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Greenan Castle

Castle (Medieval), Earthwork (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Site Name Greenan Castle

Classification Castle (Medieval), Earthwork (Period Unassigned), Tower House (Medieval)

Canmore ID 41588

Site Number NS31NW 1

NGR NS 31173 19324

Datum OSGB36 - NGR


Ordnance Survey licence number 100057073. All rights reserved.
Canmore Disclaimer. © Copyright and database right 2019.

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Administrative Areas

  • Council South Ayrshire
  • Parish Maybole
  • Former Region Strathclyde
  • Former District Kyle And Carrick
  • Former County Ayrshire

Archaeology Notes

NS31NW 1 31173 19324

Greenan Castle [NR]

(remains of) [NAT]

OS 1:10,000 map, 1981.

See also:

NS31NW 26 NS c. 311 193 Salt Pans

NS31NW 27 NS 3122 1927 Fort

NS31NW 146 NS c. 312 193 Indeterminate Remains (on foreshore)


Architect: John Murdoch, Arch. 1877. Fueing plan of part of the lands of Greenan, the property of the Marquis of Ailsa.

Plans: at Darley Hay Partnership, Ayr.

(Undated) information in NMRS.

(NS 3117 1931) Greenan Castle (NR) (remains of) Greenan Castle is a simple oblong tower, said to have been erected by John Kennedy of Baltersan in 1603 (the initials J K and 1603 appear near the doorway). However, there was a previous fortalice on the site and much of the present work appears to pre-date the early 17th century.

It measures 35ft by 28ft over walls which rise four storeys to end in roofless angle-turrets at three corners, the fourth having been occupied by the caphouse and stair-head at the NW angle, now much broken-down. Part of the curtain walling remains of the S side of a courtyard which lay E of the tower. A deep ditch protects the approach from the landward (SE) side; the other sides are defended by cliffs. There has been a plinth or basement course around the sea- ward sides of the tower. The entrance, at basement level, is now built up; there has been a first-floor entrance, no doubt reached by a removable timber stair. The basement is vaulted.

Greenan was owned by the Davidson family in the 15th century, and passed to the Kennedies in 1588. The 'Castell of the Grenand' is noted by Abercrummie (Macfarlane 1907) as 'a high house...with some lower new work lately added to it but never finished'.

D MacGibbon and T Ross 1889; N Tranter 1970

Greenan Castle is generally as described. It is built of large, uneven blocks of stone and the remains are in a good condition. There are only slight remains of the courtyard wall, maximum height 0.8m, width 0.6m. This wall does not appear to be contemporary with the castle. Two ditches cut across the peninsula, 40.0m and 85.0m respectively, SE of the castle. The first ditch, very broad, is some 3.0m deep, but the second is much better defined with its scarp about 3.0m high and the counter- scarp some 1.5 m high.

Surveyed at 1:2500 (by OS (JD) 15 December 1955).

Visited by OS (WDJ) 16 November 1965

Greenan Castle is as described. The remark of an earlier pre-castle structure is emphasised by the motte-and-bailey style of the earthwork defences, the present castle occupying the 'motte' area. (See also NS31NW 27).

Revised at 1:2500.

Visited by OS (JRL) 1 October 1980

Charter evidence indicates that Roger de Scalebroc held a castle at Greenan in the 1190s. (At this period, the castle would presumably have been of motte and bailey type).

G W S Barrow 1980

Greenan Castle is situated on a coastal promontory 180m N of Greenan farmsteading and comprises a tower-house standing within the inner defences of an earlier earthwork castle (see also NS31NW 27). A ditch (23m broad and 2m deep) cuts off an area at the head of the promontory measuring 28m by 16m, whilst on the S a bailey measuring 70m by 26m is protected by an outer ditch (13.7m broad and 3m deep). The tower is oblong on plan (10.05m by 8.4m overall), three storeys and a garret in height, and has a vaulted basement, crow-stepped gables and corbel led angle- rounds. The end-wall, on the NE, rises from a chamfered base-plinth; the entrance is at ground level and the lintel bears the date 1607 and the initials J K (John Kennedy of Baltersan). A mortared rubble wall (12.6m long, 1.3m thick and 3.1m high), which extends along the crest of the promontory on the SW side, may be part of an earlier building. In the 1190s Roger de Scalebroc held a castle at Greenan, and during the 16th century the estate belonged to the Davidsons; a tower is on record in 1576.

F Grose 1789-91; Retours; D MacGibbon and T Ross 1896-7; W Macfarlane 1906-8; R Bryden 1910; W J Dillon 1954; N Tranter 1970; W S Barrow 1980; G Stell 1985; RCAHMS 1985, visited (IMS) February 1985


Field Visit (8 September 1942)

This site was included within the RCAHMS Emergency Survey (1942-3), an unpublished rescue project. Site descriptions, organised by county, vary from short notes to lengthy and full descriptions and are available to view online with contemporary sketches and photographs. The original typescripts, manuscripts, notebooks and photographs can also be consulted in the RCAHMS Search Room.

Information from RCAHMS (GFG) 10 December 2014.

Archaeological Evaluation (1998)

NS 311 193 An archaeological evaluation consisting of a desk assessment and trial trenching was carried out at the Lands of Greenan in advance of the proposed development of a golf course. The Scheduled Greenan Castle was outwith the development area but was still a dominant feature within the landscape. Earthworks in the vicinity of the Scheduled area proved to be natural features. Trial trenching throughout the development area of features identified from aerial photographs proved that they were natural, but archaeological activity dating from the prehistoric period was apparent in a number of areas. A visual inspection of the ruins of Greenan House established that no definite earlier remains could be identified. A number of artefacts were recovered from the trial trenching and informal fieldwalking, varying from prehistoric lithics to WWII gun cartridges.

Sponsor: South Ayrshire Council.

B Simpson 1998.


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