Culzean Castle and the Kennedy Connection

Culzean Castle and its historic connection to the Kennedy family was the fascinating subject of a talk by Bill Rogers to a recent meeting of Largs Probus Club. Since 1602 the Kennedy’s were a powerful and ruthless family in the area and David Kennedy MP, the 10th Earl of Cassilis, engaged architect Robert Adam in 1777 to rebuild their previous castle structure into a fine country house to be the seat of his earldom. Completed in 1792 it incorporates a large drum tower with a circular saloon inside, a grand oval staircase and a suite of well-appointed apartments. 

Bill had been a tour guide at Culzean and took those present on a photographic tour of the building, passing through the imposing Victorian entrance hall to view the decorative armoury of 716 flintlock pistols collected by the 12th Earl in 1811, one of the largest collections in the world. Moving on through the 58 elegant rooms and bustling kitchen, Bill drew attention to several artifacts relating to the castle’s history and referred to the symbolism of many of the paintings, such as hands pointing downwards with a sunset meaning the sitter was close to death or a curtain draped over the right shoulder to identify the person as the rightful heir. He also referred to the myriad of caves under the castle, their links with smuggling and to the many characters who had played a part in the castle’s past.

Bill then took the members to Robert Adam’s masterful centrepiece, with its oval staircase, striking reverse colonnades and grand oil paintings, and on to the Round Drawing Room, with its panoramic views over the Firth of Clyde.

In 1945 and to avoid inheritance tax, the Kennedy family gave the castle and its grounds to the National Trust for Scotland on condition that the apartment at the top of the castle be given to Army General Dwight D. Eisenhower in recognition of his role as Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe during the Second World War. The General first visited Culzean Castle in 1946 and stayed there four times, including once while President of the United States.  Thanks to a gift in the will of American millionaire William Lindsay, who was aware of Eisenhower’s visits to the castle, the castle was refurbished and re-opened in April 2011.

Bill was thanked for his enlightening talk and quality tour photographs and a trip to Culzean flagged up as a future visit. 

Largs Probus Club will next meet in the Willowbank Hotel on Wednesday 3rd April at 10am when Jim Law will speak on his love for Scotland.

Men over the age of 50 who are retired, or nearing retirement, can attend three meetings as a guest before deciding whether to become a Club member. Please use our Contact Form if you wish to attend as a guest, or to enquire about joining.