Crail Priory Doocot


Completion Date:


Building owner/client:

Crail Preservation Society

Architect or lead designer:

Simpson & Brown

Local Authority Area:


Nominating Body:

Crail Preservation Society

Project Description

Crail Doocot is a beehive shaped, A-Listed, 16th Century Doocot. It originally supplied meat and eggs to the priories of St Andrews or Haddington. Both had land in Crail. The doocot was first partially restored in 1962, when a non-porous coat of cement was used, causing the structure to saturate with water.
Four years ago Crail Preservation Society (CPS) raised £135,000 to completely restore the doocot and to make public access easy and safe. Funding was partly by CPS funds, raised by the community, and society reserves, assisted by grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Environment Scotland (HES). Simpson & Brown, were the architects, along with Addyman Archaeology and with appropriate advice from HES, to complete the refurbishment proposals.
These included stripping off the old cement coat, drying the structure out and repairing the ‘saddle and trough’ sandstone roof and flight access holes before applying a lime mortar harling and several coats of lime wash. Internally, all the nesting boxes were cleaned out and repaired. A new, locally sourced oak potence – a revolving ladder to access the nesting boxes – was reinstated based on evidence gathered by Addyman Archaeology during archaeological excavations, combined with research carried out by Simpson & Brown’s Heritage team. A new mesh floor and lighting were installed to improve accessibility and make it safer for visitors. A new access path with an interpretation board to explain the history of the doocot was provided with external lighting. The doocot is accessible to the public daily throughout the year.

Supporting Statement

The Priory Doocot is unusual in an area of Fife where there are many doocots, but circular beehive shaped ones are rare. This is an excellent example of a circular beehive doocot. It is situated on one of the principal paths from the village to Crail’s largest beach, Roome Bay. It has become part of the tourist experience of visiting Crail and visitor numbers during the first 9 months of opening already often exceed 30 per day. Visitor numbers are recorded.
Crail Primary School children were involved with the archaeological dig, which exposed some interesting artefacts. Unfortunately, these had little monetary value! The school children were involved throughout the process.
CPS carried out the work to make the Doocot accessible to all. A new entrance pathway with an external interpretation signboard giving the history/explanation of the doocot were created along with an internal interpretation board. The information boards have Q code access which provides more detailed information about Crail Priory Doocot and doocots in general. There are links to other Q codes that give access to other A-Listed historic buildings providing a linked route for visitors to Crail. The Society intend that there should be local tourist information provided inside.
The doocot was formally opened by The Lord Lyon, King of Arms in May 2019 during a visit to Crail which was a real civic success. During his visit the Lord Lyon and local children took part in a tree planting ceremony on adjacent land. His visit made a memorable and enjoyable day for Crail and its people.
The doocot is open to the public at set times every day throughout the year, with automatic lighting, sound and door locking aiding this goal. A donation box is yielding a steady income stream towards the upkeep of the Doocot.
CPS website has full photographic journal of the works and is an excellent way of understanding the parts of the Doocot that are not easily seen. The Doocot is linked to the other historic elements in Crail.