Alloway and Southern Ayrshire FAMILY HISTORY SOCIETY Robert Burns Cottage, Alloway, Ayr
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Monday, 20 June 2011

11 Jun 2011 - Visit to Rowallan Castle

A group of members met at Dean Castle Visitors Centre, where we were given a cup of tea/coffee and a biscuit by Historic Scotland. We were then transported by minibus to the main entrance to the estate. This leads through a gatehouse built at the beginning of the 20th century and forms an avenue of trees. Our walk up to the castle took 15 minutes and finished with a  walk over a very old stone bridge and into the caste grounds. On arrival our tour guide from Historic Scotland then outlined a brief history of the castle.

The original castle is thought to date back to the 13th Century and had been the home of the Mures of Rowallan family for centuries. However it has since been held by the Earls of Loudoun and eventually in 1950 by Historic Scotland. However it was in the 16th Century that the estate took on its present day form.
The front of the castle has a very imposing appearance, with twin towers either side of the broad stone steps. These lead up to the main gateway of 1661 and into the outer courtyard where we followed our guide. Unfortunately, at this point of our visit, the rain had started to come down.

During 1998 there was an excavation of one of the towers and various archaeological discoveries were on display in one of the rooms, which we all went to have a look at. The oldest find was a  bronze age food vessel dating back some 2000 years BC.

A lot of restoration work has been done by Historic Scotland over the years and this was very evident as we toured through the various rooms inside. All the windows and stonework were in very good condition, which was surprising considering the age of the castle. Parts of the panelling originates from the 17th Century and is still intact and some of the huge fireplaces had been filled in and replaced by smaller ones, although one had been restored to its original size with a huge lintel which was very impressive.

The main gallery has been divided into two chambers by means of a large partition and overhead were the original beams.

From there we went up a very old stone staircase, which had at one time been partitioned off with a panelled screen. This led up to the sleeping quarters. In one of the rooms we were shown a bed recess and twin presses fronted by impressive wood panelling and which occupied one side of the room. (definitely not meant for small people). We also saw very impressive stone seating either side of windows and shutters. Near this room was an area partitioned off with an exposed, original partition wall made using a wattle and daub-like infill on a light timber frame with a lath and plaster finish on both sides.  This is probably one of the few surviving examples of this relatively fragile technique that is apparently much liked by mice.

One other room which we visited was much more modern in its decoration and design, that had been restored using contemporary techniques by Historic Scotland.

Part of the castle we were shown into was known as the “Woman's House” indicating when gender separation was the norm for the privileged classes. We all debated what took place in this area, maybe sewing or embroidery.

Lastly we went into the old kitchen or what was left of it, as part of the roof is no longer there. It was very obvious that the servants had a long way to go to take up the food.

We then had our walk back to the minibus in what could be described as a torrential downpour. However regardless of the weather, everyone was very enthusiastic about the tour.  

One of our visiting members, Ronald McWhirter has produced a slide-show of the visit:

Please note that Ronald has given permission for this to be shown here only, so it should not be copied or published elsewhere without his prior permission.

Barbara Finlay

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