PORTENCROSS CASTLE Location – OS map 63 (NS 176-488)
Portencross castle is about 2 miles west of West Kilbride, on minor road west of the B7048 at Portencross, on the shore of the Firth of Clyde.
The Property belonged to the Ross family. Their adherence to the Comyns in the Wars of Independence caused Robert the Bruce to give the property and lands to the Boyds of Kilmarnock. Robert II and Robert III used the castle as a stopover point on their frequent journeys to Rothsey Castle on the Isle of Bute. The Boyds retained Portencross until 1785 when it passed to the Fullertons of Overton. A gale destroyed the roof in 1739. A recent attempt by the owners to sell the property for restoration was blocked by a group of locals who wanted to "retain their picturesque ruin". Deterioration continues.
The castle stands on a rock that is lapped by the tide. It is an altered 15th century keep of three storeys and a garret. It was originally rectangular in plan but a tall four-storey wing was added at one end. The parapet was corbelled out. The original and later structures have their own entrances, these are at right angles to each other in the re-entrant angle.
The entrance to the main block leads to a vaulted basement, which contained the kitchen. A straight stair within the walling leads to the first floor hall this is also vaulted and has had an entresol floor at the base of the vaulting. A turnpike stair has been created in the wall between the main block and the later wing. The upper parts of the building are ruinous.
Law Castle - before & after restoration
LAW CASTLE Location – OS map 63 (NS 211-484)
The castle sits high on the side of Law Hill with views over the village of West Kilbride and across the Firth of Clyde. It is about 0.5 miles north-east of West Kilbride on minor road east of the B7047 near its junction with the B781.
The Castle was a property of the Boyd family. One of whom married Mary the daughter of James II, and became Earl of Arran, but later with the fall of the Boyd`s he had to flee the country. The Bontine family bought the castle in 1690. A full restoration program has been underway in recent years and is almost complete.
This is a 15th century keep, rectangular on plan with four stories and an attic. The corbelled-out parapet has been restored and has open rounds. The walls are pierced by gun loops.
The basement is vaulted and contains two cellars, one with a stair to the hall above. The hall, on the first floor, has a screened-off kitchen with a wide fireplace. There is a turnpike stair in one corner.
CLONBEITH CASTLE Location – OS map 63 (NS 338-455)
Clonbeith is to be found about 3 miles north-east of Kilwinning, on minor road south of the B778, north of the Lugton Water. The remains of Clonbeith castle are surrounded by the buildings of a working dairy farm.
Clonbeith was a property of the Cunningham family. Cunningham of Clonbeith murdered the Montgomery 4th Earl of Eglinton in 1596 during a feud. He was pursued and cut to pieces. The property was sold to the Montgomery Earl of Eglinton in 1717.
Little remains of the 16th century tower house of Clonbeith. The walls rise to just above head height or to the level of where the first floor started. An entrance doorway with decorative carving remains in the centre of the front wall. Above the door the semi-circular corbelling, that supported a turnpike stair, protrudes.
There is little remaining evidence of internal features.
Aiket Castle - restored around 1979
AIKET CASTLE Location – OS map 63 (NS 388-488)
Aiket stands about 4 miles south-east of Beith, on minor roads between the B706 and the B778, just north of the Glazert Burn, two miles south-west of Dunlop.
The lands were owned by the Cunningham family from the end of the 15th century or earlier. One of the family, Alexander Cunningham, took part in the murder of Hugh Montgomery the 4th Earl of Eglinton, in 1596. Cunningham was himself shot dead near Aiket soon afterwards by the kinsmen of Montgomery. The property passed to the Dunlop family at the beginning of the 18th century, and was later used to house farm labourers until it was destroyed by fire in the 1960`s. The restoration of Aiket started around 1979 and is now a fine example of a Scottish lairdly residence.
Aiket as we see it today is a 16th century tower house of four storeys, to which have been added later extensions. On one corner there is a stairtower, corbelled out at first floor level. It terminates in a conical roof. The tower has corbiestepped gables but does not appear to have had a parapet. The walls are harled and limewashed.
