Castle Tours: A peek into our history

Here, we take a closer look at the history of the castle, and what stories may be discovered inside…

We usually offer castle tours weekly through our summer months, unfortunately COVID-19 has prevented us from doing that this summer! Please follow us on Facebook for all updates. 

Kelburn Castle is probably best known for its walls. The Graffiti Project caused a debate back in 2007, when it was revealed the 10th Earl of Glasgow had allowed the castle walls to be graffitied by four Brazilian artists. Now, it’s loved by people from across the world and has been named as one of the world’s top 10 examples of street art – on a par with Banksy’s work in Los Angeles and the Favela Morro Da Providencia in Rio de Janeiro.

Once you get past the loud but temporary mural, it’s clear to see that the historic house still remains packed full of heritage and tradition…

A games table with empty chairs. There's a bookcase against the wall, filled with antique books.

Kelburn Castle is one of the oldest castles in Scotland to have been in the continuous ownership of one family. The Boyle family, who arrived in Britain from Normandy as supporters of William the Conqueror, has inhabited the Kelburn grounds since the 12th century.

The castle is thought to have been built in the 13th century and, although no one knows the exact date of the first stone laid, the castle was there during the Battle of Largs, which was fought between the Scots and the Norwegians in 1263.

It is true to say, that the history of the castle is really the history of the Boyle family. A tour of the castle opens you up to 800 years of Boyle family history, and an insight to both historic and present Kelburn life.

In 1703, David Boyle, the then Lord Boyle of Kelburn, was made the first Earl of Glasgow. The Earl was one of the officials who supported the Treaty of Union, uniting England and Scotland into the Kingdom of Great Britain.

The 6th Earl of Glasgow ran up huge debts building churches all over Scotland, including the church in Millport, on the island of Cumbrae. The church today is recognised as one of Scotland’s most cherished and most important historical buildings.

The 7th Earl of Glasgow, who was made Governor of New Zealand in 1892, provides the links between the Kelburn Estate and Kelburn in New Zealand. Many of his souvenirs still reside at the castle, and in the Estate’s Museum. A tour of the castle will reveal an extremely rare Kiwi feather cloak, and preserved birds from the New Zealand bush, including a Morepork, a Shining Cuckoo and even a Kiwi!

The 10th Earl of Glasgow, Patrick Boyle, and his family still reside at the castle. It was Lord Glasgow’s decision to open the estate to the public in 1977, transforming the grounds and outhouses into play areas, a café, gift shop, etc, and also allowing access to the castle for tours!

Kelburn Castle tours launch Saturday 13th July 2019, running twice daily until September. Each tour lasts approximately one hour, and costs £4 (excluding entrance fee to the grounds). For more information about the tours and the castle, please look here.