Eglinton Castle 1235

Kilwinning, Scotland

Brief Description

The River Lugton meanders through the parkland at Eglinton Country Park, which features the ruined tower of the Castle. The designed landscape today is based on an early 19th-century design, part of which survived from a previous formal layout. Twentieth-century developments include a rock garden, a riverside walk and new planting in the early-19th-century formal garden layout.

History

The estate was home to the Earls of Eglinton and Winton for 600 years. A map of 1750 shows a very extensive area of parkland at Eglinton laid out in a radiating formal plan with an encircling avenue. Only part of this layout survived a century later but 19th-century descriptions mention abundant planting and venerable trees. The house was demolished in 1973 and part of the estate has been subject to development. The remainder was designated a Country Park in the late-1980s.

Visitor Facilities

Eglinton Country Park is open all year.

Detailed Description

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:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Location and Setting

Eglinton Castle lies about 3 miles (5km) from the Ayrshire coast just north of Irvine and east of Kilwinning. The town of Irvine has encroached into the former extent of the estate and the A78(T) has cut through its southern half isolating the lodges from the park. The surrounding landscape is extremely flat and this limits views from within the estate and also those from outside.

The Castle is set in a loop of the Lugton Water, a tributary of the River Garnock. The Lugton Water meanders through the parkland from the north to the east and then across to the west of the estate. The designed landscape today is bounded to the south by the A78(T), to the north by the B785, and to the west and east by minor roads. The major change to the extent of the designed landscape is the fragmentation caused by the new A78. There are 833 acres (337ha) of designed landscape today.

Landscape Components

Architectural Features

The ruined castle is listed C(S). The Tournament Bridge by David Hamilton which has lost its original Gothic parapet is listed B. The stables built around 1800 are also listed B; the stable court has been converted into a factory, but the frontage has been preserved. Other listed buildings within the park (some today divorced from it) are the Ice House, C, the Belvedere Gates, C, the Kilwinning Gates, B, the Doocot into Home Farm, B, the Garden Cottage 1798, B, the walled kitchen gardens and derelict gazebos, C(S), and the Park Bridge, B. There is some ornamentation in the formal garden, but this has been vandalised.

Parkland

In 1850 the parkland was well sheltered by plantations and strips of shelter planting. The parks were full of individual parkland trees, and pictures from that era would suggest that these mature trees were remnants of the former pre- 1800 design. Much of this woodland has since disappeared, but in 1885 Millar gave the following description: 'the policies and gardens are the loveliest in that district of Scotland. They extend to 1346 acres, of which 624 acres are grassy glades, 680 acres are plantation, 12 acres are gardens and 60 acres are roads. Within the stone wall surrounding the park is a drive of six miles and another of two miles in length which reminds the visitor of Versailles.' There was a tennis court on the terrace to the west of the Castle, a Racquet Court in the offices (now used for storage), a fish pond in the Deer Park and 3 curling ponds to the north-west of the estate. By the 2nd edition OS map of 1910 the park layout remained the same and the main additions to it were coal pit shafts. Today some older trees remain, but most are of about 100 years old or less. Some new planting has been put in, eg the lime avenues.

Woodland

The surviving plantations are of about 100 years old and are of mixed deciduous species.

The Gardens

The layout of the 1800 formal garden remains similar, although it has been replanted. A new rock garden has been developed to the west of this area. To the east a riverside path extends past the Tournament Bridge up to the Castle and is lined in part with Rhododendrons. There are some old yew trees near the Tournament Bridge.

Walled Garden

There was a very extensive area of kitchen garden at Eglinton. While the main garden walls remain, some walls appear to have been lost. The garden is no longer in use as a kitchen garden.

Features
  • Ruin
  • Description: The ruined tower of the Castle.
Ornamental Bridge, Icehouse, Riverside Walk
Access & Directions

Access Contact Details

Eglinton Country Park is open all year.

Directions

Eglinton Country Park is situated between Kilwinning and Irwine.
History

Detailed History

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:

http://portal.historic-scotland.gov.uk/hes/web/f?p=PORTAL:DESIGNATIONS:0

Reason for Inclusion

The parkland landscape and architectural features make an important contribution to the surrounding scenery. The designed landscape has a rich history in association with the Eglinton family.

