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Scottish Doocots

Scotland call dovecotes 'Doocots' and with its many castles and large estates, Scotland at one time had a vast number of them.

Doocots arrived during Norman times with many built into castles and other large stately residences. By the 15th century they were considered a valuable property of powerful landowners and an act of Parliament in 1424 was the first to specifically mention them. They were functional buildings housing pigeons/doves as a source of food, but there were other benefits, and detail on this and more background on their history can be found in our lead article, Dovecots.

Dunure Castle Doocot and Castle Ruins, Ayrshire -
16th century 'beehive' amongst the castle ruins, although the doocot has survived.
Photo by G Laird

Early free standing purpose built doocots in Scotland are of a "beehive" shape, circular in plan and tapering up to a domed roof with a circular opening at the top. In the late 16th century they were superseded by the "lectern" type, rectangular with a monopitch roof sloping fairly steeply usually in a southerly direction.

Phantasie Beehive Doocot, East Lothian
Photo by Lisa Jarvis

Phantassie Doocot at Preston Mill in East Lothian is an unusual example of the beehive type topped with a monopitch roof, and Finavon Doocot in Angus is of the lectern style and is the largest doocot in Scotland, with 2,400 nesting boxes. The lectern style doocot at Tantallon Castle in East Lothian is all the remains of the buildings that would have been originally in the outer bailey of the castle.

The earliest surviving doocots date from the 16th century with the oldest standing in the gardens of Mertoun House, at St Boswells in Roxburghshire dating from 1576. On some estates it existing structures were sometimes converted in to a doocot such as the Melville Doocot in Fife which had a previous life as a windmill. They were built in Scotland well into the 18th century in increasingly decorative forms, then the need for them died out, though some continued to be incorporated into farm buildings as ornamental features. 

Pitmuies Doocot Angus Photo by Dr Richard Murray

Nearly all Scottish Doocots are built of local stone and a typical beehive style can accommodate around 500 birds, whilst the largest lectern type can hold well over 2000. Access for the birds into a beehive doocot is normally via louvered vents, and in the lectern type there are small arched openings. For more details on how they were built, materials used and internal layouts, see Dovecote Construction.

Dirleton Castle Beehive Doocot, East Lothian 
Photo by Dr Richard Murray

Scottish Mytholoy

There was a belief that the destruction of a doocot would be followed within a year by the death of a family member. Or another similar version states that the destruction of a doocot will mean the death of the lady of the house within a year - a fact that might explain the survival of doocots even though the house/castle to which they belonged has long disappeared.

Finavon Doocot, Angus.
Lectern Style and the largest doocot in Scotland with 2400 nest boxes

Photo by Dominic Paterson

The 20th century saw a revival of doocot construction by pigeon fanciers in Scotland, and dramatic towers clad in black or green painted corrugated iron can still be found on wasteland near housing estates in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

Over 300 of the early doocots still remain, although some are now in quite a lot of ruin, but of those that have managed to survive Fife has about a third of them, around 100, and East Lothian is particularly rich in them having a similar number and Aberdeenshire is next having 62. We have not so far identified all of them, but those we have can be found in Doocots in Scotland,   and from here you can link to those we have location guides for.


See Also

Doocots in Scotland


Dovecote Construction


By: Tracey Park Section: Heritage Section Key:
Page Ref: scottish_Doocots Topic: Dovecots  Last Updated: 09/2010

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