Another beautiful day, another beautiful Scottish castle. I had never heard of Culzean castle until a friend from church mentioned visiting it last week and oh my goodness, guys! It was beautiful! I know that I say that about all these castles, but this one was pretty unique, and we didn't even get to see inside.
Now, while I had never heard of the castle, I had seen it: It's on the back of the £5 Scottish notes. Who knew.
The castle has a long history and a unique American connection. Initial building on the castle began in 1777 by the 10th Earl of Cassilis, also known as Lord Kennedy. Yeah, not THAT Kennedy family. They were Irish. Anyhow, the Kennedy family gave the home to the National Trust in 1945 to avoid paying vicious inheritance taxes. Beginning in 1946, Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed at Culzean several times, and eventually the suite of rooms he stayed at became converted into a hotel that can be rented out The castle underwent some refurbishing in 2011 after American millionaire William Lindsey gifted money to the Trust, specifying that nearly $4 million go towards Culzean.
Beyond the house, the gardens at Culzean are incredible, and we only saw part of them. There is a large walled garden, a lengthy walk through the wood to the swan pond (and ice cream), a deer park that also houses alpacas (ones have antlers, the others don't, as I was informed) and apparently there are sea caves beneath the castle that one may be able to tour during the summer. Oh, and since this is a castle, there are also ghosts. Seven to be exact, including a servant girl and a piper.
Of course, there are fantastic views too. Arran and Ailsa Craig (which was also owned by Clan Kennedy AND is home to curling stones, all of which can be yours for the mere price of £1,500,000. Any takers?) can be seen in the distance. Beyond them, lies Ireland of course.
We meandered down to the Swan Pond, saw two swans nesting in the rushes, along with plenty of ducks and other interesting looking birds. As an odd fact, did you know all the swans in the UK are owned by the Queen? Near the Swan Pond is a playground for kids, an ice cream shop, and some extra parking, along with the second entrance to the castle grounds for the locals. There were plenty of locals out the day we visited as well. Dogs and their owners played fetch on the lawn and young mums with pushchairs forged ahead over dirt paths.
We came back up via the road and not the footpath, passing the walled garden along the way. The garden was built on the home of former African slave Scipio Kennedy, who was kidnapped from Guinea around age 6, eventually granted his freedom in 1725, but who kept working for the estate until his death in 1781. Some of his descendants still live in Scotland, according to this article in the Scotsman.
Culzean Castle is owned by the National Trust. I would recommend double checking online for dates when the house is open as all the pamphlets had inaccurate dating, but if nothing else, the gardens are open year round and well worth the visit. Spring is a fantastic time to visit to see much of the garden in early bloom, but the walled garden would be best visited in the summer.