Spring found us in ‘The Machars’ thanks to former SCA Chair, Janet Brennan, together with her husband John.
Previously an unrestored tower sold to its present owners, Janet and John Brennan, in 1999, Barholm Castle was restored to 21st century habitable condition between 2003 and the end of 2005.
Barholm - restored between 2003 - 2005
Structural evidence suggests that this was originally a low rectangular tower with its entrance on the first floor, probably dating from the late 15th or early 16th century. The L-plan conversion, incorporating a ground floor main door and turnpike stair (as well as increasing the overall height) probably dates from the late 16th century. The layout comprises a vaulted basement, the great hall with a notably large fireplace on the first floor and family and servants’ rooms above; there is a small vaulted cap-house at the top of the spiral staircase with the vaulting suggesting that the parapet above may have been used for a fire beacon.
Castle of St John
St Johns - an L-plan tower built around 1510
This L-plan tower was built around 1510 with an additional main floor and attic being added around 1600. Early in the 19th century it became the local prison. The Victorian buildings surrounding the castle were demolished in the 1970s and it became part of the town museum in the late 1980s. The building was of a conventional layout with a double vaulted basement comprising two levels of storage. Above this was the great hall and then two levels of family rooms and attic accommodation for the servants. Conversion to a prison resulted in the original gabled roof being removed to facilitate the building of an exercise yard at roof level for the prisoners.
Lochnaw - a square 15th century tower and courtyard with an adjoining 17th century mansion
Lochnaw comprises a square 15th century tower and courtyard with an adjoining 17th century mansion. Further additions from the early 18th and 19th centuries created two further sides of the courtyard. Some of these additions have been demolished but the rest of the castle is in a splendid state.
This L-plan tower was built between 1547 and 1570 for Gilbert Agnew. It is not known when it was abandoned, but a Wigtownshire map of 1782 indicates that it was then in ruins. The exterior is reasonably intact to roof height and has crowstep gables. There is a turnpike staircase giving access to the living areas and a vaulted cellar with what appears to be a small fireplace. The great hall has a large fireplace and gives access to a second narrow turnpike staircase which leads to one of the second level bed chambers.
Galdenoch - L-plan tower built between 1547 and 1570 for Gilbert Agnew
Galdenoch is totally neglected and cries out for restoration.
The tower was built around 1607 by John Kennedy of Casssillis. The whole of the original ground floor was vaulted although this has now partially collapsed. The main block comprised four storeys and an attic with seven storey towers on either side. Castle Kennedy was accidentally gutted by fire in in 1716 and has remained a ruin since then.
Castle Kennedy was built around 1607 by John Kennedy of Casssillis
The ruins of Castle Kennedy stand in beautiful gardens which are open to the public.
A compact 16th century rectangular tower. The building was restored early last century.
Craigcaffie - a compact 16th century rectangular tower restored early last century
It is rectangular in form, rising to three stories with crowstep gables and with an internal turnpike stairway. There is a vaulted basement on the ground floor. Above is the main hall with a moulded fireplace and a small side chamber and above this are the family rooms and garret.
Castle of Park
This L-plan tower was described as being newly built in 1599 but is perhaps earlier.
Park - an L-plan tower described as being newly built in 1599 but is perhaps earlier
Externally the building rises to four storeys with a steep roof, crowstep gables and a massive chimney head. Internally the structure is typical of a tower house with a turnpike stairway, vaulted chambers on the ground floor, the great hall above and bedrooms above again.
An original doorway at the Castle of Park
By the 20th century it had fallen into serious disrepair until taken in hand by the Ministry of Works and latterly the Landmark Trust for use as a holiday let.
Sorbie is a mid 16th century L-plan tower house built by the Hannay family. It is shown on the Blaeu Pont map as ‘Soirbuy’ (meaning dwelling amid swamps). It was abandoned in 1748 and fell into a state of serious ruin until consolidated by Clan Hannay in recent years.
Sorbie Tower was abandoned in 1748 and fell into a state of serious ruin until consolidated by Clan Hannay in recent years
This tower is significantly larger than many others in the area. It has a conventional layout but the enormous five metre wide kitchen fireplace and the squared scale-and-platt staircase between the ground level and the first floor are unusual. Access to the upper floors is by a conventional wheel staircase corbelled out at the re-entrant angle.
The remains of a rectangular 12th century motte lies in the grounds of Sorbie Castle
A few hundred yards from the tower are the remains of a rectangular 12th century motte.
Ravenstone Castle originates from the 15th century
Originating from the 15th century, the L-plan tower at the heart of this complex was built around 1600. There were extensive additions in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. The property was unroofed after the last war. Around 2000, Ravenstone was purchased by the present owners who have worked hard to make the core building habitable.
Cassencarie Castle was unroofed after the last war and is now in a dangerous state
Originating from the 15th century, the L-plan tower at the heart of this complex was built around 1600 by a branch of the Kennedy Family. The tower from around 1600 was relatively large and of conventional layout. Enlargements made around 1675 involved filling in of the L-structure and providing an external stair to a first floor main entrance. Further developments took place in the 18th and 19th centuries. The building was unroofed after the last war and is now in a dangerous state. A caravan park occupies the grounds.
This rectangular tower is incorporated in a much larger complex. The original tower was constructed in 1506 by a member of the Gordons of Lochinvar.
Craichlaw Tower was constructed in 1506 by a member of the Gordons of Lochinvar
It was greatly enlarged in the early 18th century. In 1846-7, as part of the remodeling of the whole complex, the ruinous tower underwent substantial reconstruction and is now used as an entrance hall.
The lands of Baldoon were gifted by James V to Archibald Dunbar around 1530.
Only the S wall of the castle remains, it is around 1m thick, 20m long and almost 8m high, suggesting a large overall structure. The remains are incorporated in a farm complex.
Baldoon Castle - the handsome 17th century entrance gateposts are worthy of note.
Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle