Kenmure 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.

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Kenmure Castle, a seat in Kells parish, Kirkcudbrightshire, 5 furlongs above the head of Loch Ken, and ¾ mile S by E of New Galloway. It stands on a high, round, isolated mount, which, till one observes the rock that crops out on its S side, might be taken for artificial; and it seems of old to have been surrounded by a fosse, supplied with water from the river Ken. Approached by a noble lime-tree avenue, and engirt by well-wooded policies and gardens with stately beech hedges, it forms a conspicuous feature in one of the finest landscapes in the South of Scotland. The oldest portion, roofless and clad with ivy, exhibits the architecture of the 13th or 14th, but the main building appears to belong to the 17th, century. The interior is interesting, with its winding staircases, mysterious passages, and heirloom collection of Jacobite relics and portraits - the sixth Viscount Kenmure (painted by Kneller in the Tower of London), Queen Mary, James VI. (by Zuccaro), 'Young Lochinvar' (by Lely?), etc. When or by whom the original portion of the pile was built, is a matter not known. In early times, and even at a comparatively recent date, it suffered much from the ravages of war, having been burned both in the reign of Mary and during the administration of Cromwell. Originally, it is said to have been a seat or stronghold of the Lords of Galloway; and John Baliol is reported to have made it his frequent residence, nay even to have been born within its walls. On the other hand, the lands of Kenmure and Lochinvar are said to have been acquired in 1297 from John de Maxwell by Sir Adam Gordon, whose sixth descendant was the first Earl of Huntly (see Gordon Castle), whilst his tenth, in the younger line, was created Viscount Kenmure. Thus the Gordons of Lochinvar or Kenmure claimed strictly the same stock as the Gordons of the north; and, after settling down at Kenmure, they gradually acquired, by grant, purchase, or marriage, the greater part of Kirkcudbrightshire. They were distinguished by the confidence of, and their attachment to, the Stuart sovereigns. Sir John Gordon of Lochinvar was a steadfast adherent of Mary, and ran serious hazards in her cause. In 1633 his grandson, Sir John Gordon (1599-1634), was raised by Charles I. to the peerage under the title of Viscount Kenmure. This nobleman combined attachment to the house of Stuart with unflinching fidelity in the profession of the Presbyterian religion; and, much as he is known for the honours conferred upon him by Charles, he is greatly better known for his intimacy with John Welsh and Samuel Rutherford. In 1715, William, the sixth Viscount, took an active part in the Rebellion, and next year was beheaded on Tower Hill in London, entailing upon his family the forfeiture of the title. His descendants, however, having bought back the estates from the Crown, endeavoured, by serving in the army, to atone for their ancestor's error, and distinguished themselves by patriotic concern for the interests of their tenants, and for the general welfare; and, in 1824, they were restored by act of parliament to their ancient honours in the person of John Gordon (1750-1840), the forfeited Viscount's grandson. He was succeeded by his nephew, Adam, a naval officer, who displayed great gallantry on the American lakes during the war of 1813, and at whose death in 1847 the peerage became extinct. Kenmure Castle passed to his sister, the Hon. Mrs Bellamy-Gordon, owner of 14,093 acres in the shire, valued at £4230 per annum. John Lowe (1750-98), the author of Mary's Dream, was a son of the gardener at Kenmure Castle, at which Queen Mary is said to have rested in the course of her flight from Langside, and which was visited once by Robert Burns.—Ord. Sur., sh. 9, 1863. See pp. 163, 174-177 of M. Harper's Rambles in Galloway (1876); and p. 302 of R. Chambers' Popular Rhymes of Scotland (edn. 1870).

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

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