Kelburn Castle

Kelburn Castle – The Graffiti Castle in Scotland

Kelburn Castle is fairly different to other, more popular castles in Scotland and that shows almost immediately upon setting your sights on this oddball of a castle. While other castles throughout Scotland are known for their grand demeanours, in-depth history, and general ambience, Kelburn Castle is actually known for the quite odd and colourful mural situated on its exterior. Covering Kelburn Castle is a gigantic graffiti mural filled with a large and distinct variation of grand at.

While the graffiti mural can be the only eye-catching thing at first, the history of Kelburn Castle is actually very interesting and while the mural is absolutely amazing, it can draw away from all of the times this castle has lived through. While there may have been times of great sadness within the past, Kelburn Castle has come back better than ever, despite downfalls and setbacks. This castle certainly holds more than what you just see from the outside. Let’s dive into the history of Kelburn Castle.

Graffiti on the side of Kelburn Castle
Kelburn Castle Graffiti. Source: Flickr

The history of Kelburn Castle

On top of all of the already amazing things we have heard about this castle, it is also one of the oldest castles in Scotland and has been continuously occupied by the same family which is simply incredible. The only other castle to be considered for this is Dunvegan Castle which is located in the Isle of Skye. This great graffiti castle is well worth the visit and adding it to your itinerary is definitely a great idea.

Another funny thing to know about Kelburn Castle, also known as Kelburn Estate is the fact that most people in Scotland don’t actually even know that it’s there! Many Scots are quite shocked when they make the find and then they simply cannot get enough of this amazing castle! Kelburn Castle is located within the beautiful Kelburn Country Park in a village known as Fairlie all the way in Western Scotland. Let’s dive into it and see what this seemingly cheerful and vibrant castle in Scotland hides within the walls and what history it has played home to during its time on this earth.

The early history of Kelburn Castle

The lands that Kelburn Castle sits on have belonged to the Boyle family since way back in the 12th century. No one is really aware of when the first stone was actually laid, however, it is said to have been done back in the 13th century and this is somewhat proven because it was there at the time of the Battle of Largs, which was a vicious battle fought between the Scots and the Norwegians in 1263. The first-ever structure built on the land where the castle now stands was a wooden tower which was subsequently replaced in the 1200s with a stone Norman Keep. To this day, small sections of it are still being used.

The 16th and 17th century

It was in the late 16th century that a tower was built to replace an earlier structure that had previously been there. There are rumours that it may incorporate pars of the earlier masonry on the eastern part of the castle. Then, in the 17th century, there are records of stunning orchards and gardens being created at Kelburn Castle.

A castle in Scotland featuring tall walls and turrets
Kelburn Castle before the graffiti project. Source: Creative Commons

In 1703, David Boyle was named as the Earl of Glasgow after being a member of the Parliament of Scotland. He then got to work straight away and began building the new northwest wing of the castle which had been completed by the time 1722 came around. It is said that he essentially doubled the size of the already grand building by adding somewhat of a William-and-Mary style mansion house onto the castle at a very slight angle. All of this was built to the Earl’s instruction by the well-known and adored mason known as Thomson Caldwell.

The later history of Kelburn Castle

In 1880, George Boyle who was the 6th Earl of Glasgow then added the northeast wing of the castle. Funnily enough, the 7th Earl of Glasgow was eventually made the Governor in New Zealand in 1892 and has created a great link between Kelburn Estate and Kelburn over in New Zealand. The majority of his souvenirs still reside at the castle as well as Kelburn Estates Museum.

The Kelburn Castle and Country Centre were opened to the public sometime in the 1970s and part of the area was actually converted into a golf course. Following on from the grand opening of the grounds to the public, the estate buildings and stables were then converted in 1980 to provide a tearoom, shop, and visitor information centre which have all proven to be worthy additions to the castle.

The graffiti project

Graffiti on a caslte wall
A closer look at some of the graffiti on the walls of Kelburn Castle. Source: Flickr

As said above, one of the main drawing points to the castle is the ever so amazing graffiti mural on the exterior of Kelburn Castle. It was in 2007 when experts had told the owners of Kelburn Castle that the concrete facing of the castle would eventually need to be replaced in order to avoid damage to the already rugged stonework. After conversing with his children on the subject, Lord Glasgow then invited four talented Brazilian graffiti artists to paint the walls in a bright and intriguing manner.

Historic Scotland happily agreed and was essentially thrilled to view the finished product, however, their one rule was that the graffiti would have to be removed when the castle was eventually re-harled. The project soon gained great attention and was even featured on the BBC television programme known as The Culture Show. In 2007, it was also featured on another BBC programme known as Crisis at the castle which had gone through all of the documented financial problems that came along with running the castle.

A small setback

No good castle is complete without a small amount of devastation. For Kelburn Castle, that came around in the year 2009 when a fire blazed through as the result of a minor electrical fault. Luckily for everyone involved, it only caused a small amount of damage that was entirely fixable, however, that didn’t stop it from being a devastating event.

It took roughly 25 brave firefighters to battle the fire and they spent more than five hours fighting it. It was extinguished at around 7:20 am and the damage to the top-floor room and its roof were surprisingly minor considering it had been burning for more than five hours.

Things to know about Kelburn Castle: Kelburn Castle Facts

Here are some extra things you should know about the ever so wonderful Kelburn Castle in Scotland. Let’s take a look:

  • Kelburn Castle and Country Centre- To this day, the 10th Earl of Glasgow and all of his family still reside at Kelburn Castle. In fact, it has his decision to open up the estate to the public in the 1970s and at the same time, he decided to transform the grounds and outhouses, play areas, a café, and even a delightful gift shop. He also opened up the castle for tours. Each day, the grounds are open from 10 am-6 pm from Easter time until October. Beware that the hours are shorter throughout winter. At the country centre, there are even outdoor play areas which include the Secret Forest, the Wild, Wild West Saloon, and the Adventure Course.
  • Kelburn Castle Camping- At Kelburn Castle, there are 8 Yurts available for people to hire. They are sat ever so eloquently on the hillside and the views from them are absolutely amazing. There are also toilet, shower, and kitchen facilities available as well as seating throughout the beautiful grounds. Bell tents are also available, and you may also be allowed to bring your own tent or camper van.
  • Kelburn Castle Wedding- Kelburn Castle also acts as an amazing wedding venue offering stunning views over some of the best lands in Scotland. The Estate holds all of the appropriate licenses to host the ceremonies and is well established as one of the nicest venues throughout Scotland to celebrate your marriage. You can find the wedding brochure here. There are several different locations on the grounds and within the castles available for use.

You may enjoy reading about our other castles in Scotland such as Glamis Castle & Kerelaw Castle.

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