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Wednesday, 22 October 2014

A visit to Ravenstone Castle, Wigtownshire

On Tuesday the 21st of October 2014 I had the pleasure of accompanying the Wigtown Walks and Talks group to Ravenstone Castle in the Machars area of Wigtownshire.
The owners, Steve and Sue Atterton had graciously opened their home to us for the day.
Quite a number of us in the group know Steve and Sue through the Wigtownshire Ramblers since Sue is a regular walker.
We shared cars from Wigtown and after driving down a track for a few hundred yards came to this most impressive gatehouse.

Upon disembarking from their cars, the photographers of the group made a beeline back to the gatehouse to take pictures.

We were to learn later that the gatehouse and arch is relatively new having been constructed in the 1990's by Frank Andrew Renwick, the Baron of Ravenstone.
He used stones from the ruins of the Victorian wing to build the gatehouse in homage to Princess Diana.

On the gatehouse there's a coat of arms, a latin (I assume) inscription "Lat-Be-For-Lat-Be" and a very interesting inscribed square, ''

This is the view of the castle a few yards to the east of the gatehouse.

Once we'd all arrived we were welcomed into the castle by Steve.

We were then directed by Steve to a room on the first floor for introductions.
Right away we could see how much work has been, and is involved in the restoration of the castle.

After introductions, Sue and Steve then gave us a brief outline of the history of the castle and their input into it's restoration. Steve is a stonemason by trade and the majority of the work has been done by themselves.  

We learned that previous incumbents of the castle were MacDowall (McDowall; McDouall; MacDowell), McLelland, Stewart (Earls of Galloway), Lord Borthwick and the Baron of Ravenstone. 
Our hosts have laid out some historical photographs and literature.

This is a picture of Lord Borthwick and family sometime around the 1880's.
(There's a plaque out near Loch Dee to a Dr Robert Donnan Borthwick 1914-1989, a doctor in Dumfries for 33 years. I wonder if he was from this family) 

Here's a passage from Wikipedia.
"On 16 December 1617 Joanni Kennedie junior de Blairquhan and his wife Marie Stewart had "baroniam de Remistoun" & fortalicio and lands of Lochtoun alias Remistoun. This was also known as Ravenstone, Ravinstone and Remeston.[13]

On 26 October 1625 Alexander Macdouell de Machrimoir (Machermore) was heir of his father Petri Macdouell de Machrimoir, to land in "parochia de Glassertoun".

On 14 July 1662 James Stewart, 2nd Earl of Galloway, had a charter no.278 in the Register of the Great Seal of Scotland, vol.XI p. 140, for many lands including the 8 merkland of Bordland of Ravinstoun, with the castle, etc., (Baroniam de Remistoun) the 4 merklands of Bowtoun of Ravinstoun, the 4 merk lands of Grenan in the parish of Glassertoun; and the 4 merk lands of Barledyon, 4 merklands of Culkae, 8 merklands of Doweltoun alias Dowellistoun alias Machir-Stewart (of McDowell of Machermore ?), 4 merklands of Culnog, in the parish of Sorbie.

Ravenston or Castle Stewart, of W. Stewart Esq., is shown on Ainslie's 1782 map as being in the north-west Glasserton area".

I could fill the post with links about the castle, but I'll resist the urge and limit it to these few.

Scotland’s Castles: Rescued, Rebuilt and Reoccupied, 1945 – 2010 by Janet Rose Inglis (to which Sue and Steve contributed)
Gabrielle Margaret Ariana Borthwick by historians Roger Wright and Sally Davis.

I'll also mention that when Sue and Steve bought the property in 2001 from Frank Andrew Renwick, the Baron of Ravenstone (also the author of Scotland, Bloody Scotland), they wondered what they'd let themselves in for. To begin with there was no part of the castle inhabitable and a lot of work was required before they made a space for themselves.

With Steve and Sue on hand to answer any questions we had, we were now allowed to explore the castle as we wished.
Over the years, as well as working long hours, they've attended auctions and sales and accumulated many items suitable for their new baronial home (unfortunately the title didn't come with the property).
With three storeys, an attic and a cellar there's plenty of exploring to be done.  

I will not remember what floor a room is on. Neither will I remember the name of rooms............
.............apart from this one which I believe to be the music room.
There is a lot of antique and beautiful furniture and fittings distributed throughout the house.

I'd thought that this fireplace and hearth might have been some of Steve's work, but he informed me it wasn't.

With us on the tour was my fellow photographer from the Ramblers, Scoop.
She decided the latin inscription read 'mind your head'. 
Don't tell her it's real interpretation is "The beginning of wisdom is fear of the Lord".

