Dunnikier House, now known as Path House, appears to be an L-plan laird’s house, although it may have earlier origins.
It was built by a John Watson in 1692, and is three storeys in height. The upper floor features dormer windows, and the initials IW (John being spelt Ioannes in Latin), EO (for his wife Euphan Orrock) and the date 1692 are carved on pediments above them.
Watson and his wife seem to have been living here before this date however, as in 1684 they provided land to the north-west of the house as a burial ground for the inhabitants of Dunnikier, suggesting that there was an earlier building.
The earliest map references I can find are on James Gordon’s map of Fife from 1642 which records the name Peithheid, and in Blaeu’s Atlas of Scotland from 1654 (based on Gordon’s map) which shows the symbol for a small tower next to the name Peth-head. This seems to indicate that there was a notable building in Pathhead pre-dating Dunnikier House.
Some time between 1695 and 1703 the house passed to the Oswald family. Early in the 18th century gate piers and a low wall were added in front of the house, and the small rear wing may also have been added at this time.
The Oswalds of Dunnikier, as they became known, were something of a political dynasty, with James Oswald the elder being a politician in Kirkcaldy, dying in 1715. James Oswald the younger also became a politician, and rose to become Lord of the Treasury in 1760.
His son, James Townsend Oswald, succeeded to his father’s seat in the House of Commons, and built the new Dunnikier House (now the Dunnikier House Hotel) further inland around 1790, replacing this, the old Dunnikier House.
In 1891 the house was renovated when it became the manse for Dunnikier Church, and the round tower with conical roof in the re-entrant angle may have been added at this time. A drawing of the house without the tower appears in MacGibbon and Ross’ Castellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland, published in 1892. A dormer pediment matching the originals is situated at the top of the tower, and this must have been removed from the south wall immediately to its right, where the first and second floor windows have been removed and blocked up.
Dunnikier House was renovated again in 1978 by the architects Wheeler and Sproson for Fife Health Board, when it was converted into a nurses’ residence. This involved “total internal replanning and external masonry restoration”. In the 1990s it was converted into the Path House Medical Centre.
Alternative names for Dunnikier House
Dinnikier; Path House; Path House Medical Practice; Pathheid; Peithheid; Peth-head