Castle Kennedy

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Visiting Castle Kennedy today and you would be forgiven for thinking it has nothing to do with the Kennedys at all. In fact the 24 page visitors guide produced by Stair Estates does not mention the Kennedy family once nor even comment on the name. Nor does it even tell how the Stairs came into possession of the site. Matters are hardly any better in the First Statistical Account for the parish of Inch in Wigtonshire (1791-99) - Earl Stair this, Earl Stair that, and again many references to Castle Kennedy without any explanation. A little information is added in the Second Statistical Account of the Parish of Inch, Wigtonshire (1834-45)

"Castle-Kennedy is the most notable place in the parish. The castle has been a large and stately edifice. It was probably built in the reign of James VI. It was the seat of the Earls of Cassillis, who once possessed large estates in Wigtonshire. In the reign of Charles II Castle-Kennedy with the adjacent lands passed to Sir John Dalrymple, younger of Stair, and to that family it has since belonged... On the island near the church the Earl of Cassillis had a small house where he was wont, as Symson* says, 'to retire himself betwixt sermons, having a boat for that purpose.'"

[*Symson - Description of Galloway, 1684].

Sadly the old parochial register for Inch, Wigtonshire only goes back to 1729 so if there were any interesting Kennedy births they won't be found there. Moss (see bibliography on home page) gives the date of the sale to Dalrymple as 1677, apparently by the 7th Earl, to clear some debts. A number of papers amongst the Ailsa Muniments refer to the castle, with a number of letters written from there by the Earl and including a collection of documents relating to the eventual sale in the 1670s. The letters date from 1657 and include a note from the Earl to his chamberlain to pay the gardener seven Scots pounds for alterations to the house. In document GD 135/774 we have this:

Lands of Stair in hands of Sir John Dalrymple. Instrument of resignation by John, Earl of Cassillis in hands of John, Bishop of Galloway of lands commonly called the Inch and fishings and the castle between the lochs called Castle Kennedie [Castle Kennedy], 5 land of Killinpettie, 4 land of Culradie Balzitt in parish of Inch, 40/- land of Innernessane [Innermessan] of old occupied by Alexander Muir in said parish, office of bailiary as it extends to said lands in favour of Sir John Dalrymple younger of Stair and his heirs, following on disposition by said earl to John Lord Bargany and disposition by said Lord Bargany of said lands to said Sir John Dalrymple dated 22 June 1677. 30/3/1678

Most of the documents relating to the sale to Dalrymple are dated around 1677-8 although I have not studied the full text at the Archives.

There is in entry in MacGibbon and Ross's 1889 book 'Castlellated and Domestic Architecture of Scotland' which reads thus:

Vol. 4 p 368 Castle Kennedy, Wigtonshire

'An ivy clad pile standing in the extensive and beautiful grounds of Lochinch, the seat of the Earl of Stair in Wigtonshire and not far from Castle-Kennedy railway station [this station was used from 1861 - 1965, further details here]. From 'Lands and their owners in Galloway' we find that 'the first notice of this property occurs in 1482 when John Lord Kennedy was appointed keeper of the manor place and Loch at Inch'. But the castle belongs to a subsequent period, building in progress but not finished in 1607. The estate passed to the present family in the reign of Charles II and was theirs until 1715 when it was burnt by accident and has remained in a state of ruin'.

Iain Kennedy

May 14th 2006