Portencross Castle site has been fortified since the 11th century. The present tower castle is thought to date from the mid-14th century and later. It remained in use until it was unroofed by a great storm in 1739 and gradually became ruinous.

In the castle's earliest days, it was known as 'Arneil' and was held by the de Ross family. After the victory over the English at the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314, King Robert the Bruce gave the estate to Sir Robert Boyd of Kilmarnock a year later. Replacing a small castle on Auld Hill, Portencross castle was rebuilt in the mid- to late-14th century on a rock promontory at the bottom of Auld Hill, overlooking the Firth of Clyde by Boyd's grandson, also named Robert Boyd. It served as the caput of the Barony of Ardneil. From this location, King Robert II probably signed 15 charters dated at Arnele between 1371 and 1390.

Portencross Castle was probably first constructed as a stone-built hall house and there may have been a barmkin protecting the structure. The next phase of building was to add upper storeys and an attic in the late 1400s. Around this time a ground-floor entrance was also added. The Boyds retained ownership of the castle until 1737 and made further alterations, including adding upper attic rooms and extending the spiral staircase to reach them. The local fisherman continued to use the castle after it was unroofed in 1739 and they may have made a number of small alterations.

The castle has an oblong keep that is three storeys high with a garret. The wing, located at one end of the keep is one storey higher. The entire ground floor is vaulted and there are entrances on the ground floor and in the first storey. It has been restored by the Friends of Portencross Castle during the 2010s and is maintained by them as a museum.



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Founded: 14th century
Category: Castles and fortifications in United Kingdom

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User Reviews

kim m (6 months ago)
An unplanned visit that was so interesting. The castle has no entrance fee but is reliant on donations for its upkeep so please try and have more than a couple of pound spare (unlike us unfortunately). Open for 100 days a year across the summer. The keepers/guides were a wealth of information and the views were stunning. Duck on the way up, limbo on the way down ( you'll know when you go ?)
Ross McFadzean (6 months ago)
A stunning walk along a beautiful coastline and dramatic backdrop of the three sisters cliffs. Always worth coming down here at any time of year.
Erica Wishart (7 months ago)
I was very impressed with how lovingly and professionally this wee castle has been restored. The display boards telling its history are really attractive and there are free leaflets you can take away. The views from the top are stunning! Volunteers from the Friends of Portencross Castle are there to welcome you and answer questions. A gem of a place in a beautiful location next to the old harbour and beach walks. Entry is free, donations appreciated.
George Carson (9 months ago)
I hadn't realised the castle was open to the public. Limited days only as staffed by volunteers for free but please give a donation for the upkeep. Very interesting. Fantastic views. Steep, winding stairway to upper levels. Well worth a visit. The kids would love it.
Shelagh Middleton (11 months ago)
I love Portencross. So beautiful on a nice day. Picnic tables & benches too. Win win. ?
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