Rowallan Castle
Rowallan Castle is an ancient castle located near Kilmaurs, at NS 4347 4242, about 5 kilometres (3.1 mi) north of Kilmarnock, East Ayrshire, Scotland. The castle stands on the banks of the Carmel Water, which may at one time have run much closer to the low eminence upon which the original castle stood.

The history of Rowallan castle

The castle and barony has been owned or held by the medieval Mure family, the (Boyle) Earls of Glasgow, the (Campbell) Earls of Loudoun, the (Corbett) Barons Rowallan, and by Historic Scotland. It is said that the earliest piece of Lute music was written at Rowallan. It is said to have been visited by the unfortunate King James I of Scotland when on his way from Edinburgh to England. The first Mure holder, Sir J. Gilchrist Mure was buried in the Mure Aisle at Kilmarnock.

The original castle is thought to date back into the 13th century. Rowallan was said to be the birth place of Elizabeth Mure (Muir), first wife of Robert, the High Steward, later Robert II of Scotland. Elizabeth's mother was the daughter of Sir John Montgomerie of Polnoon ( Eaglesham). Elizabeth was mother to the Duke of Albany, and the Earls of Carrick, Fife and Buchanan. In 1513 the Rowallan Estate took its present day form. In about 1690 the estate was home to the Campbells of Loudoun, who held it into the 19th century.

Construction and other details
The southern front of the castle was erected about the year 1562 by John Mure of Rowallan and his Lady, Marion Cuninghame, of the family of Cuninghamhead. This information appears as an inscription on a marriage stone or tablet at the top of the wall: - Jon.Mvr. M.Cvgm. Spvsis 1562. The family coat of arms lies to the right. The crest of the Mure's was a Moore's head, which is sculptured near the coat of arms. This is no doubt a rebus or jeu-de-mot on the Mure name, however it is suggested that it is a reference to some feat performed in the crusades against the Saracens. The Royal Arms of Scotland, fully blazoned, are carved over the main entrance, together with the shields of the Cumin family, from whom the Mures claim descent. Over the ornamented gateway is a stone with the date 1616 inscribed upon it. Over the doorway of the porch is an inscription in Hebrew using Hebrew characters which read The Lord is the portion of mine inheritance and of my cup, Psalms. XVI, Verse 5. Such an inscription is so rare as to be unique. Doctor Bonar, moderator of the Free church of Scotland, put much effort into deciphering and translating it. At the front of the castle stood a perfect example of an old loupin-on-stane. A fine well with abundant pure water was present at Rowallan. King William's well is located in the policies of Rowallan. One of the rooms was called Lord Loudoun's sleeping apartment and Adamson records that almost every room throughout the house has its walls covered with the names and addresses of visitors. Some have also left poems or have recorded the details of their visit in verse. Sir John and Sir William Muir took great pleasure in the erection of the various parts of Rowallan, and a record was kept of the portions completed by each. Much of their attention was also taken up with the planting of the castle policies. Part of the castle was known as the 'Womans House' indicating the age when gender separation was the norm for the privileged classes, reflected in the decoration of these apartments and the sewing and other work undertaken by the ladies of the house. In 1691 the Hearth Tax records show that the castle had twenty-two hearths and eighteen other dwellings were associated with the castle and its lands. Edith Rawdon-Hastings, 10th Countess of Loudoun was especially fond of Rowallan and spent considerable sums repairing the castle in the 19th-century. Without her efforts the building would not have survived down to the present day. Row Allan, row! In connection with the rebus mentioned, a tale is told of one Allan of Stewarton who was rowing a Scottish chief off the Ayrshire coast. The weather made a turn for the worse and the chief became anxious. The chief in his fear of the ocean said to Allan, Row, Allan row! Bear me to safety and you will have the rich lands of Carmelside, wuth silver to build yourself a castle. Hill and valley and rivers of fish will be yours .... but just row, Allan, row! Allan won his prize and named the estate 'Rowallan' after his adventure. The same story is told in the form of a poem written by the Rev. George Paxton from Kilmaurs, pastor of a Secession Church from 1789 - 1807.

Covenanting times
Sir William Mure wrote a history of his family and though an ardent covenanter, opposed the execution of Charles I, writing an elegy upon his death. Conventicles were not infrequently held within the mansion, which from its position was anciently called the Craig of Rowallan. For this, he fell under the suspicion of the Government, and on several occasions suffered imprisonment. Part of the old castle is called the 'Auld Kirk' in memory of covenanting days. As stated, Sir William befriended the Covenanters, and as much as possible protected his tenantry from the tyranny of the troopers who scoured the countryside at the period. He was intimate with the Rev. William Guthrie of Fenwick, who preached upon several occasions in the "auld kirk" of the castle. In the 1640s Alasdair Mac Colla had been sent by Montrose to suppress support for the Covenanting cause. Based in Kilmarnock, he plundered the Ayrshire countryside for some days and then demanded financial penalties. Sir William Mure's penalty for preventing further plundering at Rowallan was 1,000 merks; much damage already having been done.


The tree fox of Rowallan
Adamson records that a fox lived in a tree in the old garden at Rowallan. This fox would watch the world go by from its perch and was sufficiently savvy to leave the house keepers chickens alone. One day this fox encountered the local hunt and ran to cover in the tree, to the amazement and consternation of the hunters and hounds. The housekeeper dislodged the poor animal, however it escaped the hunt and was back in its tree the following day as if nothing untoward had happened.

The Marriage tree
Near to the castle, overlooking a chasm through which the Carmel runs, stood a stately 'marriage tree' on the bank known as 'Janet's Kirn', Scots for a 'churn.' Under this tree Dame Jean Mure of Rowallan was married to William Fairlie of Bruntsfield, an estate near Edinburgh. This wedding was part of a well planned elopement, the suitor having brought a minister with him.

Rowallan and a visit from Auld Nick
The stair leading up to the principal door of the castle has a crack that is best seen in wet weather, and tradition has it that this was the rent caused by the Devil himself.

The Box hedge
A great Box hedge was planted at Rowallan castle garden, possibly around 1687, and it was still a magnificent sight circa 1817; by 1847 however it was much decayed.

The Edwardian castle
The present or 'modern' castle dates back to the beginning of the 20th century, though the estate does contain ruins from the 16th century castle. In around 1906 the well known architect Sir Robert Lorimer worked upon the estate.

Charles Rennie Mackintosh
Mackintosh is said to have modelled Scotland Street School in Glasgow upon Rowallan Castle and Falkland Palace.

Building Activity

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