Lothians: About 3 miles west and north of South Queensferry, on footpath 0.5 miles north-west of Hopetoun House, near the shore of the Firth of Forth, north of Abercorn.
Ruin or site NT 083794 OS: 65 EH30 9SL
OPEN: The site of the castle is in the policies of Hopetoun House
Site of castle, nothing of which remains except a landscaped mound with an obelisk, which covers the very ruinous remains of two buildings. ‘Abencorne’ is marked on Blaeu’s map of The Lothians,
then ‘Abercorn C’ on Adair’s map of West Lothian. The castle is depicted as a tower with battlements on a mound or hillock to the north of the church.
A castle here, dating from the 12th century, was a property of the Avenel family. It passed by marriage to the Grahams in the mid 13th century, then, again by marriage, to the Mures in the early 14th century. By 1400, the Douglas Earls of Douglas held the castle, and James the Gross, 6th Earl, died here in 1443. During his campaign against the Black Douglases in 1455, James II destroyed the castle after a month-long siege, and many of the garrison were hanged. The castle seems to have been rebuilt (or the site reused) later in the 15th century or early in the 16th and the castle appears to still have still been a significant structure on Adair’s map.
Abercorn then went to the Hamiltons. Lord Claud Hamilton, Lord Paisley – fourth son of James, second Earl of Arran and Regent of Scotland during the minority of Mary Queen of Scots – was made Lord Abercorn in 1568, and his son was made Earl of Abercorn in 1606. The family were then made Marquises in 1790 and Duke of Abercorn in 1868. The family are now the senior branch of the Hamiltons, the Dukes of Hamilton having passed through the female line, and live in Northern Ireland. The Dukes of Hamilton owned many estates, including Brodick, Kinneil, Cadzow and Hamilton Palace, and now live at Lennoxlove in East Lothian.
The lands passed to the Setons by 1662, and they were made baronets of Nova Scotia the following year, then to the Hopes. The castle site was excavated in 1963. The Setons of Abercorn, baronets, now live in Australia.
Abercorn Kirk [NT 083792], a fine old building dedicated to St Serf, dates from the 12th century and stands on the site of a 7th-century monastery. There are Viking burial stones, and burial aisles or enclosures, including for Dalziel of The Binns, the Hopes of Hopetoun and the Dundases of Philpstoun. The church was formerly open to the public but has been locked since a series of 'antisocial' incidents, and old bibles were stolen from here in July 2016.
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