This is Culzean Castle one of Scotland's grand castle built for splendour rather than defence

Next in our guide to the best Scottish castles, we visit one of the most elegant with a simply stunning location. Culzean Castle, located 12 miles (19km) south of Ayr on Scotland’s wild west coast, lays claim to one of the most spectacular in the country. Designed as the ultimate castle accommodation in Scotland, this fine building takes extravagance to a whole new level. 

Not only is this castle packed with finery, its grounds, gardens and children’s adventure playground rank as second to none. Perched on the cliffs that plunge 150ft into sandy coves, Culzean Castle sits on 120 hectares of land including 3 miles of coastline. This is a castle that offers something to everyone. Read on to discover all you need to know about Culzean. 

A bit of history

Unlike most Scottish castles, Culzean doesn’t have deep roots in defence, nor a strategic position. Although in the late 1300s, there was a stone tower house (known as the House of Cove) on the site, it wasn’t until almost four centuries later that Culzean became the magnificent building it is today.

Work took place on improving the tower house at the late 1500s when Sir Thomas Kennedy, heir to one of the oldest clans in Scotland, carried out improvements. But it was the 10th Earl of Cassilllis, David Kennedy, who took on major work to make Culzean possibly the finest stay in a castle in the country.

Architect Robert Adam received the commission and spent almost 20 years between 1772 and 1790 constructing a castle fit to match the Earl’s flamboyance. He built a huge castle – visitors see ten rooms today plus the servants’ quarters – in the Baronial style to act as a status symbol for the Kennedy family.

Development didn’t finish until the late 1800s with the completion of the West Wing over three floors. By this point, Culzean rivalled the finest European palaces as the best  place to stay in a castle in Scotland. The Kennedys donated the castle and grounds to the National Trust of Scotland in 1945. Part of the donation stated that the top floor be presented to General Eisenhower as a gift in recognition for his part in World War II. 

Culzean Castle fast fact:

Neither David Kennedy or Robert Adam lived to see Culzean finished. They both died in 1792, the Earl leaving massive debts after the colossal cost of refurbishment and expansion of the castle. 

Highlights at Culzean Castle

The list of must-sees at Culzean runs very long, both inside and outside the building itself. They include:

  • Blue Drawing Room – don’t miss the elaborate ceiling details that are mirrored in the next-door Long Drawing Room. 
  • Coastal views – looking out over the Firth of Clyde towards the Isle of Arran, the vistas at Culzean are wonderful from many points. However, some of the best inside the castle are from the Round Drawing Room. 
  • Oval staircase – one of Adam’s finest touches in the castle. Feast your eyes on the red carpet and colonnades that accompany you every step of the way upstairs.
  • Flintlock pistols – the castle boasts one of the largest collections of this type of firearm in the UK. 
  • Country park – with over 17 miles of footpaths, the castle grounds will satisfy even the most demanding of walkers. Look out for red deer and llamas in the park, and waterbirds on the Swan Pond on the way.
  • Cliff walk – with views of Arran, these are at their stunning best at sunset. 
  • Children’s play park – kids will be in their element with the tree-top assault course, zip wires, slides, tunnels…

Culzean Castle fast fact:

The walled kitchen garden ranks as one of the largest in Scotland and comes with peach and apricot trees that date back to 1730.

Why visit Culzean

Put Culzean Castle on your must-visit list if you love the opulence that comes with a grand castle. As you tour the magnificent rooms, you get an idea of what staying in a castle must have been like for Scotland’s rich and famous. This is a castle that packs in the detail, both in decor and furniture.

It’s also well worth a visit if you love castles with a view – those at Culzean come into their own towards the end of the day when the sun sets over the islands and ocean. Many of the castle windows offer a front row view as do the grounds. These too are a compelling reason to go to Culzean – few castles in Europe can boast beautiful gardens, a deer park, clifftop walks and their very own coves and beaches.

And finally, Culzean Castle has something for everyone. History enthusiasts will marvel at the Baronial architecture while fans of antiques and historic artefacts will love the interiors. The children in your party will have the time of their lives at the play park and everyone in the family will love the country park.

Culzean Castle fast fact:

Culzean Castle has 40 buildings dotted around its vast park including an ice house. 

Visitor information

Unlike many other Scottish castles, Culzean only opens for part of the year, from late March to late October, between 10.30am and 5pm. The park, however, opens all year round. For full details and information on planning your visit, check out the castle’s website.

Culzean Castle fast fact:

General Eisenhower visited the castle four times, including while he was President of the USA. He reportedly said that Culzean “is a place where I can relax”.

Staying in a castle near Culzean

If a visit to Culzean has given you a taste for staying in a castle, why not rent your very own during your stay in Scotland? In keeping with the Baronial theme, our magnificent pick  echoes Culzean in both location and history.

Up to 12 of you can enjoy the grandeur of vaulted ceilings, stunning stain glass windows and hundreds of years of history. Popular with weddings too, the imposing central tower is all yours along with another section of this castle that has remained in the same family for some 600 years.

There’s no shortage of history here and the glorious Ayrshire countryside in which it resides parallels that of Culzean, which is a short drive away.

Check out this Ayrshire castle rental now and then book yours.

Read more in our castles in Scotland series including:

1. Dunnottar Castle
2. Stirling Castle
3. Eilean Donan Castle
4. Urquhart Castle
5. Balmoral Castle
6. Glamis Castle
7. Crathes Castle
8. Floors Castle
9. 7 reasons to visit Stirling
10. Castles in Scotland – all you need to know
11. 14 Scottish castles with Royal connections
12. Fascinating facts about royal castles

PIN this post:

Next in our guide to the best Scottish castles, we visit one of the most elegant with a simply stunning location. Culzean Castle, located 12 miles (19km) south of Ayr on Scotland's wild west coast, lays claim to one of the most spectacular in the country. Designed as the ultimate castle accommodation in Scotland, this fine building takes extravagance to a whole new level.