KILMAURS PLACE Location – OS map 70 (NS 412-411)
The Place or Palace of Kilmaurs is situated about 2.5 miles north of Kilmarnock on a minor road east of the A735, south of the B751, and just south of the Irvine Water. It is on the east side of Kilmaurs village.
Kilmaurs was a property of the Cunningham family from the 13th century, after they had helped Alexander III to win the battle of Largs, against the Vikings, in 1263. In 1413 William Cunningham the Lord of Kilmaurs, endowed a collegiate church at Kilmaurs. The family became Earls of Glencairn in 1488.
Kilmaurs today is a T-plan house, dating from 1620. It has been much altered with the insertion of larger windows. The gables are corbiestepped with the walls harled and lime washed. An adjacent building shows the ruins of an earlier fortified structure. This has had a vaulted basement, some of which has been restored and incorporated into the 17th century house.
MAUCHLINE CASTLE Location – OS map 70 (NS 496-273)
The keep stands in the centre of Mauchline town. On minor roads between the B743 and the A76, in Castle Street.
The castle was built for Melrose Abbey from which to manage its Ayrshire estates. After the reformation it passed to the Campbells of Loudoun, and was used as a factors house. In the 18th century Robert Burns paid his rent here, and was married in one of the extensions to the keep. The castle is still in reasonable condition.
The castle is an altered 15th century keep, to which has been added a 17th century L-plan wing. Other extensions and alterations were made in 1690, 1800 and 1820. The keep stands beside a stream that still flows below the projecting latrine chutes. The original ground floor door seems to have been close by the stream. A later door with external stair is situated at second floor level. There is a decorative niche above this upper door.
The original ground floor contains two vaulted, interconnected chambers, which were entered directly. Due to ground level changes around the tower these vaults are now below ground level but above the level of the adjacent stream. A turnpike stair rises in one corner and leads to the original great hall. The hall is groin vaulted. This amazing vaulting and the ecclesiastical look of some of the window mouldings give an indication of the original builders. The turnpike stair continues up through the tower but many steps have been destroyed by vandalism. The building shows evidence of the huge stresses being exerted on the walls by the outward push of the hall vaulting. To reduce this pressure the Victorian crenellated parapet has been removed, and the stones have been stored in the basement vaults.
DEAN CASTLE Location – OS map 70 (NS 437-394)
Dean Castle is situated about 1 mile north-east of Kilmarnock, on a minor road east of the B7038, between Fenwick and Craufurdland Water, in Dean Castle Country Park.
The lands were originally held by the Lockharts, then by the Soulis family who had a castle nearby. The Balliols also held the lands but were forfeited by Robert the Bruce during the Wars of Independence. The lands were given to the Boyd family at this time. The Boyd`s built the main keep around 1460, although it may incorporate earlier work. Robert Boyd grasped the guardianship of Scotland during the minority of James III. He practically ruled Scotland from 1466-1469 but later had to flee to Denmark. His brother was executed for treason. William, 10th Lord Boyd, was created Earl of Kilmarnock in 1661. The 4th Earl was a privy councillor to Bonnie Prince Charlie during the Jacobite Rising of 1745. He was Colonel in the Princes Guard, but was captured after the battle of Culloden in 1746 and executed by beheading. The lands were forfeited, but the 5th Earl recovered the estates in 1748. In 1758 he became the 15th Earl of Errol and took the name of Hay. Dean was sold to the Cunningham Earl of Glencairn, then to the Scotts of Balcomie. In 1735 fire gutted the hall block and the castle was abandoned. The castle passed to Lord Howard de Walden in 1828. It was restored from 1905 using material from Balcomie castle. The entire building was donated to the people of Kilmarnock by Lord Howard, in 1975. The castle now houses a museum, containing Armour, weapons and ancient musical instruments. The grounds have been made into a public park.
Dean castle is in excellent condition and consists of a large 14th century keep of three storeys and a garret within a flush parapet. A 15th century palace block, with a square projecting stair tower is crowned by a gabled caphouse. This block has a corbelled-out parapet, and corbiestepped gables. The keep and the palace block are within a courtyard enclosed by a curtain wall. A great deal of reconstruction and restoration has been carried out at Dean. One has to be very careful to identify the 19th / 20th century work from the earlier and original.
