Culzean Castle is undoubtedly one of Scotland's most beautiful buildings and a popular Ayrshire visitor attraction. Although perched dramatically on a cliff top overlooking the Firth of Clyde, it was never intended as a fortress.
Designed by renowned architect Robert Adam for David Kennedy, 10th Earl of Cassillis, it was built as a romantic castle style family home.
Originally commissioned in 1777 to replace a more basic structure, building work was finally completed in 1792. Donated to the National Trust of Scotland by the Kennedy family in 1945, today the magnificent Adam masterpiece attracts visitors from all over the world.
Thanks to the NTS, the 18th century mansion and its interior have been well preserved and it would be unthinkable that such a grand and relatively modern building could ever be allowed to fall to ruin. Yet head a little further east in Ayrshire and you might be surprised to discover that the once equally beautiful younger sister of Culzean has succumbed to that very misfortune.
While Culzean Castle is celebrated as one of Scotland's architectural gems, even featuring on a Scottish £5 note, Robert Adam's other Ayrshire masterpiece is relatively unknown. Dalquharran Castle was also built as a castle style mansion, commissioned by Thomas Kennedy of Dunure who was married to the niece of Robert Adam. Work began in 1785 and incorporated some similar features to nearby Culzean which Adam was still working on at the time.
Like Culzean, Dalquharran was designed as a family home and stayed in possession of the Kennedy family until the 1930s when it was put up for auction. Bought by a Timber Merchant from Troon who subsequently leased it to the Scottish Youth Hostel Association, it was later occupied by the Langside School for the Deaf during WWII which had been evacuated from Glasgow and finally sold to John Stewart, a Produce Merchant from Girvan. Perhaps not surprisingly, he found that the building was too expensive to maintain and under his ownership the current fate of Dalquharran was sealed. In order to avoid paying rates on the building, the lead roof was removed in 1967 so the structure would be classed as uninhabitable. Open to the elements, the interior gradually began to erode and collapse and today the building is pretty much a shell with just a few recognisable interior features remaining.
It was classed as a listed building in 1971 and over the years there have been various plans to redevelop it into a hotel, however for one reason or another the plans have never progressed and Dalquharran Castle still lies abandoned, overgrown and forgotten.
Although similarities with Culzean can still be seen on the facade, it takes a lot of imagination to envisage how grand the interior might once have been. Faded shutters creak in the wind, fireplaces and empty doorways set high in the walls are the only clues left as to where the upper floors of the castle were once located and large chunks of the once impressive grand spiral staircase now lie in broken pieces.
While visitors flock to Culzean, I find it sad that Dalquharran lies just 8 miles away and few people even know of its existence. The two castles may have been conceived by the same hand and started off on a very similar journey but they have ended up at very different destinations.
Due to the dangerous condition of the building, Dalquharran has been fenced off for safety reasons although you can still get close enough to admire the exterior.
Follow me as I search for the best and most original travel experiences in Scotland.