Scotstarvit Tower is a six storey tower house standing on a saddle between Tarvit Hill and Walton Hill with extensive views north over the River Eden valley and northern Fife. Access is via a track that runs for a quarter of a mile south-west from the A916 some two miles south of Cupar and a similar distance west of Ceres. Vehicles should be left in the pull off on the A916 near the end of the track, or in space within the entrance gates, opposite, to Hill of Tarvit. Arrangements for obtaining a key can be found via the links on this page.
Scotstarvit Tower, also known until the late 1800s as Scotstarvet Tower, was originally built in about 1500s by the Inglis family, who owned large estates in the area. In 1611 they sold the tower and the estates to Sir John Scott, (also sometimes referred to as Sir John Scot).
In the 1620s Sir John and his wife Anne effectively rebuilt the tower, producing a remarkably imposing building, but one whose style was already well out of fashion among those increasingly turning to houses designed for comfort more than for defence. Historians now feel that Scott was trying to erect a status symbol as much as a house, something that helped him pretend to an ancient lineage he didn't really have. Scott was an interesting man, a descendant of the House of Buccleuch, and a man who held high office as Director of Chancery, Lord of Session, and Privy Councillor.
Scott also made his name for two other reasons. The first was as the author of a manuscript (eventually published in 1754) called "The staggering state of the Scots statesmen, for one hundred years, viz. from 1550 to 1650". This was a satire that included sketches of many Scots who held legal or other government positions during the century covered and is thought to reflect Scott's bitterness at losing his offices during Cromwell's occupation of Scotland. More positively, some have claimed that the important survey of Scotland by the mapmaker Timothy Pont only came to be published as part of Blaeu's huge atlas in 1654 because of introductions effected by Scott.
So while Scotstarvit Tower looks for all the world as if it was built with defence alone in mind, from the main door in the angle between stair tower and main building, all the way up to the corbelled parapet walkway complete with gun loops, the reality was rather different. Internally the tower comprises two high tunnel-vaulted levels, each of which would initially have wood-floored entresols or mezzanine levels. Between the upper vaulting and the roof are a further two storeys, making six in all.
By 1696 the estate has passed to the Wemyss family, who built Wemyss Hall on a site half a mile north-east of the tower. As a result Scotstarvit Tower became a secondary residence within the estate. In 1906 Wemyss Hall was replaced by Hill of Tarvit, the smoking room of which was graced with a remarkable decorative fireplace taken from the upper floor of the tower.
Ownership of the tower passed with the Hill of Tarvit mansion house and estate to the National Trust for Scotland in 1948, and Scotstarvit Tower is now cared for by Historic Environment Scotland. A considerable amount of work has been done in recent years to reroof and reglaze the tower and insert some of the entresol floors. The result is an impressive interior and an especially fine parapet walk offering excellent views.
Externally, Scotstarvit Tower is closely hemmed in on its north and west sides by vegetation, making appreciation of it quite difficult: and to its immediate south-east is a bungalow placed, very oddly, within a few feet of the foot of the tower. We assume that this incorporates one or more of the ancillary buildings that must once have accompanied the tower: for although defence was not needed, food was, and the tower itself has no kitchen.