The basement of the keep has two vaulted chambers, one a kitchen the other a wine cellar a door has been cut through the outside wall giving direct access to these chambers. They would previously have been reached from first floor level by means of the small turnpike stair that remains within the wall. The main entrance was originally direct to the great hall at first floor level and would have had an external stair. Inside the original doorway there is a small guardroom, and access to the basement stair. The great hall is a large vaulted chamber with stone benches running along the walls. A fine collection of weapons, armour and tapestries are displayed on this floor. A turnpike stair leads to the upper floors and to the parapet. The stair is capped by a corbiestepped caphouse. The second floor contains another hall, and a small chapel. A collection of ancient musical instruments is displayed on this floor.
CAPRINGTON CASTLE Location – OS map 70 (NS 407-363)
Situated about 2 miles south-west of Kilmarnock, on minor roads north of the B7038 and east of the A759, just south of the River Irvine.
The property was owned from 1385 by the Wallaces of Sundrum. They claimed descent from William Wallace. In 1400 the property passed by marriage to the Cunningham family. The Cunninghams were baronets of Nova Scotia from 1669 to 1829. Caprington is still occupied.
On initial examination Caprington appears to be a symmetrical mansion of a late period. In fact the original massive keep forms one complete wing of the present house. The keep dates from at least the 15th century and stands on a rocky outcrop. It had a small stair wing, which was probably added onto the original rectangular keep. Large windows have been pierced through the walls of the keep to match those on the later work, which engulfs much of the keep. An additional wing and further extensions have been added.
There is little visible evidence, of the original internal features of the keep. The turnpike stair that was contained within the external stair tower of the keep is still accessible.
LOUDOUN CASTLE Location – OS map 70 (NS 506-378)
Loudon is situated about 1 mile north of Galston, on minor road east of the A719, about 0.5 miles north of the River Irvine.
Loudoun was a property of the Crawfords in the 14th century, but passed through marriage to the Campbells. John Campbell the Chancellor of Scotland, became Earl of Loudoun in 1641. The castle, which incorporated work from the 15th century, was surrendered to General Monk for Cromwell in 1650 after a siege, during which part of the building was destroyed. In spite of this the Earl took part in an uprising in support of Charles II in 1653. The castle was extended during the 17th century. A later castellated mansion that was built on the site between 1804 and 1811 this engulfed the earlier tower house. The mansion was started by Francis Lord Hastings but he ran out of money. The castle was used by Belgian troops during World War II, and in 1941 was accidentally torched and gutted by fire in 1941. Loudoun is now an impressive ruin and is surrounded by a theme park.
For safety reasons the site within Loudoun Castle Theme Park is fenced off and secure. to protect the paying public. Reasonably close inspection is still possible from within the park. Most of the visible remains are of the later mansion.
Barr Castle - Ayrshire
BARR CASTLE (Ayrshire) Location – OS map 70 (NS 502-365)
Standing in Galston, on minor roads, south of the A719 junction with the B7037, on back streets southeast of the centre.
Barr was a property of the Lockharts. William Wallace is said to have taken refuge in an earlier castle here during the Wars of Independence. John Lockhart of Barr was a strong supporter of the Protestant cause and had George Wishart, who was later martyred, preach here in 1545. John Knox also preached here in 1556. The 9th Lord sold Barr to the Campbells of Cessnock in 1670. The tower later became a Masonic Temple and is now used by and cared for by the Masonic Order.
Barr is a massive 15th century keep of five storeys. It is constructed from red ashlar and stands on a rocky outcrop. The corbels of the original parapet remain and show that the parapet has had open rounds. The walls are complete to this level but an unsightly roof has been placed over the wallhead. Many of the windows are original, they are small and some retain their iron yetts. A small vestibule structure has been added to the side of the tower and encloses the modern access to the turnpike stair. There is no trace of the original courtyard or barmkin walls.
