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Scotland Culzean Castle, Ayrshire

Culzean Castle is a dramatic setting on the cliffs overlooking the Firth of Clyde.


The present building is C18th and was built as a status symbol for the Kennedy family, one of the oldest clans in Scotland, whose ancestry that can be traced back to Robert the Bruce. Designed by Robert Adam, it incorporated parts of a C16th tower house which had been built on the site of an older castle, Coif Castle.
The 9th Earl of Cassillis, had begun to modernise the tower house. He died without a male heir and the estate passed to his brother, David Kennedy. He was a barrister and MP and, on assuming the title of the Earl of Cassillis, asked Robert Adam, the most fashionable architect of the time, to transform his boyhood home into a house worthy of his new status. It was designed to look like a castle but with a country house feel. Building began in 1777 and was eventually completed in 1792. Adam was also responsible for designing other buildings on the estate including the Home Farm. It was a massive undertaking and, when the 10th Earl died in1792, he left debts of £60,000, most of which were from the rebuilding of the Castle.

The 10th Earl never married and on his death, the estate passed to a distant cousin who lived in the United States. His descendants, who were also the Marquesses of Ailsa, divided their time between Culzean and London, improving the estate and castle. The 3rd Marquess embarked on a major programme of modernisation and redecoration around 1870. Little had been done to the castle and it was uncomfortable and difficult to heat. This included new rooms for the children, new kitchen and servant’s quarters. The main entrance was enlarged with a new portico. The library and dressing room became a new dining room and the old dining room was turned into a library. Original Adam fixtures were retained when possible and new ones were made in a similar style.


The different stages of building can still be identified. The original tower house is at the centre of the castle surrounded by the 1777 Adam building. The 18790 additions are to the left, and are a slightly different colour stone.

The 4th Marquess had no children and knew his brother couldn’t afford to run the estate. The castle and the estate were given to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945 in lieu of death duties. The family stipulated that the top of the castle be converted into a flat for the use of General Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States.

Now one room is on display as the Eisenhower room. The rest of the top floor is now hotel accommodation.


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The car park is by the Home Farm, which was designed by Robert Adam as a showpiece model farm. As well as housing for the animals and workshops, it contained the estate offices and accommodation for farm workers. It provided food for the house with any surplus being sold locally. It now houses the visitor centre, shop and cafe.



The second hand bookshop is in one of the estate houses.


It is a 10 minute walk to the Castle, reached through a ruined archway, built as a ‘folly’ designed to form a dramatic entrance, with a stone viaduct beyond.



At the far end is a ceremonial archway with the family crest and a courtyard beyond.


To the right is the stable and coach block.


To the right is the castle above the pleasure garden with fountain and flower beds.


Beneath the wall overlooking the sea, is the servant’s walkway, which allowed the servants to approach the castle without being seen.





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Entry into the castle is into the entrance lobby which was part of the 1877 extension and intended to act as a buffer against the strong sea breezes and stop draughts.


Beyond is the main entrance hall and armoury, displaying 716 flintlock pistols, 200+ swords and bayonets. These were purchased as obsolete weapons by the from the Office of Ordinance at the Tower of London by 12th Earl for display. It is now one of the most important collections of weapons in existence.



The propellor above the light fitting came from the plane flown by Leefe Robinson who was the first British pilot to shoot down a German airship during the First World War.


In the corner, a stuffed crocodile forms an umbrella stand.


This leads into the library. This was the original entrance to the tower house and was used as a dining room by the 9th Earl, as it overlooked the terraced gardens. Adam restyled the room with semi-circular ends and plastered the ceiling and walls. The third marquis turned the room into a library and sitting room.





The boat in a display case was made from bone by a French prisoner of war.


The Dining Room was created for the third marquis in 1877 from a library and dressing room, making a large room for entertaining. Many of the furnishings were moved into the new library next door. The ceiling is not plaster, but paper mache and strips of were seeped in glue and allowed to dry slowly. It is a large room with serving area set back in an archway at one end.









