The core of the castle is a substantial L-plan tower house assumed to date from the years around 1500. The spiral stair that links all floors is within the small wing projecting from the west end of the north elevation. There is a single entrance at the base of the stair wing.
The tower had four levels of accommodation including a barrel-vaulted ground floor, and there was presumably a garret within the roof space. The latrine closets were concentrated in the west wall, and the lower part of the chute that served them is externally evident in that wall. The parapet wall at the wall head has been lost, but its level is indicated by the corbelling of some of the corner rounds. The stair turret was carried up higher than the main body of the tower, though the wall walk of the tower was extended along its east face, where there are the corbels of a machicolation above the entrance.
Of the other buildings once associated with the tower house, the sole survivor is a small D-shaped tower that can be seen to have been part of a gatehouse to the main courtyard. On its south side are traces of the jamb of a major opening that appears to have had provision for both a door and a yett. The wide-mouthed form of the gun holes in the walls of the gate tower indicate a date for this part of no earlier than the middle decades of the sixteenth century.
The lands of Cairnie were a possession of the Crawford Lindsays from at least 1355, when parts were granted to Lindores Abbey. The castle is thought to have been built by Alexander Lindsay of Auchtermoonzie, uncle of the 6th Earl of Crawford, who succeeded as 7th earl in 1513. As second son of the 4th earl he had had no expectations of succeeding to the earldom until the death of his nephew at Flodden, and he had evidently provided with a separate patrimony based on Moonzie, with its residence at Lordscairnie.
Having been abandoned for occupation by the seventeenth century, the hall of the castle is said to have been used for worship by an Episcopal congregation, following the abolition of episcopacy in the established Church. It was evidently later put to agricultural uses.
The tower is substantially complete to the wall head, albeit with the loss of the basement vaults and of many of the dressings at lower levels. The ground floor windows of the north face have been externally enlarged, presumably in connection with post-domestic-occupation agricultural use.
The areas displaying greatest evidence of distress are the window openings of the south face, where the external dressings have been lost and the fragmentary rear-arches are showing signs of movement.
The possibility of restoring Lordscairnie for occupation has been under consideration for a number of years, and some documentary, archaeological and topographical research has already been undertaken to test the viability of doing so.
J Gifford, The Buildings of Scotland, Fife, London, 1988, pp 315-6
New Statistical Account of Scotland, vol 9, Edinburgh, 1845, p 789
Royal Commission on the Ancient Monuments of Scotland, Inventory of Fife, Kinross and Clackmannan, Edinburgh, 1933, p. 215