St David’s Castle may once have stood on a promontory within what is now Dalgety Bay, however nothing of it remains and there is little documentary evidence relating to it.
The site is strategically-important, controlling access to St. David’s Harbour immediately to its west and also offering extensive views along and across the River Forth to Barnbougle Castle.
The early maps of Scotland don’t show the castle and initially I wondered if it could have previously been known by another name, however the only other castles marked in the vicinity of Dalgety Bay on the Gordons’ and Blaeu’s mid-17th century maps of Fife are Letham and Spencerfield.
The St David in question is thought to be David I, King of Scotland between 1124 and 1153 and the son of St Margaret. David is credited with the introduction of feudalism to Scotland and was responsible for building or rebuilding many important castles. It may be that a castle here was built by David and originally known by another name but later colloquially become known as St David’s Castle, although there isn’t any specific evidence for this.
In 1752 Sir Robert Henderson of Fordell bought some land, presumably from James Stuart, 8th Earl of Moray, on the south coast of Fife in order to build a harbour at St. David’s to serve his coal pits inland to the north. The development consisted of a north and south pier enclosing a harbour. The southernmost pier was an extension of a natural promontory.
The first appearance of the castle, and indeed the settlement of St. David’s, on a map comes on Ainslie’s map of Fife published in 1775.
It has been suggested that the “Castle” marked on the map may refer to the name of a rock rather than an actual castle although there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that this is the case. It has also been suggested that St David’s Castle may be the name of a ship wrecked on this site before the mid-18th century although this appears to be pure speculation and I haven’t been able to find a shipwreck in this area matching the name.
The Fordel Castle Inn, later to become the Fordell Arms, was later built on or near the site of the castle, one of a series of buildings to be constructed on the pier. By 1959 the pub and the village were derelict and incorporated into a shipbreaker’s yard.
Around 1962 work began on the construction of the modern town of Dalgety Bay which eventually led to St. David’s being cleared away around 1980 and in the following two decades the town’s western expansion led to residential properties being built on the site of the old village. The promontory and pier still exist but have not been built upon.
Alternative names for St David's Castle
St Davie's Castle