Culzean Castle

Culzean Castle is a castle near Maybole, Carrick, on the Ayrshire coast of Scotland. It is the former home of the Marquess of Alisa, the chief of Clan Kennedy, but is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland. The clifftop castle lies within the Culzean Castle Country Park and is opened to the public. Since 1987, an illustration of the castle has featured on the reverse side of five pound notes issued by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Culzean Castle was constructed as an L-plan castle by order of the 10th Earl of Cassilis. He instructed the architect Robert Adam to rebuild a previous, but more basic, structure into a fine country house to be the seat of his earldom.

Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

                                             Culzean Castle, Ayrshire, Scotland

The castle was built in stages between 1777 and 1792. It incorporates a large drum tower with a circular saloon inside (which overlooks the sea), a grand oval staircase and a suite of well-appointed apartments.

In 1945, the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland (thus avoiding inheritance tax). In doing so, they stipulated that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States. An Eisenhower exhibition occupies one of the rooms, with mementoes of his lifetime.

The castle re-opened in April 2011 after a refurbishment funded by a gift in the will of American millionaire William Lindsay to the National Trust for Scotland. Lindsay, who had never visited Scotland, requested that a significant portion of his $4 million go towards Culzean. Lindsay was reportedly interested in Eisenhower’s holidays at the castle.

Culzean Castle received 220,000 visitors in 2013, making it the National Trust for Scotland’s second-most popular property.

Culzean Castle and gardens

Culzean Castle and gardens

To the north of the castle is a bay containing the Gas House, which provided town gas for the castle up until 1940. This group of buildings consists of the Gas Manager’s house (now containing an exhibition on William Murdoch), the Retort House and the remains of the gasometer.

There are sea caves beneath the castle which are currently not open generally, but are open for tours throughout the summer.

Culzean Castle is used as the castle of Lord Summersisle (played by Christoper Lee) in the 1973 cult film The Wicker Man. The scenes here were filmed in February 1972.
Culzean Castle was featured in the PBS documentary series
Castles of Scotland in 1997.

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Dunure Castle

Ayrshire is one of my favourite destinations and I strongly recommend visiting the ruins of the castle and Ayrshire in general. When I saw this very old castle for the first time and the place itself I was very impressed. The beautiful beach is full of rocks and there is also a tiny harbour. Additionally, the landscape on the way to Ayrshire is stunning. The best time to come is in the early morning on Spring or Summer day, of course I mean sunny day, which is not that easy in Scotland but to make an effort and get up in the early morning to get there, is worthwhile. The light of the rising sun seen on the fields and hills with the sheep and the sea behind them is breathtaking. I was there many times but only once in the early morning and that was the best time ever.

Dunure Castle is located on the west coast of Scotland, in South Ayrshire, about 5 miles south of Ayr and close to the village of Dunure. Today the castle stands in ruins on a rocky promontory on the Carrick coast, overlooking the small harbour of Dunure.

The site dates from the late 13th century; the earliest charter for the lands dating from 1256, but the remains of the building are of 15th- and 16th-century origin. One tradition is that the castle was built by the Danes and another states that the Mackinnons held the castle from Alexander III as a reward for their valour at the Battle of Largs.

Dunure Castle

Dunure Castle

The castle is the point of origin of the Kennedys of Carrick, who once ruled over much of south western Scotland and were granted the lands in 1357. Sir James Balfour described Dunure as a grate and pleasand stronge housse, the most ancient habitation of the surname of Kennedy, Lairds of Dunure, now Earles of Cassiles.

The Celtic name Dunure or Dunoure is said to derive from the “hill” or “fort of the yew tree”.

The castle consisted of two distinct parts; a keep of an irregular shape on the top of a precipitous rock and other buildings at a lower level. The keep walls are about five feet thick and the vaults on the basement are well preserved, however most of the superstructure is entirely demolished. The keep represents the original castle, much altered. The central portion of the castle may be 15th century and was intended to form a defence to the access into the keep. The additional buildings are of a later date and contain two kitchens on the ground level, one for the castle and the other for the retainers. To the north-east stands a detached wall which may have led to a gateway. A drawbridge may have stood nearby and the chapel may have been located against the thick wall of the central part of the castle. A moat or fosse protected the approach and a wall may have also existed.

Beneath the castle is a cavern, called the Browney’s Cave which may have been a sally-port; a secret tunnel leading to the castle.

Ruins of Dunure Castle, Scotland

Ruins of Dunure Castle, Scotland

In 1429 a meeting took place at Dunure between James Campbell, representing King James I of Scotland and John Mor MacDonald, representing the Lord of the Isles. Violence broke out and MacDonald was killed. James I’s efforts to contain the outrage of the Lords of the Isles by executing Campbell did not prevent a subsequent uprising by them. For three days from 4 August 1563, Mary, Queen of Scots, stayed at Dunure Castle on her Royal tour down the west coast to Glenluce Abbey then on to Whithorn Priory. She was the guest of Gilbert Kennedy, the 4th Earl of Cassilis.


The castle has been excavated and consolidated, making safe the public access to the area. The castle dominates the Kennedy Park, which has a number of facilities for visitors. There are also said to be secret Ley tunnels which connect Dunure Castle to Greenan Castle further north.