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Dunure Castle

Dunure Castle is located on the west coast of Scotland, in South Ayrshire, about 5 miles (8.0 km) south of Ayr and close to the village of Dunure. Today the castle stands in ruins on a rocky promontory on the Carrick coast, overlooking the small harbour of Dunure. The site dates from the late 13th century; the earliest charter for the lands dating from 1256, but the remains of the building are of 15th- and 16th-century origin. One tradition is that the castle was built by the Danes and another states that the Mackinnons held the castle from Alexander III, as a reward for their valour at the Battle of Largs.

The castle is the point of origin of the Kennedys of Carrick, who once ruled over much of south western Scotland and were granted the lands in 1357. Sir James Balfour described Dunure as a grate and pleasand stronge housse, the most ancient habitation of the surname of Kennedy, Lairds of Dunure, now Earles of Cassiles.  This family should not be confused with the renowned American Kennedy family which came from Co. Wexford in Ireland. In August 1563, Mary, Queen of Scots, visited the castle for three days during her third progress round the west of the country. The Celtic name Dunure or Dunoure is said to derive from the "hill" or "fort of the yew tree". In 1570, a dispute arose between Gilbert Kennedy, 4th Earl of Cassilis, and Allan Stewart, the succeeding lay Commendator of Crossraguel Abbey over the ownership of some of the abbey lands and their rental income.

The Earl's uncle was Quintin Kennedy, the last true abbot of Crossraguel. It was Quintin who challenged John Knox to a debate on the Catholic Mass. Gilbert had expected to secure the Commendatorship, however Allan obtained it through the influence of his relative, Captain James Stewart of Cardonald. Gilbert, with sixteen men, caught Allan Stewart unawares in Crossraguel Woods whilst a guest of the Laird of Bargany, and tricked him into journeying to Dunure. At the castle he was deprived of his horse and weapons and guarded by six of the Earl's men. For two days Gilbert left the commendator to consider his fate and because he was obstinate and refused to sign over the lands and rentals he tortured him twice, roasting and basting his feet and body over a brazier in the Black Vault of the castle, aided bizarrely by his cook, baker and pantrymen. As a result of the torture sessions of the first and seventh days of September 1570, the lands were signed over to Gilbert.

The Commendator was rescued from his confinement by the Laird of Bargany, Allan's brother in law, who arrived with a body of men; first hiding in the chapel and then storming the castle. The rights to the abbey lands were settled, partly by the Earl providing Allen Stewart with sufficient funds to allow him to live 'comfortably' for the rest of his life. In the meantime he had been taken to the Cross of Ayr where he had denounced the Earl of Cassillis. The Earl however was never fully brought to book for his actions by the Privy Council and Allen Stewart never walked again. Castle and estate of Dunure, together with Dalquharran, were purchased by Sir Thomas Kennedy of Kirkhill in the late 17th century.

The present day castle has been excavated and consolidated, making safe the public access to the area. The castle dominates the Kennedy Park, which has a number of facilities for visitors. There are also said to be secret Ley tunnels which connect Dunure Castle to Greenan Castle further north.

Brendan Roy Clouston of Dunure is the Baron of Dunure (2009) as registered with the Lord Lyon King of Arms.

Ref: DP352

Gallery: Buildings

Dunure Castle


South Ayrshire.


United Kingdom

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