Well, there’s a whole lot more to Pitreavie Castle. The history of this 17th century fortified manor is closely entwined with the Kingdom of Fife in Scotland: its strategic location in medieval times, and in more recent years, to the Forth road and rail bridges.
When the Wars of Independence were underway, the abbots of Dunfermline Cathedral held sway over these lands. Some reports suggest it was owned at one stage by a sister of Robert the Bruce. That Lady Christina (or Kirsty – for those familiar with my book, Sisters of The Bruce) lived here really piqued my interest but that early castle is long gone. I like to think it was the centrality of its location, close to Robert’s royal court, that drew her to this site, offering a sanctuary particularly with Kildrummy Castle in a ruined state.
Moving forward to 1615, we find the lands owned by Queen Anne. When her husband, James VI, moved south to London, she passed the care of the property to her Chamberlain, Sir Henry Wardlaw, who constructed the core of the current building.
A few decades on, Henry’s heirs must have been horrified to hear the clash of swords, crack of muskets and cries of dying men. Close by the battle of Inverkeithing raged. A force of six thousand Cromwellian soldiers defeated a lesser force of Highlanders in bloody slaughter.
A ragged band of Maclean clansmen sought sanctuary at the gates of Pitreavie Castle but were refused entry. Some of its household even hurled roof slates at the retreating figures. Appalled by their treatment, a few gifted souls cast their own curses. In time, the Wardlaw family saw its fortunes decline with the untimely deaths of its male members.
As with many ancient sites, sadness and mayhem left souls wandering in search of loved ones. A Green Lady, no less, is reported to trawl the grounds calling out to her husband, and a headless highlander searches for his comrades, groaning when he finds them dead.
Not surprisingly over the centuries and after a series of owners, the castle fell into a ruinous state hidden within its wild, untended garden.
But an intriguing renaissance took place in 1938. Outbuildings were added and a subterranean bunker carved out beneath the grounds to house the Royal Navy and Royal Air Force coastal command. Ventilation ducts and escape tunnels lay concealed beneath the flat roof of a tennis court. For all intents and purposes, it was a successful subterfuge. But deep within that underground labyrinth, they must have felt the eerie shudder of bombs dropped nearby – failed attempts by the enemy to take out the crucial transport link of the Forth Rail Bridge.
After WWII came the Cold War. Within its hidden bunker, Pitreavie was well-placed to house the HQ for NATO North Atlantic command. But even with substantial upgrades, the site proved insufficient for MOD needs. In 1996, the military buildings were demolished and the entrance to the underground bunker sealed using explosives.
Now, this substantial manor house has been divided into luxury apartments: one is even available through AirB&B.
What a treat it would be to stay here, to feel the layers of history blur around you. In the gathering dusk, you might even hear the distant sounds of battle, faint cries of ghostly spirits or the brittle staccato of communication channels telling the world of bombs falling nearby.
References: http://www.maclean.org; AirB&B; Tales and Traditions of Scottish Castles by Nigel Tranter