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Publication Account

Date 1985

Event ID 1016558

Category Descriptive Accounts

Type Publication Account


Culzean (pronounced Culain) is one of Scotland's greatest country houses and is renowned for its Adam interiors, magnificenrgardens and Country Park. Formerly the principal seat of the Kennedy family, it was gifted to the National Trust for Scotland in 1945. Since then the house has been extensively restored both internally and externally; in 1969, the policies were created a Country Park with the Home Farm subsequently converted into a Park Centre containing an exhibition hall, restaurant, shop and a ranger office which provides guided walks through the park.

Until the mid 18th century Culzean was a simple late medieval tower-house, but from the 1760s to the 1780s the 9th and 10th Earls of Cassillis carried out a series of alterations which transformed the castle and the surrounding policies. The 9th Earl extended the accommodation, but the major work began in 1777 when the 10th Earl commissioned Robert Adam to remodel the house. Adam not only redesigned the building but was also responsible for the whole of the interior decoration, including much of the furniture and fittings. Since the National Trust took over the castle the Adam plasterwork and colour schemes have been faithfully restored, and Culzean is now a showpiece for Adam's work in Scotland. Building at the castle did not come to an end with Adam, and the growing demands for space by the family of the 14th Earl (the 3rd Marquis of Ailsa, 1848- 1938) led to the reconstruction of the West Wing in 1879.

Surrounding the house there is a series of gardens set within the 565 acres of policies bequeathed by the 5th Marquis. References to 'pretty gardens .... with excellent terraces' go back to the 1690s, and these doubtless formed the basis for the present formal garden known as the Fountain Court, to the south of the house. Specialised buildings such as the flamboyant Gothic Camellia House and the Orangery were added to cater for exotic plants, and on a more mundane level the large walled kitchen garden was built to provide fruit and vegetables for the house. Around the more formal sections of tl1e gardens, there are wilder areas containing specimen trees, shrubs and a lake (the Swan Pond) for waterfowl.

Besides working on the house, Robert Adam also designed the Home Farm (1777); this unusual range of buildings is set around a courtyard which is entered through an arched gateway. These have been restored and now form the visitor centre for tl1e Country Park; among the facilities is an exhibition hall which displays items relating to the house and estate, as well as explaining the agricultural improvements that were introduced to Ayrshire in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Information from ‘Exploring Scotland’s Heritage: The Clyde Estuary and Central Region’, (1985).

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