Fife: About 4 miles north-east of Kirkcaldy, on minor roads south of A955, near the shore of the Firth of Forth, south of Coaltown of Wemyss. at Wemyss Castle.
Private NT 329951 OS: 59 KY1 4TE
OPEN: Gardens may be visited by prior appointment only, May-Jul, Mon-Fri only, 9.30-18.00; castle not open.
Wemyss Castle originally consisted of a 15th-century rectangular tower and a large irregularly shaped courtyard, with a round tower at one corner, which may date from the 13th century or earlier. Ranges of buildings were built within the courtyard in the 16th century, and in about 1699 a large L-plan block was also added. The castle was extended again, and the courtyard was finally filled in during the 19th century. Most of the Victorian additions were demolished in the 1930s, and the castle was restored back to something like its original appearance.
The building has been much altered, but the original curtain wall can be traced, and the basements of some of the buildings are vaulted. A fine 17th-century scale-and-platt stair survives,
as does much panelling. There is a six-acre walled garden, which is being restored.
‘Weemis’ is marked on Blaeu’s map of Fife, then ‘Weems’ on Adair’s map of the east part of Fife.
This was a property of the Wemyss family. Sir Michael Wemyss was one of the ambassadors sent to bring Margaret, Maid of Norway, to Scotland at the end of the 13th century, and a silver basin, preserved at the castle, is said to have been given to Sir Michael by the King of Norway. The castle was sacked by the English during the Wars of Independence, and Sir David Wemyss added his seal to the Declaration of Arbroath in 1320. A later Sir David Wemyss was killed at the Battle of Flodden in 1513. Mary, Queen of Scots, first met Henry Stewart, Lord Darnley, here in 1565, and the family fought for her at Langside in 1568.
John Wemyss, Lord Wemyss of Elcho, was made Earl of Wemyss in 1633, and Charles II visited in 1650 and 1651. David Wemyss, Earl of
Wemyss, had a ratification of 1661 which mentions the castle, tower, fortalice, manor place and mains thereof. The family were forfeited for their part in the Jacobite Rising of 1745-46. The title
was restored in 1826, and the family name was latterly Charteris. The castle was used as a hospital during World War II.
The Wemyss family still occupy the castle, and there is a burial enclosure for the family at West Wemyss [NT 319947]. The Earldom of Wemyss, along with March, is now held by the Charteris family, who own Gosford House.
The gardens feature a woodland gardens and walled garden.
A ‘Green Lady’ – Green Jean – reputedly haunts the castle, and is said to have been seen in all parts of the building, and by family and servants. In the 1890s she was described as ‘tall and slim and entirely clad in green, with her visage hidden by the hood of her mantle’. She was also seen in 1904, when one of the family walked along side her until she disappeared. Her dress is said to ‘swish’.
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