Dunure Castle

Dunure Castle, Ayreshire

~ History ~

1200's - A stone keep is built on the defensive rocky outcrop overlooking the Firth of Clyde.

1357 - The Kennedy's of Carrick are granted lands south of Ayr.

1429 - John Mor MacDonald is killed at Dunure Castle when talks between the MacDonald's and King James I's man James Campbell break out into a vicious fight. King James to distance himself from Mor's murder then executes Campbell. However, the MacDonalds still break out into rebellion, defeating the King's army at Inverlochy Castle.

1509 - David Kennedy is created 1st Earl of Cassillis. He is also referred to by many as the King of Carrick.

1563 - Mary Queen of Scots is entertained at the castle by the 4th Earl, Gilbert Kennedy. Later Gilbert steals further lands of Glunluce by using a Monk to forge the land charter signatures. Soon after the Monk had completed the task he is murdered by a hired assassin. The assassin is in turn arrested and hung by the Kennedy's on a false charge of theft, to further hide their treachery.

1570 - Although Gilbert Kennedy owns most of the land around Dunure, the land of Crossraguel Abbey are under the care of Alan Stewart, the Commeddator for the Abbey. Gilbert decides to force matters to his own ends. Whilst Stewart is walking through the woods near the Abbey, the Earl has his men capture him and return him to Dunure Castle, where he is imprisoned. After letting him languish in his dungeons for a few days the Earl tries to persuade him to hand over the Abbey lands. Stewart refuses. The Earl then orders his servants to take Stewart to a secret chamber known as the Black Vault. Stewart is stripped of his clothes and bound above an open fire. Oil is poured over him so as he will slowly roast, but not burn. When he cries out in pain he is gagged so his screams cannot be heard outside the castle walls. After he is roasted for several hours he is cut down and presented to the Earl. Again he is asked to sign over the Abbey but again he refuses. He is returned for a further period of roasting until his agony forces him to agree to the Earls demands and signs the document transferring the Abbey lands over to him.

The severely burnt Stewart cannot be released until his injuries are healed otherwise the Earls torture would be revealed. He therefore gives orders that Stewart be retained as prisoner of Dunure Castle until his wounds are completely healed.

However, word does get out to the Earls bitter rival, Lord Bargany, who also desires the Abbey lands for himself. He decides to send a small force of his men under darkness to sneak into Dunure Castle by surprise with the help of the Kennedy's page, and rescue the Commendator. The following morning Bargany's men gain control of the castle. Unfortunately the plan goes wrong with his force trapped inside the keep. The Kennedy's then besiege their own castle using the additional buildings as cover to try to mine into the base of the keep. During the siege Lord Bargany's men dismantle some of the battlements dropping them down through the roofs of the lower buildings injuring some of the Earls men. Suddenly, Lord Bargany appears with a large army ensuring Stewart and his men's safe return. The Kennedy's are forced to mediate a settlement regarding the Abbey lands. The tortured Stewart tells of his story of torture at the hands of the Kennedy's at Ayr's Market Cross, denouncing his persecutor to a  indignant population. Earl Gilbert is called before the Privy Council and fined an enormous sum £2000. The document signed under torture is annulled. Later, troubled by a guilty conscience, the Earl pays Stewart an annual pension. A couple of years later the Earls purchases the Abbey lands that he failed to so using torture. Five years later he is thrown from his horse and killed.

1700's - The already ruined and abandoned castle is used as a quarry for building works in the area.


Dunure, 6 miles

South of Ayr





On the bleak west coast of Scotland, perched on a craggy cliff top overlooking Ayr Bay in the Firth of Clyde, stands the rubble ruins of Dunure Catle. The original structure was built before the 13th century, the remains of the castle are of a later period. The castle was the ancient seat of the Kennedy's of Carrick.  The site consists of a shell of a late 13th century oblong keep on the main knoll with the fragmented remains of two additional built on the landward side in the 15th and 16th centuries. Though the keep also had 16th century battlements and bartizans added to it's earlier frame.

Although the castle has been a ruin for at least three hundred years, Dunure Castle was once the Kennedy's most important fortress, though today they are more associated with Culzean Castle, less than four miles down the coast.

Access to the castle is free from a short walk from the car park that over looks the castle. There is little of the castle to explore inside, but it is not until you take an easy climb down to the beach, that you really do get the full effect of the castle silhoutetted against the sky, perched upon the volcanic outcrop of rock with the waves lapping against the shoreline below. A climb down to the beach is an absolute must.