There was a castle at Dunipace as early as the mid-12th century, and almost certainly earlier. Nothing now remains of it but the motte on which it stood.
In a document from 1163, Pope Alexander III wrote to Geoffrey, the Abbot of Dunfermline, and mentions “the chapel of the castle of Dunipace”. The most likely location for this castle is on one of the Hills of Dunipace. These small hills, frequently referred to as natural mounds, certainly fit the model of mottes, and look as if they have been enhanced and sculpted by man.
Whether the castle was on the smaller or the larger hill is unclear. The smaller hill has the look of a classic 11th century motte, measuring around 60m in diameter and rising to a height of 20m.
While the larger hill, with its elongated summit, looks more suited to a more extensive motte and bailey castle of the 12th and 13th centuries.
It may be that there was an early wooden tower on the small hill, followed later by a stone castle on the larger hill. But that is just speculation on my part, and I have yet to find any evidence for it.
Some time between 1178 and 1195 Gilbert de Umfraville, an Anglo-Norman baron who later became the Earl of Angus, gifted two oxgangs (around 40 acres) of land at Dunipace to the Abbey of Cambuskenneth. He had previously given the Abbey “the land lying on the west side of the river, which descends by the three stones to the brow of the hill of St Alexander, and along the summit of that hill to the church of St Alexander”.
The lands at Dunipace remained the property of the Abbey for the next 305 years, until the Abbot of Cambuskenneth granted “the Kirklands of Dunipace and St. Alexander’s Chapel” to Alexander Livingston in 1495. It is tempting to speculate that it was at this time that the new Dunipace Castle was built, rendering the old motte surplus to requirements.