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Castle - Mine and Counter-Mine
Going down the mine, while very safe,
is not a visit for the claustrophobic. At this point
at the bottom of the mine it is spacious, but the countermine
is a low-roofed scramble and the entrance to the mine at the top
of the ladder is a tight fit for anyone over 200 lbs. The mine
is cool and damp, any excess water being removed via the pump
at the foot of the ladder.
During the seige of the castle by the Earl of Arran in 1546
- 1547. The French / Catholic attackers dug a seige mine in an
attempt to (literally) undermine the foundations of the castle.
The idea was to remove a large quantity of supporting rock from
under the foundation, while supporting the roof of the mine with
timber. When sufficient rock had been removed, the timbers would
be set on fire and thus become unable to support the weight of
the wall and foundations. This was very hard and dangerous work,
especially in St. Andrews where the mining was done by pick axe
through solid rock.
The technique for this type of seige was
well known. There having been a good
example of its use in the seige of Rochester castle in the early
The defenders of St. Andrews castle
were well aware of the mining attempt, and dug a counter-mine
to try to intercept the attacking mine. Guided by the sound of
the attackers digging, and racing for time against the attack,
their counter mine was much smaller and branched off in different
erroneous directions. Eventually the two mines met at the top
of the ladder in the picture above.
The defenders' counter-mine (upper left) was
small and cramped. The attackers' mine (centre and right) was
Illustration: Historic Scotland
The mine was re-discovered in 1879 when
the foundations for a house, across the street from the castle,
were being installed.
Entrance to the mine is via the counter-mine
from within the castle grounds. The fact that the entrance is
outside the walls of the castle, gives credence to the theory
of there being an outer defensive position on the castle side
of the defensive (dry) moat.
The entrance to the mine is in the
foreground, the house where the mine was discovered while building
foundations, is in the background.