Ancient Monuments

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Burgie Castle and Dovecot

A Scheduled Monument in Forres, Moray

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Latitude: 57.6147 / 57°36'52"N

Longitude: -3.5186 / 3°31'7"W

OS Eastings: 309373

OS Northings: 859315

OS Grid: NJ093593

Mapcode National: GBR K8PL.LWN

Mapcode Global: WH5H5.XVMW

Entry Name: Burgie Castle and Dovecot

Scheduled Date: 9 December 1992

Last Amended: 21 August 2017

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Source ID: SM5496

Schedule Class: Cultural

Category: Secular: doocote, dovecote, pigeon loft

Location: Rafford

County: Moray

Electoral Ward: Forres

Traditional County: Morayshire


The monument is the remains of a late medieval/early modern tower house and dovecot. The tower house is visible as a square tower which originally formed part of a larger structure built on a z-plan. A small portion of the walls of the demolished main block survive, projecting northeast and southeast from the tower. The dovecot is visible as an oblong building, the interior lined with stone nesting boxes. A stone lined well is positioned around 6m south of the tower. The monument is located on a northwest-southeast oriented ridge at about 70m above sea level.

The remaining structure originally formed the northwest tower of the castle. It is square in plan, measuring 7.4m northeast to southwest by 6.8m and standing six storeys high. Each storey has a single room reached from a projecting staircase which begins at first floor level in the angle between the northwest tower and the external northeast wall. The entrance to the stair turret is reached by a flight of step and the turret rises the full height of the tower, leading onto the parapet walk. Burgie is well provided with gunloops. The first storey windows retain iron grills, while the basement doorway in the northeast wall has a wrought iron grill called a yett. The basement, the two upper storeys and the top of the stair tower are vaulted. The remains of the hall fireplace survives in the remaining fragment of the main block. It is decorated with the coat of arms of the Dunbars and the date of 1602. Around 40m to the southwest of the castle is a lectern dovecot, a form characterised by a sloping single-pitched roof. It measures about 5.5m northeast to southwest by 5m, with a centrally placed door and small window above.

The scheduled area is in two parts, both rectangular in plan, to include the remains described above and an area around them within which evidence relating to the monument's construction, use and abandonment is expected to survive, as shown in red on the accompanying map. The scheduling extends up to but does not include the boundary wall to the northwest. It specifically excludes all wooden boarding, the upper structure of the well and the above ground elements of all wooden fences and modern retaining walls.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland

Statement of Scheduling

The cultural significance of the monument has been assessed as follows

Intrinsic Characteristics

The monument consists of the upstanding and buried remains of a late 16th/early 17th century Z-plan tower house with associated well and dovecot. Although the tower house was partly demolished in 1802, the surviving portion retains its original scale and form, and is intact to parapet level. It retains considerable architectural and structural detail. This includes the parapet wall with cannon-shaped  water spouts, the ribbed vaulted ceiling to the stair tower, window dressings, fireplaces, staircases, gun loops, plaster-work, wooden shutters and floors and complete iron door and window grills. The carved stone work is of particularly fine quality. The significance of the tower house is increased by the survival of the castle's well and contemporary dovecot.

Although the remainder of the tower house has been demolished, there is no record of any excavation or other disturbance. A drawing of the castle in 1799 by John Claude Nattes shows the Z -planned tower house with an additional wing of 1702 surrounded by an outer enclosure wall. Therefore there is high potential for the survival of structural remains and archaeological deposits within, beneath and around the upstanding remains and in the footprint of the demolished section of the castle. The deposits are likely to include occupation and abandonment debris, artefacts and environmental remains such as charcoal and pollen. Such buried remains have the potential to provide information about the form and layout of the castle. They can tell us about the economy, diet and social status of the occupants, and about land use and environment. The monument has the potential to enhance our understanding of the date of construction of the tower house and later phases. It can add to our knowledge of construction techniques and architectural preferences of the time, and the way in which the fashion and function of such buildings developed.

