Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Dalquharran Castle

Dalquharran Castle in Ayrshire is a castellated mansion designed by the great Robert Adam built between 1795-1780. His client was his niece's husband, Thomas Kennedy of Dunure. The Dalquharran estate can be traced back to the 14th century and the ruins of an earlier castle still lie within the policies. The Dalquharran estate was bought in the late 17th century by Sir Robert Kennedy, Lord Provost of Edinburgh and ancestor of Adam's patron. The old castle remained inhabited until  Robert Adam's mansion was completed, and after that it was allowed to fall into ruin, and provide a picturesque illustration of the Kennedy's ancient lineage.

Dalquharran Castle was not the first example of Adam's castle style in Ayrshire, nearby Culzean Castle was started in 1776. His ideas for Dalquharran began after a visit to the site in which he produced a  sketch that showed a castle overlooking the old castle and the Girvan Water, a design for a mansion that was conceived as an arresting feature in the landscape.

Adam's design for the castle was finished by 1785. The plan of  is a classical arrangement of central entrance hall and staircase. The wooden paneling in the hall survives, now fashionably distressed. Many rooms retain wooden lath and plaster on the walls.

 The top lit stairwell contains a spiral cantilevered staircase of great elegance, even in its present degraded condition.

The servants staircase was concealed in a turret.

The south facing drawing room had magnificent views across the Girvan Water valley.

Dalquharran was four storeys high, with the east wing having an oval dining room on the ground floor while the west wing had an apse ended bedroom and dressing room. The shape of the dining room inserted into the interior by means of walls of varying thickness illustrates Adam's concern to maintain the external symmetry of the mansion. The two top floors were used for bedrooms while the room at the top of the south turret was the library, with its lost fixtures designed by Adam himself. 

The basement provided the service accommodation. The blue and cream tiles indicate where the cooker used to be.

Work at Dalquharran was still ongoing at the time of Robert Adam's death in 1792. The castle passed by descent through the Kennedy family until the grandson of Robert Kennedy, Francis Thomas Romilly Kennedy  decided to enlarge the mansion in 1880 with the addition of wings to the north-east and to the south-west. This was to increase the number of bedrooms, necessary  as Kennedy and his wife had nine children.

 However the cost of the building left the family almost bankrupt and they moved out of Dalquharran in 1890 and let the estate for hunting and fishing. After nearly fifty years of being let to tenants the Kennedy family finally sold up. Until WW2 it was used as a youth hostel. During the war it was sold again to the Stewart family who lived there until 1967 when they had the roof removed, to avoid the payment of property rates. Dalquharran  Castle is now a complete ruin although the external stonework is still in poignantly good condition.