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The central oval staircase gives access to the first floor and is inspired solution by Adam to a shortage of space as well as allowing access to all the public rooms. A pillared balcony circles the top of the staircase with a cupola giving extra light.




The round drawing room was completed after Adam’s death and was the main reception room. It is a stunning room with its red carpet, curtains, chairs and plaster ceiling. An outside balcony allowed guests to go outside to enjoy the dramatic views.




Next is the state bedroom which was originally the 10th Duke's bedroom. In the 1820s, along with the rooms on either side, it became the bedroom for important guests. It has Chinese style wallpaper.




The blue drawing room is the first of a series of grand staterooms designed by Robert Adam. The ceiling and fireplace are typical of his work. The walls are covered with silk damask. Guests would gather here for drinks before dinner and ladies to use afterwards.




The long drawing room was originally the great hall of the C16th tower house. Adams referred to it as the ‘picture room’ and it is still used to display many of the castle’s treasures. It has another spledid plaster ceiling and green damask silk wall coverings.





There is a large painting of Culzean Castle




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The long drawing room leads into Lady Ailsa’s Boudoir . This was originally intended to be the ‘best’ bedroom at the end of the formal reception rooms, with a dressing room next to it. When the castle was modernised in 1877, new apartments were added on the other side of the castle. This room was used by the Marchioness as a boudoir.



The dressing room next door contains a crib boat made by the estate workers for the Kennedy children. Behind a glass display case on a table, is the beautiful dressing case given as a wedding present by the third Marquess to his wife.


In the corner is a bath with a built in shower - luxury!


Next to it is the family bedroom


The final room is the Eisenhower Room. At the end of WW2, Eisenhower was gifted the top floor of Culzean Castle as a gesture of thanks for his efforts during the war. For the next 24 years, the floor was available whenever he wanted to visit Scotland. He visited four times as President. The top floor is now a luxury hotel and this small room is set up as a reminder of that and contains objects used by him.




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The back stairs leads down into the kitchens and wash house.


The original kitchen was in a separate building to reduce the risk of fire. It had a very tall ceiling and rounded end. It was in use for nearly 100 years. The area has been restored to what it might have been like in 1818, with walls lined with copper cooking utensils.



The smoke jack roasted meat evenly on all sides. Hot air rising from the fire turned a fan in the chimney flue which turned the pulley attached to the spit holding the meat. Different spits were available for the different types of meat and joints. The oven next to the spit was used for baking.



The stewing stoves arranged around the apse at the end of the kitchen were used to prepare soups, stocks and sauces. They acted much like a barbecue with the ash falling into the arch below


In a corner is the salt box. Heat from the fire stopped the salt from getting damp.


A smaller stove set in an alcove was used to keep food warm.


The bells calling the servants are in the corridor outside the kitchen.


On another wall are the ‘Rules of the House’, intended to remind servants how to behave...



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Culzean Castle Gardens and Estate

The castle is surrounded by 600 acres of woodland and formal gardens, as well as three miles of coastline. Many of the trees on the estate were planted by the first Marquess.

A formal pleasure garden with a fountain, terraces and an orangery was laid out in front of the castle in the C18th.


The walled garden is a 10 minute walk from the castle along the Silver Avenue.


On the left is the deer park added by the third marquess and originally contained ostriches, emu and even a herd of buffalo. This is now a wild flower meadow. On the other side, set back in the trees is the camelia house.


The walled garden produced fruit and vegetables for the estate, as well as flowers for the house. The head gardener had a house provided for him. Under gardeners slept in lean to sheds. It has been carefully restored.


The garden still grows a variety of vegetables.



Plants like French marigolds are grown among the vegetables to deter pests.


Vines and other tender soft fruit were grown in long greenhouses. By 1850, at least 35 varieties of grape were grown and the gardeners were able to supply the castle with grapes for eleven months of the year. The vinery has been fully restored and is again growing grapes.



The walled garden was also intended as a display garden as exotic plants could be grown in the warmth and shelter of the walls.



Herbaceous borders as well as being attractive, provided cut flowers for the house. The flowers are now more important than the food crops.





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