Construction of the castle and dovecot dates to the late 16th and early 17th centuries. Originally the property of the Abbey of Kinloss, the lands of Burgie were acquired by the Dunbar family in 1567. Construction of the castle was started by Alexander Dunbar who died in 1593, and Burgie was completed in 1602 for his son Robert. The dovecot was likely also built during this period. The castle was enlarged in 1702 and everything except the northwest tower was demolished in 1802 to provide materials to build Burgie House nearby. The monument therefore was used and altered over a long period of time. Scientific study of the monument would allow us to develop a better understanding of the overall chronology of the site, including its sequence of development.

Contextual Characteristics

Tower houses are a widespread but diverse class of monument across Scotland. They became a popular form of residence with the Scottish nobility and lairdly class during the 14th century perhaps influenced by David II building a tower house at Edinburgh Castle. Towers houses continued to be the chosen architectural form for the residences of Scottish elites throughout the late Medieval and early post-medieval periods. Tower houses provided a degree of security but were also a means of displaying wealth, social status and martial knowledge.

The example at Burgie is of particular significance because of its good preservation, surviving architectural features and contemporary dovecot. It is one of a number of late Medieval/early modern defensible houses in Moray, including Asliesk Castle (scheduled monument reference SM5778; Canmore ID 16081), Blervie Castle (scheduled monument reference SM5625; Canmore ID 15778) and Brodie Castle (listed building reference LB2260; Canmore ID 15514). The proximity of these monuments can give important insights into the late medieval landscape and add to our understanding of social organisation, settlement hierarchy and land-use. Of particular interest is the similarities between Burgie and Blervie, which were both built by members of the Dunbar family around 1600. The castle and dovecot at Burgie have the potential to broaden our understanding of the nature and chronology of late medieval/early modern defensible houses, and their place within the landscape of northeastern Scotland.

Associative Characteristics

The lands of Burgie were originally owned by the Abbey of Kinloss. They were acquired by Alexander Dunbar in 1567 through his marriage to Katherine Reid, niece of Robert Reid, Abbot of Kinloss and Bishop of Orkney.

Statement of national importance

This monument is of national importance because it makes a significant addition to our understanding of the date, construction, use and development of tower houses. It is an impressive monument that retains considerable architectural and structural detail, often of high quality. These include the parapet, window dressings, fireplaces, staircases, gun loops, plaster-work and complete iron door and window grills. There is high potential for the preservation of buried features and deposits, including structural and architectural remains relating to the demolished portion of the castle. The monument's importance is further accentuated by the survival of the castle's well and dovecot. The tower house makes a significant contribution to today's landscape and would have been a prominent part of the historic landscape. The loss or damage of the monument would diminish our ability to appreciate and understand the character and development of tower houses and ancillary structures. It would reduce our ability to understand the structure and organisation of society and economy during the late medieval and early modern periods.

Source: Historic Environment Scotland



Historic Environment Scotland reference number CANMORE ID 15765 and 118943 (accessed on 20/03/2017).

Moray SMR Reference NJ05NE0001 and NJ05NE0018 (accessed on 20/03/2017).

Buxbaum, T. (1987) Scottish doocots. Dyfed: Shire Publications Ltd.

Douglas, R. (1931) The dovecotes of Moray. London: Courant and Courier. p23-4.

Malone, B. and Wood, J. (2008) Burgie Castle, Moray. Photography and watching brief. Highland Archaeology Services Ltd.

MacGibbon and Ross, D and T. (1887-92) The castellated and domestic architecture of Scotland from the twelfth to the eighteenth centuries. Edinburgh: D Douglas. Vol.2, p260-3.

Tranter, N. (1962-70) The fortified house in Scotland'. Edinburgh. vol. 5, p120 .

New Statistical Account (1834-45) Parish of Rattford. Presbytery of Forres, Synod of Moray, Vol. 13. p248-9.


HER/SMR Reference


Source: Historic Environment Scotland

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