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Greenan Castle





greenan castleDramatically perched on a sheer coastal cliff south west of Ayr is the lonely ruins of Greenan Tower.


Built in 1603 by John Kennedy of Baltersan on the site of an earlier castle raised by the Davidson family, though nothing remains of this castle.


The oblong plan Kennedy Keep capped by roofed bartizans also had a lean-to Hall-house and 'Barmkin' wall gatehouse with ditch added after 1603. But these remain as a few grassy rubble mounds. Interestingly much further inland is a second ditch which must have protected the unusually large castle-town or 'Castleton' which sprang up beside such Keeps. This may relate to the Davidson castle, traditionally surrounded by a wooden palisade and likely replaced by a stone wall during the time of the Kennedies.


So Greenan wasn't as lonely as it first appears since the castle-town would have be jammed packed full of wood n' wattle thatched roofed dwellings with storage barns, stables, barracks, brew houses and shelters for livestock. Providing accommodation of over 100 residents and their animals separate from John Kennedy and his immediate household within the Keep itself. Likely Greenan was not only a centre of domestic and military interest but commercial because of it's position beside the sea where merchant ships regularly passed en route to Ayr to trade various wares.  Andrew Spratt February 2001

greenan castleThe lands of Greenan were forfeited by John, Earl of Ross and Lord of the Isles in 1476 for treason against James III). In 1493 James IV granted the Lands of Greenan to William Douglas, son of Archibald, Earl of Angus.

Beside the tower are traces of a walled courtyard and outbuildings - probably stables and a kitchen block as the small tower has no kitchen within its walls. In this courtyard on the morning of 12 May 1602, Sir Thomas Kennedy of Culzean and his servant, Lancelot Kennedy, mounted their horses to ride to Edinburgh, having spent the night before with Thomas's half-brother, John Kennedy of Baltersan. Just a few miles away in the woods of St Leonards (now a suburb of Ayr), they were ambushed by Thomas Kennedy of Drummurchie, Thomas Kennedy, brother to the Laird of Bargany, Walter Muir of Cloncaird, Thomas M'Alexander, Thomas Wallace, a boy called Gilbert Ramsay and a borderer, Williame Irrwing. Sir Thomas was murdered in retaliation for the death of the young Laird of Bargany in December, 1601 at the Battle of Brockloch, near Maybole. Years later, the Muirs of Auchindrain (father and son) were executed for their "art and part" in this murder. The story inspired Sir Walter Scott to write a short play, "An Ayrshire Tragedy".

About a mile away is a large stone said to mark the spot where the Picts and Scots signed a peace treaty. Close to nearby Maybole is the ruin of Dunure Castle and the ruin of Baltersan tower house.

















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Last modified: Monday, 25 March 2024