Dalquharran Castle by Craig Sturgeon
Located in Ayrshire, Dalquharran as you see it today, dates from the 18th century and was designed by noted architect Robert Adam (1728 – 1792). The lands of Dalquharran have been traced back as far as the early 14th century, and the extensive ruins of a large, earlier castle still exist within the grounds, known as Old Dalquharran Castle. This was a Castle of some repute, having been extended in the late 18th century and then purchased soon after, along with the estate of Dalquharran, by Sir Thomas Kennedy of Kirkhill, Lord Provost of Edinburgh. The castle remained inhabited until the 1700’s, by which time it had passed into the hands of a descendant of Kennedy of Kirkhill, and Adam’s patron, Thomas Kennedy of Dunmore.
Dalquharran Castle is regarded as one of the most impressive examples of Robert Adam’s Castle Style. Situated on the North bank of Girvan Water in Ayrshire, the castle was originally commissioned by the husband of Adam’s niece, Thomas Kennedy of Dunure. Adam’s Castle Style was already firmly established in the Ayrshire area, through the nearby Culzean Castle, started in 1776. The commission for Dalquharran came five years later, in 1781, during which time Adam had built several Castle Style mansions, and designed many more. The castle was inhabited as recently as 1967, but was unroofed to allow the then owners to avoid payment of rates. It is now a ruin, with only the masonry shell remaining intact.
When commissioned to work at Dalquharran, Adam considered both renovating Old Dalquharran Castle with his Castle Style and the construction of a new castle overlooking the original. Adam’s Castle Style designs often included ruins as part of the landscape, to enhance a picturesque setting and the heriditary links of the owners to the site and its history. often, if no suitable ruin existed, one was designed, such as at Mellerstain. In this case, once the new building was inhabitable Old Dalquharran Castle was allowed to fall into ruin. alquharran Castle was passed down through the Kennedy family, and in 1880 the grandson of Thomas Kennedy, Francis Thomas Romilly Kennedy, made the decision to extend the castle. He employed an Edinburgh architectural firm that specialised in the Scottish Baronial style, Wardrop and Reid, to add wings to both the North West and South East sides of Dalquharran.
This was to accommodate bedrooms, as Kennedy and his wife produced a family of nine children. The work was completed at great expense, leaving the Kennedy family almost bankrupt, and by 1890, the family are known to have left Dalquharran for alternative lodgings, and were leasing the castle and it’s lands as a hunting and fishing estate. The castle had several tenants over the next 45 years, whilst staying in the hands of the Kennedy family. Eventually, the castle and the estate were put up for auction. It was bought by a Timber Merchant from Troon, who set about stripping the timber from the estate and who leased the castle to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association. Dalquharran remained a youth hostel until the Second World War, when the Langside School for the Deaf, evacuated from Glasgow, moved in. During the war, the Castle and lands were sold to one John Stewart, a produce merchant from Girvan, who later moved into Dalquharran with his family, and farmed the estate. The Stewart family co-habited the house with friends, but still the house proved too large and expensive to maintain, and was abandoned.
There have been plans to turn the ruin into a 5 star Hotel with an adjacent golf course over the years but we are still waiting for that to happen.