Site History

General Roy's map of 1750 shows a very extensive area of parkland at Eglinton laid out in an elaborate, radiating formal plan. By the 1st edition OS map in 1850 the only remnants of the early formal design were the rides in the south- west area of the estate, through Meadow Plantation and Crow Wood. This layout, possibly dating from 1801, when the Castle was rebuilt, is the basis for the designed landscape today although some elements have been lost.

The Eglinton family lived at Eglinton for many generations. Earliest records are of Elgin, Lord Elintoun, who lived in the reign of Malcolm of Scotland (1057-1099). In 1205 the name of Rudolphus of Elintoun appears. In 1361, Elizabeth, the daughter of Sir Hew de Eglintoun married Sir John Montgomerie of Eagleshame, a Norman family and they and their successors lived in Eglinton. In 1388 Sir John Montgomerie earned fame and fortune, and the niece of Robert II for his bride, by capturing Henry Percy at the battle of Otterburn; his ransom paid for the castle of Polnoon at Eaglesham. Sir John's grandson, Sir Alexander, (1429-1470) was raised by James II to the title of Lord Montgomerie for his work in the King's service, and his great- grandson Hugh was awarded an Earldom in 1508. He took the title of the Earl of Eglinton also becoming the Baillie of Cunningham, much to the fury of the Earl of Glencairn's Cunningham family with whom a long feud ensued; Eglinton Castle was burned down in 1526 and the 4th Earl, Hugh, was murdered in 1586.

A new castle was built and the estate was described in Thomas Pent's survey of 1608 as 'well planted and beautified with gardens, orchards and parks'. A famous beauty, Susannah, daughter of Sir Archibald Kennedy of Culzean married the 9th Earl, and the 10th Earl became famous for his agricultural improvements. The 11th Earl married Lilian Montgomerie of Skelmorlie, an heiress, and their son, Hugo, rebuilt Eglinton Castle on the site of the previous house. He also rebuilt the mansion at Coilsfield, and had the harbour at Ardrossan constructed.

The architect for the new castle was John Paterson, although plans were also submitted by John Baxter in 1775 (and his designs for the lodges accepted). John Paterson followed up his work with a court action against the Earl in 1823 for non- payment of his accounts between 1797-1806. Millar refers to the grounds being landscaped by Tweedie by 1801 but this has been neither substantiated nor refuted by the discovery of any plans. Loudon in 1824 comments 'the trees of the park are large, of picturesque form and much admired. The kitchen garden is one of the best in the country'. An article in 1833 in the Gardeners' Magazine makes similar remarks and comments on the 'many hundred feet of hot houses'; however, it also notes that the 'grounds are not kept up as they ought to be'.

The 13th Earl staged the celebrated Tournament in 1839, an imitation of medieval tournaments. It was staged on a jousting area four acres in extent, across the river from the Castle, and for this event the Tournament Bridge was built. Between 80,000 and 200,000 visitors arrived from all over Britain and the Continent, and one of the more famous participants was Prince Louis Napoleon Bonaparte. Two temporary saloons of 250' long were constructed for the banquet and the ball, and everyone wore costumes of the 14th & 15th century. Apparently it rained non-stop for the first two days of the Tournament and the event is reputed to have cost over #40,000 in 1839. The 13th Earl also took political office and in 1852 and 1858 he was appointed as Lord Lieutenant of Ireland. The 14th Earl was famous more for his horse racing and breeding.

By 1927 the family fortunes had altered so drastically that the family moved out of Eglinton and had the roof removed to avoid rate liability. A proposal for the conversion of the stables to a house in 1930 was never implemented. In 1940 the Castle was used by the army for gun practice and by the end of the World War II it was a ruin.

In 1953 Mr R. Clement Wilson approached Ayr County Council in his search for a suitable site in his native Ayrshire to open an extension of his Irish food manufacturing industry (Kennomeat and Kattomeat). He was hoping to find a historical site to convert into a factory for human food production, and the stables at Eglinton, though dilapidated, were sound and suitable for his purpose. The stable- block was converted into a factory and the grounds were opened to the public. In 1965 Mr Wilson established the Clement Wilson Foundation Ltd for the improvement of the environment. Part of the Castle was demolished and the rest was made safe. One of the 70' peripheral towers has been saved and this enables panoramic views over the surrounding countryside. In 1978 the park was gifted to Irvine Development Corporation as a public recreational resource.

Associated People

People associated to Eglinton Castle

Contact
References

References

Contributors

  • Historic Scotland