreage: 53 Acres


From Cupar take the A91 towards St Andrews. At the Guardbridge roundabout turn left and take the A919 sign posted to Leuchars and Dundee.

At the roundabout in Leuchars turn right into the village. Pass the Church and turn left and then immediately right onto Earlshall Road. Follow this road straight on out of the village. The Gate House to Earlshall is on the right after about 0.5 miles.

More information from this agent

Listing History

Added on Rightmove:
22 February 2016

Nearest stations

  • Leuchars (1.1 mi)
  • Dundee (6.0 mi)
Distances are straight line measurements from centre of postcode

Nearest schools

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To view this property or request more details, contact:

Savills, Edinburgh Country

Wemyss House 8 Wemyss Place Edinburgh EH3 6DH

0131 291 0073 Local call rate

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To view this property or request more details, contact:

Savills, Edinburgh Country

Wemyss House 8 Wemyss Place Edinburgh EH3 6DH

0131 291 0073 Local call rate

How much will it cost me to call the number displayed on the site?

Standard geographic charges from landlines and mobiles apply and calls may be included in your telecom provider's call package.

Map & Street View

Nearest stations

  • Leuchars (1.1 mi)
  • Dundee (6.0 mi)
Distances are straight line measurements from centre of postcode

To view this property or request more details, contact:

Savills, Edinburgh Country

Wemyss House 8 Wemyss Place Edinburgh EH3 6DH

0131 291 0073 Local call rate

How much will it cost me to call the number displayed on the site?

Standard geographic charges from landlines and mobiles apply and calls may be included in your telecom provider's call package.

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