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Culzean Castle (Cullean Castle) (Coif Castle) (House of Cove)

  • Earlier Houses: There was at least one earlier house on, or near, the site of the current house.

    House & Family History: Perched on 150-foot-high cliffs overlooking the Firth of Clyde, Culzean Castle was the home of the Kennedy family from the 14th to the 20th centuries. The core of today's castle is probably a 15th century tower house that has been repeatedly added to and altered over the centuries. The architect who made the most changes, and left the castle primarily as it is today, was Robert Adam, Scotland's greatest architect, who rebuilt the house between 1777 and 1792 for David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis. Around 1700 the six-year-old Scipio Kennedy, from Guinea, West Africa, was sold to Captain Andrew Douglas. Scipio served as a slave under the captain's daughter, Jean, who was the wife of Sir John Kennedy, 2nd Bt., of Culzean. In 1725 Scipio was given his freedom and continued to work for the Kennedy family at Culzean. He married in 1728, had many children, and died in 1774 (in Kirkoswald Old Church graveyard there is a stone commemorating Scipio that was erected by one of his sons; it's unlikely that his remains are in the graveyard). The Kennedys derived a great deal of their income from smuggling, which became inconvenient and uncomfortable when the government began more wide-ranging prosecution against smugglers (it wouldn't have looked good for a noble family to be seen to be involved in an illegal activity); thus, the family turned to the more respectable (and legal) slave trade to replace the income lost from smuggling. After hundreds of years of ownership, Charles Kennedy, 5th Marquess of Ailsa, donated Culzean to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945, with the proviso that the top floor of the castle be given to General Dwight Eisenhower for use during his lifetime as a thank you gift from the Scottish people for the general's part in saving Europe from fascism during World War II. Eisenhower visited the Culzean four times, once hosting the royal family at the castle. He also visited while he was president of the United States and supposedly said that Culzean was one of the few places where he could relax. The Culzean Estate is the most-visited site owned by the NTS, adding to its appeal is the claim that the castle is home to seven different ghosts, including a serving girl and a mad piper.

    Comments: Situated high on a cliff overlooking the sea, in what may be the finest position of any country house in Britain, Culzean is generally considered Robert Adam’s masterpiece.

  • Garden & Outbuildings: Culzean is considered one of the most important surviving Picturesque landscapes in Scotland. The 300-acre estate features over 40 outbuildings, including the ruined arch, the viaduct, the ice house, the camellia house, the pagoda, and one of the largest and oldest kitchen gardens in Scotland (it has fruit trees that have been here since the early 18th century). Beneath the castle are a number of sea caves that were used for smuggling in the 18th century (there is limited access to the caves during the summer, when tours are given). Parts of the former Culzean Estate were used in 1969 to create Scotland's first country park. Not owned by the National Trust for Scotland, this huge park is open to the public every day and includes three miles of coastline.

  • Architect: Wardrop & Reid

    Date: 1877
    Designed: Nursery Wing

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    Architect: Robert Adam

    Date: 1777-92
    Designed: Extended House and remodeled House for 10th Earl of Cassillis

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    Architect: Robert Lugar

    Date: Ante 1823
    Designed: Cottage and Pheasantry for 12th Earl of Cassilis

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  • John Bernard (J.B.) Burke, published under the title of A Visitation of the Seats and Arms of the Noblemen and Gentlemen of Great Britain and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. II, p. 128, 1853.

    John Preston (J.P.) Neale, published under the title of Views of the Seats of Noblemen and Gentlemen in England, Wales, Scotland, and Ireland, among other titles: Vol. VI, 1823. Scotland, 1830.

    Country Life: XXXVIII, 328, 360 plan, 1915. XCVIII, 956 plan, 1945.

  • Title: Culzean Castle Guidebook - 2003
    Author: NA
    Year Published: 2003
    Reference: pgs. 2,
    Publisher: Edinburgh: The National Trust for Scotland
    ISBN: 0901625795
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Magnificent Castle of Culzean and the Kennedy Family, The
    Author: Moss, Michael
    Year Published: 2002
    Reference: pgs. 196
    Publisher: Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press
    ISBN: 078461723X
    Book Type: Softback

    Title: Scotland in Trust (magazine)
    Author: NA
    Year Published: NA
    Reference: Spring 2003, pg. 63
    Publisher: Edinburgh: The National Trust for Scotland
    ISBN: NA
    Book Type: Magazine

    Title: Biographical Dictionary of British Architects, 1600-1840, A - SOFTBACK
    Author: Colvin, Howard
    Year Published: 1995
    Reference: pgs. 60, 626
    Publisher: New Haven: Yale University Press
    ISBN: 0300072074
    Book Type: Softback

  • House Listed: Category A

    Park Listed: Outstanding

  • "The Wicker Man" (1973 - as Lord Summerisle's island mansion). "Treasure Hunt" (1985 - TV game show, episode 3.10, "Ayrshire"). "The Last Musketeer" (2000 - TV movie). "Pyaar Ishq Aur Mohabbat" (2001). "Building of Britain" (2002 - TV documentary series). "Most Haunted" (2002 - TV documentary, episode 1.9). "Les Liaisons Dangereuses" [aka "Dangerous Liaisons"] (2003 - TV mini series). "Most Haunted Unseen" (2004 - TV documentary, episode 1.9). "The Queen" (2006 - as parts of Balmoral Castle). "The Little Couple" (2016 - TLC mini series). "Antiques Roadshow" (2021 - BBC TV series).
  • Past Seat / Home of: David Kennedy, 1st Earl of Cassilis, until 1513; Gilbert Kennedy, 2nd Earl of Cassilis, 1513-27; Gilbert Kennedy, 3rd Earl of Cassilis, 1527-58; Gilbert Kennedy, 4th Earl of Cassilis, 1558-76; John Kennedy, 5th Earl of Cassilis, 1576-1615; John Kennedy, 6th Earl of Cassilis, 1615-68; John Kennedy, 7th Earl of Cassilis, 1668-1701; John Kennedy, 8th Earl of Cassilis, 1701-59; Sir Thomas Kennedy, 4th Baronet and 9th Earl of Cassilis, 1762-75; David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, 1775-92; Archibald Kennedy, 11th Earl of Cassilis, 1792-94; Archibald Kennedy, 12th Earl of Cassilis and 1st Marquess of Ailsa, 1794-1846; Archibald Kennedy, 2nd Marquess of Ailsa, 1846-70; Archibald Kennedy, 3rd Marquess of Ailsa, 1870-1938; Archibald Kennedy, 4th Marquess of Ailsa, 1938-43; Charles Kennedy, 5th Marquess of Ailsa, 1943-45; Kennedy family here from the late 14th century until 1945.

    Current Ownership Type: The National Trust for Scotland

    Primary Current Ownership Use: Visitor Attraction

    Ownership Details: Since 1945 owned by the National Trust for Scotland

  • House Open to Public: Yes

    Phone: 01655-884-455

    Email: [email protected]

    Website: https://www.nts.org.uk

    Awards: Sandford Award 2004.

    Historic Houses Member: No