Scottish Castles Association

Preserving the Past for the Future

"A fair, well-built house" a.k.a Skelmorlie Castle in Ayr

Skelmorie Castle is spectacularly situated on a high ridge overlooking the Firth of Clyde. The castle is no less spectacular. After many vicissitudes, including fire, it is now in a splendid state thanks to its present owner.

Skelmorlie Castle - Tower with 19th century work behind in red sandstone.
Note the large stack of the kitchen chimney top left.

A date of 1502 is generally ascribed to the tower house which forms the core of the mansion but Nigel Tranter suspected that it could be older and its bold appearance could support this hypothesis.

The tower is of red sandstone, oblong, rising through 3 storeys and an attic to a pitched roof where one might have expected to have found a wall walk. The wall head is furnished with turrets whose position would appear to make them slightly awkward of access. There have obviously been alterations at this level ¬– probably in the 17th century.

The basement has vaulted cellars and above is the hall with a grand fireplace uncovered after a fire.The exterior is harled much to its enhancement.

In 1636 there were alterations and additions which included a circular angle tower furnished with gun loops. In 1858 it was incorporated into a large mansion but after a fire much of this was removed and the castle brought to its present state.

In 1600 Skelmorlie was noted as “a fair well-built house with its old fashioned gardens, terrace and shrubbery not to be surpassed in picturesque scenery by any prospect in Britain”. Bold words indeed.

Plan of 1880 depicts ground and first floor levels. The original entrance led to the cellars with a turnpike stair on its right. The stripes show 19th century work which included a new entrance. This, with the enlarged windows and altered wall head are clearly visible in the plate shown below.

skelmorlie plan
Skelmorlie plan diagrams

Article by SCA member Brian McGarrigle.

Added: 12 Nov 2015 Updated: 28 Mar 2018
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