Loudoun Castle

A grand castellated mansion which now forms a substantial and atmospheric ruin amongst parkland overlooking the River Irvine, Loudoun Castle is located ¾ mile (1.25 km) north of Galston and 2 miles (3 km) west of Newmilns in East Ayrshire. Built 1804-11 for Flora Mure Campbell, Countess of Loudoun and Marchioness of Hastings (1780 - 1840), the house was the work of Archibald Elliot (1761 - 1823), although it is thought that James (1732-94) and Robert Adam (1728-92) were influential in the design. Known as the Windsor of Scotland, it comprised ninety rooms and included a 10,000-volume library, although the intended scheme was never entirely completed because the family ran out of money. This 19th-century structure was constructed around a four-storey keep, built by Crawfords of Loudoun in the 15th century, with walls which were at least 1.8m (6 feet) thick. In turn, this had replaced Arclowdon Castle, that lay a half-mile (1 km) to the east, and which was home to Sir Hugh de Crawford of Loudoun, maternal grandfather of the patriot William Wallace (1273 - 1305). This earlier structure was most-likely visited by Robert the Bruce (1274 - 1329), who had defeated the English at nearby Loudoun Hill in 1307. The property passed by marriage to the Campbells but the ancient castle was destroyed by the Kennedy clan under the Earl of Cassillis in the 15th century and only a motte remains.

John Campbell, who was Chancellor of Scotland, was created Earl of Loudoun in 1641 and set about extending Loudoun Castle about this time. In 1650, it was besieged, badly damaged and eventually captured by General Monk (1608-70) on behalf of Cromwell. In the early 18th century Hugh Campbell, the 3rd Earl, made improvements to the castle and laid out the parkland landscape.

One of William Wallace's swords was a treasured family possession and hung on the east wall of the entrance hall of the castle until it was sold by auction in 1930. During the Second World War, Loudoun Castle was used to house Belgian troops until, on the 1st December 1941, it was accidentally destroyed by a fire which started in the first-floor library. Members of the family, who had been asleep on the ground-floor, were able to escape without injury.

The castle is said to be haunted by a 'Grey Lady', although she is thought to be a benign spirit. In the policies are further ghosts: a phantom piper, a hunting dog with glowing eyes, and a benevolent monk, said to wish anyone who comes within earshot Pax Vobiscum or 'peace be with you'.

The Loudoun Castle Theme Park lies adjacent but this closed in 2010. A Yew tree in the grounds is reputed to be over 800 years old.

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