Click for Bookshop

Culzean Castle

A historical perspective, drawn from the Ordnance Gazetteer of Scotland: A Survey of Scottish Topography, Statistical, Biographical and Historical, edited by Francis H. Groome and originally published in parts by Thomas C. Jack, Grange Publishing Works, Edinburgh between 1882 and 1885.

This edition is copyright © The Editors of the Gazetteer for Scotland, 2002-2016.

It has taken much time and money to make the six-volumes of Groome's text freely accessible. Please help us continue and develop by making a donation. If only one out of every ten people who view this page gave £5 or $10, the project would be self-sustaining. Sadly less than one in thirty-thousand contribute, so please give what you can.

Use the tabs on the right of this page to see other parts of this entry Arrow

Colzean Castle, the principal seat of the Marquis of Ailsa and Earl of Cassillis, in Kirkoswald parish, Ayrshire, 4¼ miles W of Maybole. It stands near the verge of a basaltic cliff that rises 100 feet from Colzean Bay, and it was built in 1777 and following years after designs by Robert Adam. A magnificent castellated edifice, it commands a brilliant prospect of the Firth of Clyde, with a full view of Ailsa Craig, 15 miles to the south-westward; its entire buildings cover no less than 4 acres of ground; and landward it is engirt with beautiful terraced gardens and a large finely-wooded park. Near the castle, and directly under some of the buildings, are the Coves of Colzean. These coves or caves are six in number. Of the three towards the W, the largest has its entry as low as high- water mark; the roof is 50 feet high, and looks as though two huge rocks had fallen together, forming a Gothic arch. With varying breadth, it extends for about 200 feet, and communicates with the other two, which are both much smaller but of the same irregular shape. The coves to the E likewise communicate with one another, and have much the same height and figure as the former. For two things the Coves are famous, one, that soon after the Revolution they gave shelter to Sir Archibald Kennedy, the Covenanters' foe; the other, that in 1634 there was ` in them either a notable imposture or most strange and much-tobe-admired footsteps and impressions which are here to be seen of men, children, dogs, coneys, and divers other creatures. These here conceived to be spirits, and if there be no such thing but an elaborate practice to deceive, they do most impudently betray the truth; for one of this knight's sons and another Galloway gentleman affirmed unto me that all the footsteps have been put out and buried in sand overnight, and have been observed to be renewed next morning. 'The original castle of Colzean,' ane proper house with very brave yards, ' was built by that Sir Thomas Kennedy, younger son of Gilbert, third Earl of Cassillis, who was murdered near Ayr in 1602, at the instigation of Mure of Auchendrane. Sir William Brereton, a Cheshire gentleman, whose Travels we have already quoted, describes it as ' a pretty pleasant-seated house or castle, which looks full upon the main sea. Hereunto we went, and there found no hall, only a dining-room or hall, a fair room, and almost as large as the whole pile, but very sluttishly kept, unswept, dishes, trenchers, and wooden cups, thrown up and down, and the room very nasty and unsavoury. ' By the death without issue of the eighth Earl of Cassillis in 1759, the murdered Sir Thomas's namesake and sixth descendant succeeded to the earldom, whereto was added the marquisate of Ailsa in 1831. Arch. Kennedy, present and third marquis, and fourteenth earl (b. 1847; suc. 1870), owns 76,015 acres in the shire, valued at £35,839 per annum.—Ord. Sur-, sh. 14,1863.

An accompanying 19th C. Ordnance Survey map is available, or use the map tab to the right of this page.

Note: This text has been made available using a process of scanning and optical character recognition. Despite manual checking, some typographical errors may remain. Please remember this description dates from the 1880s; names may have changed, administrative divisions will certainly be different and there are known to be occasional errors of fact in the original text, which we have not corrected because we wish to maintain its integrity. This information is provided subject to our standard disclaimer

If you have found this information useful please consider making
a donation to help maintain and improve this resource. More info...

By using our site you agree to accept cookies, which help us serve you better