Under King David I in the 12th century, land was granted to Norman barons and churchmen who, in return, exercised feudal power in local bailieries. William the Lion organised these bailieries into the Sheriffdom of Ayr to limit the baron's powers, and Ayrshire came into being. Some of the baronies created established family names that are still important in Ayrshire- the Houison-Craufurds of Craufurdland Castle, the Campbells of Loudoun Castle, the Boyds of Dean Castle, The Mures/Moores (Rowallan), and the Cunninghames (Caprington). Other major landowners included religious orders such as the Franciscans and the Dominicans.
Most of the towers and castles built in Ayrshire date from the 13th to 15th centuries, when the barons were at the height of their military and political powers. Many were decisively involved in national affairs, in particular resistance to Edward the First's advances on Scotland. William Wallace, who has many connections with Riccarton in Kilmarnock ambushed an English convoy at Loudoun Hill in 1297.
The following are just a few of the literally hundreds of Castles and Stately Homes in Ayrshire. Hyperlinks have been included where ever possible and more pictures and information will be added as it is researched.
tower-house near Turnberry Golf Course..
The name Brodick comes from the Norse words, meaning 'broad bay'. Arran means 'peaked island' in Gaelic
The site has been occupied by a stronghold of some kind since the fifth century, when an ancient Irish tribe came over and founded the kingdom of Dalriada. It was probably destroyed and rebuilt many times during its turbulent history. In 1503 the castle and the Earldom of Arran were granted by James IV to his cousin, Lord Hamilton. That structure was demolished in 1544. Parts of the present castle date from the 1588 during the ownership of the 2nd Earl of Arran who was the guardian and regent of Queen Mary.
As the home of the Dukes of Hamilton, the castle was occupied by Cromwellian troops after the first Duke was executed during the Civil War in 1648 and the second died in battle just three years later. Brodick Castle eventually passed into the hands of Mary, Duchess of Montrose (daughter of the 12th Duke of Hamilton) who revitalised the gardens. Since her death in 1957 it has been owned by the National Trust for Scotland.
Robert Adam's castle, built 1772-1790 for David, 10th Earl of Cassillis on a cliff-top site associated with the Kennedy family since the late 14th century, is notable for the Oval Staircase and Circular Saloon. The castle contains a good collection of pictures and 18th-century furniture, together with an armoury, set up in the 19th century. There is an Eisenhower Room recalling the President's links with Scotland. Scotland's first Country Park, created in 1969 and consisting of 228 ha (563 a), contains a wealth of interest from shoreline through the Deer Park, Gas Court, Fountain Court and Swan Pond with exhibition, to mature parklands and gardens. The Ruined Arch, Viaduct, Ice House, beautiful Camellia House and unique Pagoda have all been restored.
Kilmarnock Castle, called after 1700 Dean Castle, was for over 400 years the primary seat of the Boyd family. The castle is located about a mile north of the town of Kilmarnock. The name "Kilmarnock" is an ancient one describing the location of "Marnock's Church." Marnock was a noted early Irish missionary to that area of Scotland. The name "Dean" is an old Scottish term for a wooded glen and is a common place name today.
The earliest part of the castle is a fourteenth century keep, constructed not long after the lands of Kilmarnock and West Kilbride were given by King Robert the Bruce to Sir Robert Boyd as a reward for his faithful service in thick and thin during Bruce's fight for Scottish independence against Edward I and Edward II of England. A fifteenth century addition, the "palace" and its adjoining tower, were built during a period of Boyd ascendancy while Lord Boyd was the guardian of James III.
A 14th Century Tower House built by King Robert II who loved country pursuits and Dundonald became his favourite residence. The Castle, or Tower house to give it a more correct name was built on the site of an earlier castle which had been built by Alexander Fourth Steward of Scotland around 1260; he was the grandfather of Robert II. During work on the Castle by Historic Scotland excavations revealed evidence of earlier structures going back to the Dark Ages. The archaeological dig' exposed foundations of previous buildings on the site which serviced the Castle; e.g. blacksmith, stables and a brewhouse. As you ascend one of the approach paths there is a well which was uncovered during the excavations.
The prominent hill at Dundonald was first occupied well before 2000 BC. Then a hill fort was built between 500 and 200 BC and the site was occupied on and off until about 1000 AD. The hill has not one but three medieval castles built on it, covering a period from the early 12th century to 1647. Three noble families are linked with the place, but it is the castles associations with the Stewart's that gives the castle its special importance. In 1482, the castle and estates were passed to the Cathcart's, and in 1526, it came into ownership of the Wallace's. By the end of the 17th century it was in ruins.
For almost a thousand years the Eglinton's were at the heart of Scottish History, successive Earls participating in the Crusades, the Wars of Independence, the Civil War and many other events which shaped our history. The castle remained the residence of The Earl of Eglinton until around 1929, when the family vacated the estate.
The ruin that now stands is the result of what can only be described as an act of pure vandalism on the part of the Ministry of Defense, who used the then vacant but magnificent building as target practice for tanks and other long range weapons during the second world war.
The gardens and parklands around the castle are open to the public and are a delight to visit.
Loch Doon Castle which dates back to the late 13th or early 14th century, was built on a small island to the south end of Loch Doon. Near Castle Island in 1826 ancient canoes, battle axes and clubs were found indicating an even earlier settlement on the island. There is local legend that Loch Doon Castle gave shelter to Robert the Bruce as he was often in the surrounding district. History later records that the castle was owned by the Kennedy family and was taken from them by William Crauford of Lefnoris in 1511. The Castle was destroyed in the reign of James V.
Rowallan Castle, Nr. Kilmaurs