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Sunday, 10 July 2011

Dean Castle Country Park July 2011

Thursday the 7th of July 2011,saw me accompanying a fellow rambler to the Dean Castle and Country Park at Kilmarnock.
Built by the Boyd family in 1350 on land given them by Robert the Bruce the castle remained in their family for the next 400 years.The palace was built around 1460.

The 8th Baron Howard de Walden  inherited the castle in 1899.It was abandoned after it had been gutted by fire in 1735.He spent many years restoring the castle and the palace.

His son John Osmael Scott-Ellis, the 9th Lord Howard de Walden, gifted the Castle, 40 acres of land and the collection of arms, armour, tapestries and musical instruments to Kilmarnock and Loudoun District Council in 1975. The District Council purchased an additional 160 acres of land in 1976. The Castle opened as a public museum in 1976, and the Country Park development was formally opened in 1980. Lord de Walden died in 1999 at the age of 86.

Amazingly all this estate and the guided tour of the castle and palace is free.So thank you Kilmarnock council tax payers for allowing us to visit.
It's a day of heavy showers.

After a short walk around the immediate area of the castle we booked for the next tour.

Front view of the castle.

Entrance gate and courtyard

This is the palace.I had to stitch three pictures together to get this shot,hence the distortion.

The lady in the above portrait is apparently an ancestor of our current prime minister.
( Inside the castle, flash photography is not allowed so quite a few of my pictures didn't turn out good).

In the above picture to the left of the knight on horseback is a hands on collection.I put on a chain mail vest,protective gloves,a helmet a shield and I picked up a sword.
I could hardly carry them never mind fight in them.

It's a grand old collection of armour and weapons.

Now we can join the next tour.
Passages in italics I've taken from Wikipedia and other sources.

The first floor is where the Great Hall with its large vaulted ceiling is situated. The Great Hall was mainly used for grand banquets and entertainment for the lord and his guests. Guests staying at the castle would have also slept on the floor of the Great Hall. The Hall also served as a court as the lord would act as a judge passing verdicts and sentences for crimes committed in the surrounding area.

A spiral staircase takes us up a level.

Don't they make a lovely couple

The first floor also has a minstrel's gallery where a group of travelling minstrels would play instruments and act for the Lord and Lady sitting below. Off the minstrel's gallery is the minstrels changing room, where the travelling players would change into their bright costumes. This room would also have been used by the minstrels to sleep in, the reason for them having their own private quarters was that it was feared that many of them would have been carrying disease. Therefore they slept here to stop them passing any ailments on to other guests. The guard room also sits on the first floor. The guard room has the only access to the dungeon in the castle, a small hole in the floor where prisoners were thrown in. A guard would always be present in this room to both guard the dungeon but also the only entrance to the castle, a small door above ground level, which is next to the guard room.

There's a list of the contents of the castle here. Collections
The second floor houses the Solar a large room, used as the private chambers for the Lord and Lady. The Solar could be split into two using a large curtain, one half for Ladies and the other for men. There are two fireplaces in the Solar one on each side for either sex. The Solar also houses a small private chapel. This was used by the Lord and Lady of the castle and a priest who stayed in the castle would deliver mass to the family. A small ladies bowyer is present on this floor also.

This is the small ladies 'Bowyer' mentioned in the previous passage.The guide informed us that it flushed out onto the courtyard below.Watch out for those short showers !.

This passage refers to the lower tapestry
Hanging in the Great Hall of Dean Castle is a tapestry that dates from around 1500.  
This tapestry is on the cusp of the medieval and Renaissance periods and relates 
back to the time of James IV and his wife Margaret Tudor, sister to Henry VIII, who 
received Dean Castle as part of her marriage settlement in 1503.
The tapestry portrays a betrothal scene. 

Now the tour moves over to the Palace.
Not a fire or calling bell,this is to say "We're under attack"

The palace was mainly designed for comfort. On the ground floor of the palace was the kitchen with a large fireplace and oven.

The first floor has the Banqueting Hall and above on the second hall had bedrooms for the family.
In this room there was a lot of stuff and exhibits about the Eglinton Tournament of 1839
That must have been some day.

This room goes back a long way.

After the tour finished we went looking around the grounds.
Jean and Rabbie on 'Mans inhumanity to man'. A memorial by the World Burns Society to the victims of 9/11.

Gorgeous looking fallow deer.There's a few shy fawns which we'll see later.

The Clydesdale goes by the name of Scott.

The park takes up 80 hectares and is split into three zones.The History Zone,the Urban Farm and the Countryside Zone.This was a lovely walk.

We took a look at the Walled Garden which was locked and very untidy looking..
Heal The Earth have been given a grant for a community plan to resurrect it and open it on Sundays for five hours.Good luck to them,but five hours a week ?

The path brought us round to the pond ,small animals and children's play-park,

My fellow rambler was well acquainted with this area having brought parties of schoolchildren over several years.

We'd conversed earlier with one of the junior gardeners who pointed out the best spot to photograph the castle....
....this was the other side of the deer enclosure complete with picnic table.What a great spot.

It was hard to photograph the fawns,they wouldn't stay still long enough.
I did manage to get a couple though.I also tried a bit of filming,but I'm not too impressed with the footage so I wont be posting that.

This is a wonderful place to visit,It's been a great day.  


  1. wonderful to see all the sites you have seen. I always think it odd to see dear fenced in, but i know many lands do this. They walk freely through my land.

  2. Thank you Tammie.
    We too have many free roaming deer in Scotland,but many of the large country house estates still maintain a stock of deer.
    We're nothing like New Zealand though who have 4000 deer farms and are the biggest exporter of venison in the world.

  3. An 80 hectare park with an amazing castle, impressive! I would enjoy walking through such a historic venue!

  4. Hi Michael,I'm sure you'd love it.What amazes me is that it's all a free facility.I guess it's the people of Kilmarnock paying for it's upkeep.


Thanks for all your comments. I may not get to reply to them all, but you may be sure they'll be appreciated.

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