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Caprington Castle (also known as Caprintoun, Cabrington, Capringtoun)


Caprington Castle sits on a rock jutting into the floodplain of the River Irvine just outside Kilmarnock. The designed landscape includes parkland, woodland and a productive walled garden.

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:


Type of Site

A compact early 19th century landscaped park with picturesque features

Location and Setting

Caprington Castle is sited off the A71 on the south-west edge of Kilmarnock and to the south of the River Irvine. There are views into the designed landscape from the A71 to the north. Caprington Castle is set within a small but well wooded, landscaped park, with the River Irvine forming the northern boundary. The castle occupies a slightly elevated position and the ground gently falls away giving views east into the parkland. The land is generally low lying. Kilmarnock is only visible from the upper floors of the castle.

General Roy's Military Survey, 1747-55, confirms that the parkland framework had already been established by the mid 18th century around the castle and Caprington Mains. The earliest known estate plan is by William Crawford, 1778. This again shows the castle complex with its adjoining yards and Chapel Hill to the south which is indicated as being planted. The raison d'être of the landscape lies with the original siting of the castle on a lone rock which forms the top of the rising ground to the south of the river. Chapel Hill obviously provided protection from the south.

By the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1856, the estate had expanded to the south-east with the planting of a picturesque drive and the building of twin west and south-east gate lodges. In recent years the designed landscape has been compromised by the building of a golf course, including a club house and other amenity buildings in the area of the now demolished south-east lodges.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

Caprington Castle, remodelled sometime after 1797, incorporates the late medieval tower house as the south wing of the present day mansion. The architect is thought to be David or John Henderson. The house was recast again in 1829 by Patrick Wilson of Edinburgh with the existing castellated format with terraces, porte cochère and lower rear wing. Wilson also added the attic floor and lookout tower. The arcaded conservatory was added in the 1860s. The West Lodges probably date to the earlier scheme of remodelling. They consist of a pair of one-storey buildings with screen railings. The Stables, possibly contemporary with the West Lodges, comprise a classical courtyard with a centre arched opening. The Walled Garden is late 18th-/early 19th-century with a rubble brick-lined wall and ashlar coping. There is an early 19th-century glass-house on the north wall. The potting sheds have been demolished. To the south-west of the walled garden is the single-storey Gardener's Cottage. The red sandstone Bridge Lodge on the north bank of the River Irvine is single-storey and attic with projecting eaves. The adjacent Bridge has a timber lattice parapet with double-leaf iron gates and lamp standard gate posts. The North Lodge is single-storey grey ashlar construction. The entrance gates and side gates are between flanking gate piers with ball finials. Blacksyke Tower, now within Damhead Golf Course, to the south-east of Caprington Castle, is an industrial 'mock ruin' associated with coal mining in the area. The tower was used to signal for the engine to collect the coal waggons. Caprington Mains, to the west of the stables, is an H-plan steading with attached farmhouse.

Drives and Approaches

Nothing remains of the old approach to the earlier tower house. The west and south-east drives were a result of the 1780 remodelling of the house and were intended to allow more picturesque approaches to the new house. The west drive, reached from a small lane, provides a grand approach with two pill-box lodges, set off by a screen fence and gate piers, with a lime tree avenue behind. The drive proceeds through parkland offering occasional views of the house. A small area of parkland lies to the north of the drive and the picturesque Chapel Brae to the south, bounded on its northern edge by the revetted Todrigs Burn. A secondary drive leads north from the lodges to the stables and the back of the castle. The south-east drive from the B70388 is longer and more picturesquely curving than the west. Once thickly planted it is now very thin. The lodges, now demolished, were similarly arranged to those of the west drive but were early 19th-century. A site near the entrance to the south-east drive is occupied by a golf club house. The golf course lies to the north and to the south of the drive. A third approach to the castle is across the River Irvine to the north where a bridge and gate lodges were erected after the 1st edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1856.


The parkland at Caprington is confined to a relatively small area around the castle and to the area south of Chapel Brae. The main area of parkland to the east of the castle forms a picturesque vista from the entrance front, part-framed on the northern side by an ancient sycamore tree that is possibly 400 years old. This park is roughly shaped like an egg-timer with thick perimeter planting of a deciduous/coniferous mix including species such as Wych elm, lime and Wellingtonia. There is a very marked cattle browsing line to the deciduous trees at the parkland edge which adds to the character of this area. There is also some specimen planting in this area of lime and Copper beech.

