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A Tale of Two Castles - Dalquharran (old and new)


Dalquharran (old) and Dalquharran (new) stand within sight of each other - one a castle of the 15th century and the other a mansion of the 18th. Both are in a sorry state.

Dalquharran 20th
Both Dalquharran Castles are visible in this early 20th century postcard

Dalquharran Castle (original)

The original Dalquharran is an exceptional example of a castellated house of the 15th century occupying a strong position by a river. It has an elongated range whose valulted walls are 5 feet thick. A circular tower projects at its river angle. Defence was provided by multi-corbelled machicolations, key-hole gunloops and a wet moat.

Dalquharran 1789
Dalquharran as it was in 1789

In 1679 it was modernised to become a stately mansion in the Renaissance style. A new wing, with generous fenestration increased the accommodation without loosing its medieval appearance. The grounds were laid out with gardens, bowling greens and ornamental devices appropriate to the times.

In 1790 the castle was abandoned when its last owner, Kennedy of Dunure, moved to a newly built mansion in the then fashionable classical style.

Dalquharran 2009 work
Top: Dalquharran as seen on a SCA visit in 2009
Bottom: Old work to the right and new to the left

The ruins were were scheduled in 1935 but no attemp was made to arrest the decay. The castle is of national importance marking the transition from medieval castle to Renaissance mansion.

Dalquharran Castle (new)

When Kennedy built his new mansion he spared no expense and employed the leading architect of the day, Robert Adam. It was arranged symmetrically around a central entrance with a spiral staircase similar to that at Culzean Castle. The house had 4 floors and an interior decorated in the classical style.

Even this proved to be too small, for in 1880 it was extended by Thomas Kennedy to accommodate his wife and their 9 children.

Dalquharran 1900 rescue
Top: Dalquharran - a grand mansion house in 1900 
Bottom: An attempted rescue in 2009 - during a SCA visit

By 1930 its days of glory were gone and it was sold. It became first a youth hostel, then a school for the deaf and finally abandoned as too large and costly to maintain. The mortal blow fell in 1967 when the lead was stripped from the roof to avoid taxes with the inevitable ruination of the interior. In 1971 the gutted building was listed category A which marks it of national importance.

Since then there have been numerous schemes for its reuse all of which have run into the sand.


Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.


Date posted: 24 Sep 2015Last updated: 24 Sep 2015


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