Historic Scotland and other 'castle' authorities had to be in on any external alterations, but what they do inside is entirely up to them. 
One stipulation was leaded windows.

I can't quite remember, but I think Sue might have had something to do with Habitat and Terence Conran.
In one ear and out the other with me. 
However the layout of all the rooms has Sue's stamp on them. 

This four poster had a very deep mattress. 
Made me think of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale 'The Princess and the Pea'.

A bathroom adjoins the four poster and me and Scoop had a laugh with the camera.

Another room with interesting curios.

Another en-suite bedroom and a silly 'selfie'.

Here's a 360º panorama of the next bedroom................

..................and on Dermander.'s a lovely room. (If anyone notices, I had to touch up some black lines on the edges )

The lovely lady on the headboard.

Scoop gets my picture on the spiral staircase.
(It must be the way I'm twisted, I only have one chin !)

Aladdin's Cave in the attic..............

....................and in the cellar.

The current ongoing project is in the quarter of the original tower house.
The arches were built during the time of Frank Andrew Renwick, the Baron of Ravenstone.

An enhanced picture showing the original fireplace.

After touring most of the castle we all made a beeline for the kitchen. Sue and Steve had a wonderful array of cake, cookies with tea and coffee on the large circular dining table in the room adjacent to the kitchen. 
It had been a wonderful tour, but it wasn't quite over yet. When Sue suggested a walk to the walled garden almost everyone wanted a look.

It was quite a way through the woods to reach the entrance. The garden is very large with quite a number of apple and pear trees.

Much of it is quite overgrown but Sue has made some impact on one section.

I also overheard Sue telling someone that many shooting parties would gather here in days gone by. Apparently the many discarded whisky bottles were from those times.
Mentioning this to my neighbour, he recalls going shooting there once back in the 70's. 
He remembers hearing that certain farmers would turn up for a days shooting, but would instead end up playing cards, drinking whisky and heading home sozzled.  

Now talking of shooting, I've got permission from Mr David Holdsworth of Textile Innovations to publish the following photographs. Perhaps some senior citizen local readers can remember these days.
As far as I can make out, the first two were from either 1953 or 1956, while the third was from 1960.
All pictures are copyrighted and from the family albums published on the Holdsworth Family History Website.
Shooting at 'Ravenstone' in Wigtownshire, Scotland 
with Peter Fletcher
P. Wickstead, J. Longbottom, 
Alex Brown, Jim Blakeny, etc.

Shooting at 'Ravenstone' in Wigtownshire, Scotland 
with Peter Fletcher
P. Wickstead, J. Longbottom, 
Alex Brown, Jim Blakeny, etc.

Shooting at 'Ravenstone' in Wigtownshire, Scotland 
Michael Fletcher, Keeper, Jimmy B, Murray Findlay, 
Frank Aikens, Jack L, Phillip W, Doc, 
Alex Brown, Derek B
Jan 1960

Returning to the castle, the sky looked a picture through the trees.

Again thanking Sue and Steve the visitors began to leave.

I looked around a bit more as Steve showed me the remains of a horse powered pumping engine for drawing water. The cast iron underfloor drive mechanism and part of the harness bar survive.
When Sue and Steve arrived at Ravenstone, they actually met the man who led the horse.

The northern view.

The ruins of the later additions to the rear.
The Forestry Commission wanted to raise rase or raze (I apologise for my occasional grammatical errors, I should have a proofreader) the whole castle to the ground in 1978.

Our genial hosts Sue and Steve.

and one for the album maybe.
Thanks for a great day Steve and Sue, it was brilliant.


  1. How nice, Jim!!! I thoroughly enjoyed this tour. I love vintage, as I am certain you can tell by some of my blog posts. :) Thanks so much for sharing.

  2. I really hope Sue and Steve like the final image for the 'album', it's really quite lovely.
    I've been back and forth following the links (one wouldn't load) and there's so much information and pictures to absorb!
    Steve and Sue's work in progress is remarkable and what has been achieved so far totally fantastic. Isn't it so pleasing that there are still photographs in existence giving a glimpse into the past of days gone by around the castle and a peek at the once quite ornate balustrades of the front steps.
    The series of black and white photos are in excellent condition and thing I noticed most was how much affection was clearly in abundance for the dogs.
    There's so much more one could say about this post and its subject but I enjoyed it very much and look forward to more Walks and Talks. (It's all 'real' history, not like here :(

  3. Amazing castle. I always admire anyone that takes on such a large project as I have enough trouble keeping five small rooms tidy in my own house where disorder,dust and clutter seems to breed prolifically every few days. Interesting history.

  4. Lovely tour -I really liked the lady in the bed post and I have always loved the princess and the pea story---wish frank and I had done something like this years ago when we had more energy!


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