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St Andrews Castle today a picturesque ruin, but once played a very important role in Scotland's History. Located within a very short walk from the town centre, the castle is situated on a rocky promontory overlooking Castle Sands and the North Sea.. It was the main residence of the bishops and archbishops of St Andrews, the focal point of the Church in Scotland during the Middle Ages. The first castle was built here at the end of the 12th century.
During the Scottish Wars of Independence 1296 to 1314, between the Scots and the English, St Andrews Castle was destroyed several times, changing hands on a number of occasions. The castle we see today dates back to about 1400.
St Andrews Castle was home to King James I of Scotland (1406-1437) when he received part of his education from Bishop Henry Wardlaw, the founder of St Andrews University in 1410. In 1445 the castle was the birthplace of King James III of Scotland.
St Andrews Castle has a "bottle dungeon" shaped like a bottle, cut out of solid rock below the north-west tower (it can still be seen today). During the Scottish Reformation, 1543 to 1560, the castle became a centre of religious persecution and controversy. John Knox, wrote of the bottle dungeon, "Many of God's Children were imprisoned here."
Scottish Protestants gained entry to St Andrews Castle in May 26 1546 disguised as masons overcoming the garrison, and murdering Cardinal Beaton. They took refuge in the castle and formed the first Protestant congregation in Scotland. A long siege then followed with a mine being dug by the attackers and a successful counter-mine dug by the defenders, both mine and counter-mine were cut through solid rock. They remain open to the public today.
St Andrews Castle was rebuilt in 1571, the office of the bishop was increasingly
St Andrews Castle and grounds are now maintained by Historic Scotland, entry is via a visitor centre with displays on the castle's history. Some of the best surviving carved fragments from the castle are displayed in the centre, which also has a shop.
St Andrews Castle is open all year round, times do vary.