History, tourist information, and nearby accommodation
Dunure was one of the major Kennedy strongholds in Carrick. Family tradition says that the Kennedys captured Dunure from the Norwegians following the Norse defeat at the Battle of Largs in 1263. The first written historical record of a Kennedy at Dunure comes from 1357, when John de Kennedy's title to estates at Dunure was confirmed.
In 1429 Dunure was the site of a meeting between John Mhor Macdonald, representing the Lords of the Isles, and James Campbell, acting for King James I, to iron out differences. The meeting broke out in violence and Macdonald was killed. James I had Campbell executed to appease the Macdonalds, but they were not pacified and launched subsequent attacks on royal outposts.
Roasting of the Abbot
Earl Gilbert was an acquisitive man; he used forged documents to seize land from Glenluce Abbey, then had a hired assassin murder the forger, and covered his tracks completely by having the assassin hanged on a false charge of theft. Not a man to cross.
Things got more complicated then, as Lord Kennedy of Bargany, Stewart's brother-in-law, sent his own men into the castle in secret, hoping to rescue the Commendator. The plan was discovered, and the Bargany men were trapped inside the castle.
The Earl's men were gaining the upper hand when Lord Bargany appeared at the head of a band of followers, forcing the Earl to abandon his siege and release the Commendator. As for Allan Stewart, he survived to a ripe old age, though he never walked properly again, and the Earl was never brought to justice for his actions.
The castle had outlived its usefulness as a military fortress by the middle of the 17th century, and gradually fell into decay. Local traditions says that the castle was badly damaged by a fire, but it is equally possible that the castle was slighted during the Civil War period, or its stones robbed by Cromwell's men to help build the citadel at nearby Ayr in 1650. In 1704 the Barony of Dunure passed to Sir Thomas Kennedy of Kirkhill, and the castle has passed through ha direct line of descendants ever since.
Immediately beside the castle ruin stands a conical stone doocot, like a sentinel watching over the castle site. The doocot has space for 200 nesting boxes and probably dates to the 15th century. It would have been essential as a supplementary source of food, providing eggs and meat for castle residents during the lean winter months.
I've been to Dunure several times. It is a fascinating place to explore, though not large. There are several information plaques that explain the history of the site, tell the story of the 'Roasting of the Abbot', and explain the rather jumbled remains of the ruinous interior. The history is fascinating, and the location is superb. Come here as the sun goes dow and see if you don't agree! There is a small parking area beside a playground very close to the castle. In theory this is a paid parking area and you need to be out by sunset, but I've never seen anyone in the kiosk at the gate, and I've never seen it closed.
About Dunure Castle
Address: Dunure, Ayrshire, Scotland, KA7 4LX
Attraction Type: Castle
Location: On the edge of the cliffs at Dunure, easily visible from anywhere in the village. Small parking area nearby. Open access site.
Photo Credit: David Ross and Britain Express
Heritage Rated from 1- 5 (low-exceptional) on historic interest
Culzean Castle - 3.6 miles (Historic House)
Maybole Collegiate Church - 4.8 miles (Historic Church)
Crossraguel Abbey - 4.9 miles (Abbey)
Robert Burns Birthplace Museum - 5.1 miles (Museum)
Souter Johnnie's Cottage - 5.2 miles (Museum)
Bachelors' Club - 13.2 miles (Museum)
Dundonald Castle - 13.6 miles (Castle)
Giants' Graves - 14.1 miles (Prehistoric Site)
Nearest Accommodation to Dunure Castle:
Nearby accommodation is calculated 'as the crow flies' from Dunure Castle. 'Nearest' may involve a long drive up and down glens or, if you are near the coast, may include a ferry ride! Please check the property map to make sure the location is right for you.
Nearest Self Catering Cottages
Nearest Bed and Breakfasts
Tourist Information Centre
Tel: 01292 290 300