Dundonald Castle

Kilmarnock, United Kingdom

Dundonald Castle is situated on a hill overlooking the village of Dundonald, between Kilmarnock and Troon. Dundonald Castle is a fortified tower house built for Robert II on his accession to the throne of Scotland in 1371 and it was used as a royal residence by Robert II and his son Robert III.

The present castle stands on land where evidence suggests there was a hill fort. It is thought that a mixture of large timber-built roundhouse and straight-sided structures occupied the interior. There have been three medieval castles present on this site. The first was built by one of the stewards of the king of Scots, most probably Walter, the first steward, who came to Scotland in 1136. There is no surviving evidence of this castle above ground today.

The second castle was built in the late 13th Century by Alexander Stewart, 4th High Steward, this castle was predominantly built of stone. It would have been one of the grandest baronial residences of its time. It was largely destroyed by the Scottish during the Wars of Scottish Independence in the early 14th century. King Robert the Bruce's policy was to slight (demolish) most castles so they could not be used by enemies including much greater castles than Dundonald, such as Edinburgh Castle and Roxburgh Castle. There is little remaining of this castle, however there is a well and a rounded stump of a tower near to the present.

The third castle was built by Robert Stewart, probably to mark his accession to the throne as Robert II in 1371. It was three storeys high.

The top floor above the lofty stone vault was the upper hall – the great hall. It was for the more private use of the king and family. The first floor was the lower of the two halls – the laigh hall. It would have been used for more public activities like feasting and the holding of the baron court. The ground floor was a storage area. It was probably originally subdivided providing cellars for different commodities like wine, ale, foodstuffs and fuel.

The tower house was extended in the late 14th century to add additional private chambers and a prison. The outer courtyard (called more properly the barmkin) was completed and ancillary buildings (stables, bakehouses, brewhouses, smithy, etc.) built against the barmkin wall.

The third castle comprised almost everything you see above ground today, including the tower which dominates the hill.

The castle today

There is a visitor centre at the foot of the hill, which includes a cafe, souvenir shop and an interpretive exhibition. The exhibition outlines the history of the castle and its preceding buildings with detailed models of the earlier castles on the site.

The visitor centre is owned by South Ayrshire Council and the castle is owned by Historic Scotland. Both the castle and the visitor centre are operated by the Friends of Dundonald Castle. The castle was made a scheduled monument in 1920 and the schedule was updated in 2017.

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Founded: 1371
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Alan McVittie (5 months ago)
Received a very friendly welcome from the two ladies in the visitor centre/ cafe. I'm a support worker and had taken one of the people I support to view the castle. We purchased our tickets for the guided tour of the castle. This is the only way to see inside of the building. We had 25 minutes to wait for the tour, so we had warm drinks before it started. As you can imagine, it's a steep incline to the castle, so keep this in mind. We were greeted by our guide and taken around the inside of the castle. Some parts that are usually open to the public were not due to ongoing safety work. Our guide gave us a complete history of the castle, its origins, and owners / occupiers. The tour lasts about 1 hour.
Mark Mywords (6 months ago)
At the moment the castle is undergoing repairs to make it safe for the future but it was still a good tour and the tour guide was knowledgeable and was a good laugh to boot. Nice cafe and gift shop in one place with a small but interesting museum to one side. Great views from the top of the castle over the village. A worth while walk up the steep but winding path.
John Inglis (7 months ago)
Dundonald Castle is a few miles south of Kilmarnock and is well worth a visit. The guide, John, is very knowledgeable and the tour is very interesting. On site there is a nice café with a good selection of reasonably priced food and drinks.
Tara Sanders (7 months ago)
Dundonald Castle is a 14th century hilltop fortified ruin in Scotland, with links to Stewart history. I visited the castle and its visitor centre in June and had a brilliant guided tour - the tour guide knew loads and made the tour really interesting. Lots of interesting things to read and models to look at in the visitor centre. Highly recommended booking in advance and getting there at least 10 minutes in advance. There's a cafe on site but we didn't have time to stop for food and drink. Loos and a shop also on site. What a great place to visit.
Ed Hig (9 months ago)
Castle is a great place to visit. Views are outstanding on a clear day. Walked the smugglers way. Did not try the cafe, but the dogs did use the bowls. Will be back and try the food next time
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