There has been a castle at St Monans since at least the thirteenth century as Alexander II was recorded as spending a significant amount of time there in his youth. It was substantially rebuilt in the fifteenth century at which time it became known as Newark Castle. In 1649 it was purchased by General David Leslie, commander of Scottish Covenanter forces during the Civil War.
Little is known about the early history of Newark Castle but the initial structure was probably built by Sir Alan Durward around the mid-thirteenth century. Alexander III, who was born in 1198 and reigned between 1214 and 1249, was reported as spending a portion of his childhood at St Monans Castle. However the structure that is seen today dates from the fifteenth century when it was owned by the Kinloch family.
Newark Castle was built upon a rocky promontory jutting into the Firth of Forth. It was a courtyard castle with the main range being on the eastern side and this incorporated a five storey tower. The remaining sides of the courtyard were enclosed by a curtain wall. The castle's name, like the other Newark Castles across the UK, derives from 'New Work', a New Castle. Over the years the castle has also been known as Inverie Castle, St Monans Castle and St Monance Castle.
By the sixteenth century the castle had passed into the hands of Sir James Sandiland of Cruivie. It was perhaps he or his descendants who expanded the East Range and added a circular tower in the north-east corner. In 1649 the Sandilands found themselves in debt and sold Newark Castle to David Leslie. He had been the commander of the Scottish Covenanter forces that invaded England in 1644 in support of Parliament and had fought distinguished actions at Marston Moor (1644) and Philiphaugh (1645). When relations between Parliament and Scotland soured, he was defeated at the battles of Dunbar (1650) and Worcester (1651) ultimately ending up as a prisoner in the Tower of London. He was released in 1660 upon the restoration of Charles II and was made Baron Newark by the new King. He lived at the castle until his death in 1682 and seemingly made extensive modifications to the property including heightening the East Range by an additional storey.
The castle continued to be used as a residence until the nineteenth century when it was finally abandoned and allowed to drift into ruin. Some of the surrounding buildings have been completely lost to the sea whilst modifications made in the eighteenth and nineteenth century to improve habitability have resulted in collapse of parts of the main structure.
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Newark Castle has suffered badly from coastal erosion and only a portion of the East Range and the dovecote survive. The ruins are in a dangerous condition and public access to the interior, whilst possible, is not recommended.
Newark Castle. The castle occupied a promontory surrounded on three sides by cliffs.
Tower House. The tower formed part of the East Range and originally stood five storeys tall.
Newark Castle is located on the Fife Coastal Path around half a mile south-west of St Monans. Note that the ruins of Ardross Castle can be found a little under a mile further along the coastal path. The car parking option shown below is for visitors also visiting the church.
Parking Option (St Monans)
Parking Option (Elie)