The other area of parkland lies on the west approach to the castle which, according to the 1st and 2nd edition OS 1:2500 (25'), 1856 and 1895, was thickly planted, screening the castle from approaching visitors. On reaching the castle, the parkland gives way to a grassy lawn. The parkland to the south of Chapel Brae is undulating and bounded to the south by a belt of perimeter planting.


The woodland belts at Caprington form an important structural element in the estate's designed landscape layout. These have been enhanced and strengthened by the natural landform, particularly Chapel Brae to the south.

The castle sits on a rise surrounded by a burn which forms part of a mill-lade to the south. The burn circles the castle mound before continuing southwards along the drive, and has the same effect as a ha-ha. Following the line of the burn around the mound is a belt of mixed deciduous woodland including recent plantings of poplar.

A belt of mixed woodland, incorporating some new planting of larch and lime lies to the north of the castle alongside the River Irvine.

Chapel Brae includes mature specimens of yew, beech and horse chestnut. As this wood continues south towards the lodges, other species include lime, holly, Rhododendron, and sycamore, bounded by a hawthorn hedge to the north. The belt of perimeter planting beyond the park to the south of Chapel Brae is a mix of coniferous and deciduous around outlying pleasure ground walks.

The Gardens

There are no gardens around the house other than a shrubbery behind the castle and a few herbaceous plants at the base of the building. However, a 19th-century garden exists in the form of a woodland walk to the walled garden following a footpath which crosses the Todrigs Burn to the south-east of the castle. The end of the woodland walk is planted with Irish yews which lead into an open area of lawn beside the walled garden. Here a large, stone-lined, circular pond is now largely silted up. This pond is similar to a brick-lined pond at Duchal House in Renfrewshire.

Walled Garden

The walled garden, to the south-east of the house, is stone-built with a brick lining for fruit growing. Like the glass-house on the north wall, it was probably built at the beginning of the 19th century. It is laid out in traditional 19th-century fashion with a mixture of flowers and vegetables with square beds and axial grass paths between.

Yew hedges with the red Chilean flame flower (Tropaeolum speciosum) twining through them, separate the fruit and vegetable areas from the flower gardens and provide a solid screen. The main axial mixed borders feature roses, Buddleias and Pyracanthas as their backbone and this also provides an effective visual screen between the purely ornamental flower beds and the more utilitarian fruit-growing areas.

Visitor Access, Directions & Contacts

The following is from the Historic Environment Scotland Gardens and Designed Landscapes Inventory. For the most up-to-date Inventory entry, please visit the Historic Environment Scotland website:


Reason for Inclusion

A compact early 19th century landscaped park with picturesque features.

Main Phases of Landscape Development

A compact early 19th century landscaped park with picturesque features

Site History

Caprington Castle occupies the site of an ancient stronghold which belonged to a branch of the Wallace family. A charter of 1385 records the 'Castellum turris fortalicium de Caprington', but of this there is now little evidence. In the 15th century, the estate passed into the Cunninghame family. Sir John Cunninghame of Caprington was created a baronet by King Charles II and was a lawyer of great eminence in his day. The Cunninghame family's influence on shaping the designed landscape is not well recorded until the 18th century. There were probably gardens or yards and possibly a deer park associated with the tower house and late 17th-century wing illustrated on a late 18th-century drawing of Caprington held at the castle.

Most of the present landscape belongs to the late 18th and the 19th centuries, when the castle was remodelled at the end of the 18th century and then again before 1829 by Sir William Cunninghame (1752-1829) who recast the building into its existing castellated format. John Claudius Loudon in the Gardener's Magazine, 1833, noted that 'Caprington Castle has lately received great additions and a number of trees have been transplanted in the grounds according to Sir Henry Steuart's manner; but they are too much dotted instead of being grouped'.

Features & Designations


  • Historic Environment Scotland An Inventory of Gardens and Designed Landscapes in Scotland

Key Information





Principal Building

Domestic / Residential








  • Historic Scotland