Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

The four phases of Ardrossan Castle

Ardrossan Castle

Ardrossan Castle, another of those, all too familiar, neglected castles

Like many west of Scotland sites, Ardrossan has been shamefully ignored in castle literature.

The name means a 'small high promotory' and this matches the site exactly.

There appear to be four main phases.

Ardrossan Castle 1

Fig 1: Blocked up gate passage with the different  building phases marked. 

Phase 1 is characterised by large blocks of grey sandstone and consists of a massive 'gatehouse keep' with curtain walls extending to the precipice edge. Evidence would suggest a construction date in the late 13th to early 14th century. The gatehouse block (50' x 35') has a chamfered plinth and a wall 11 ft in thickness. Part of the ground floor is taken up by a tall vaulted passage with doors at either end, the bar holes for which are visible. The gatehouse is unique in that it not only controls the entrance but was also the main residence.

Phase 2 is represented by major rebuilding from the first floor up using red sandstone blocks. The original castle must have suffered severe damage, probably as a result of the Wars of Independence. The battlement of this stage can be seen encased in later masonry with its parapet flush with the outer wall surface. A merlon and a drainage shoot can be made out. The gate passage continued in use and housed a winch for a portcullis. A similar rebuilding took place at the nearby Dundonald Castle.

Phase 3: The entrance was blocked up and a narrow door inserted. At the same time the building was heightened and turned in into a dedicated tower house. A handsome stone fireplace together with a window and stone benches were added to the chambers above the defunct passage. Simultaneously a vaulted block with vertical gunloops was built to the rear of the tower. This overlay the levelled primary curtain wall.

Phase 4: The door in the tower was walled up and a gun-loop inserted.

Ardrossan Castle Fireplace

Fig 1: 15thC fireplace

In 1689 Ardrossan is described as being in ruin.

In 1296 Godfrey de Ardrossan swore fealty to King Edward I but it cannot have done him much good as soon afterwards the castle was in the hands of an English family installed by Edward himself. The successors to Godfrey, Fergus and his brother Robert, were imprisoned in Corfe and Rochester Castles respectively and Edward, when petitioned, refused to release them. After Bannockburn the family of Ardrossan regained their lands. It would be reasonable to assume that either Edward (not known for his forgiving nature) or King Robert was responsible for the castle's destruction.

Ardrossan Castle Gunloop

Fig 2: double door blocking, draw bar slot and inserted gun port

Ardrossan Castle arrow slit

Fig 3: vaulted kitchen range - note keyhole gun loop overlooking the seaward approach

Picture descriptions

(1) The gatehouse range with the blocked up entrance
(2) 15th century fireplace.
(3) Interior of blocked passage with bar hole; inserted door and later gun-loop.
(4) The late vaulted range with gun slit.

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle

Added: 02 Apr 2012 Updated: 28 Mar 2018
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