The original door probably gave access directly to the first floor of the vaulted great hall. The modern entrance via the extension leads to the turnpike stair at a level lower than the first floor and above the vaulted basement floor. The great hall has been converted into a Masonic Temple and is in good condition. An ancient door with lock in-situ opens into a mural chamber. There may have been a minstrels gallery above this. The floor above the hall is not vaulted. Its walls are fully panelled. This floor is given over to a museum of local life.
Newmilns Tower - dates from around 1525
NEWMILNS TOWER Location – OS map 70 (NS 536-374)
The tower stands on Castle street, behind the Loudoun Arms on Newmilns main street, near the A71, north of the river Irvine.
Newmilns was a property of the Campbells of Loudoun. Loudon Hill is the prominent rocky outcrop that dominates this upper end of the Irvine valley. From earliest times this has been an important communication route between Edinburgh on the east coast and Ayr on the west. It was by Loudoun Hill that William Wallace gained one of his earliest victories when ambushing an English baggage train. Robert the Bruce also started his campaign to free Scotland by defeating an English Force below Loudoun Hill. It was support for Bruce during the Wars of Independence that led to the granting of these lands to the Campbells. The Tower dates from around 1525 and guarded this strategic throughway. The tower is situated in a sheltered valley with south facing aspects, it was surrounded by orchards and pleasances. After around a century Newmilns had become too small for the ambitious Campbell and was replaced by their larger Loudoun Castle a few miles west. The tower was held by royalist forces during, the troubles of, the 17th century. From here government dragoons would have mounted their search for and persecution of covenanters. The tower was used as a prison to hold captured covenanters. A force led by John Low stormed the tower and liberated the prisoners. Low was killed in the fight. There is a story that government soldiers played football with his head. A marker stone telling of this incident can be seen in the wall that surrounds the tower. The building deteriorated and became used as a store but it survived the neglect to be restored by a local preservation trust.
Newmilns Tower is a small altered 16th century tower house and is rectangular on plan. It has three storeys with a gabled attic within a parapet. The parapet has open rounds at each corner. The corbelling that supported the parapet and the corner rounds is continuous around the wallhead. Two large shot holes are visible at ground floor level. A blank heraldic panel is situated above the south facing arched doorway. This side of the building has two string courses. A latrine chute outlet can be seen at the opposite side.
The, ground floor, door leads directly into a barrel vaulted basement. A well lit turnpike stair rises to service the upper floors. The first floor has a fireplace and an intact mural latrine closet. The iron bars that still cover one window recess are a vestige of the tower being used as a prison. The second floor also has a fireplace and several amburies. This floor also has and intact latrine closet within the walling. The attic retains ancient joists, which may be original. The turnpike rises to give direct access to the parapet. The door to the parapet is set within one of the corbiestepped gables.
SORN CASTLE Location – OS map 70 (NS 548-269)
About 3 miles east of Mauchline, on the river Ayr, south of the B734 on the edge of Sorn village.
The lands belonged to the Kieths of Galston, but passed by marriage to the Hamiltons of Cadzow in 1406, then to the Seatons of Winton. James VI visited the castle, and it was garrisoned against covenanters in the reign of Charles II. Sorn castle was sold to the Campbell Earl of Loudoun about 1680, then to the Somervilles at the end of the 18th century. The current owners are the McIntyre family who have owned the castle since 1900.
Sorn consists of a much altered 14th century keep of three storeys and an attic and stands on a rocky cliff above the river Ayr. The keep was extended in the 16th Century, and was further extended in the 19th century by the addition of a large wing. The original keep has a corbelled out parapet with open rounds. The old and later parts of the building have been finished with matching parapets and crenellations. Internals The 16th century extension contains the kitchen and cellars in the basement. The Hall is on the first floor with private rooms above. The interior of the keep has been greatly altered.
THANKS TO OUR HOSTS
Details here are extracted from –
Nigel Tranter – The Fortified House in Scotland – Volume 5 – South West Scotland
Martin Coventry – The Castles of Scotland - 2nd and 3rd Editions
Mike Salter – The Castles of South West Scotland