Enjoy this video tour of Macduff’s Castle and the Wemyss Caves guided by The Castle Hunter, David Weinczok. The video was produced by Archaeology Scotland in collaboration with Dig It! TV and was funded by the Castle Studies Trust.
MacDuff’s Castle is located outside of East Wemyss in Fife, on the coast between Kirkcaldy and Leven. The earliest part of the castle we can see today is from the 14th Century. It was built by the Wemyss family, descendants of the MacDuff’s. Later it changed hands a couple of times, but was reacquired by the Wemyss family in the 17th Century, and the lands of East and West Wemyss became united into one barony. Nothing remains today of the MacDuff’s medieval residence, but the family played a very important role in Scotland at the time.
The MacDuff’s were the original Mormaers of Fife in the Middle Ages, a title that made them the most powerful family in the areas today known as Fife and Kinross. Mormaer was the Gaelic word for Earl, and the mormaers were only second to the Scottish king. The MacDuff’s held the right to crown the King of Scots, an ancient privilege of placing the crown on the head of the new king or queen during the crowning ceremony at the Stone of Scone.
In 1306 during the Wars of Independence, it was the Earl’s older sister, Isabella MacDuff, who performed the ritual, when Robert the Bruce was made King of Scots. The Earl himself, Duncan MacDuff, had been captured and was held in England by Edward I. History tells that Isabella arrived a day too late for the coronation, but Bruce led the ceremony be held once more on the following day. This way, the coronation complied with the usual standards and regulations, being performed by a member of the MacDuff family. The scene can be observed in a modern tableau at Edinburgh Castle.
Isabella MacDuff was married to John Comyn, Earl of Buchan. He was a cousin to John III Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, who was killed by Robert the Bruce in 1306 due to their rivalry regarding the Scottish throne. Isabella’s husband then joined the English side in the Wars of Independence, but despite of this, Isabella chose to support Robert the Bruce. She was sent into safety along with Bruce’s wife, daughter and sisters, but they all fell into the hands of King Edward I’s army. Isabella was sent to Berwick Castle, where she was imprisoned in a cage, which was hanged from the outer walls of the castle. She was held there for four years. Her final fate is unknown, but she possibly deceased before the end of the War of Independence.
We hope this tiny taster of some of the history related to the site has sparked a desire to go see it for yourself! You can also go on an adventure to the Wemyss Caves and see some exciting archaeological findings done there.