South of Ayr, with views of the beautiful Isle of Arran, sits Culzean Castle and Country Park – a gorgeous attraction with a fascinating history. The first time you set your eyes on Culzean Castle is unforgettable, with its awe-inspiring architecture and prominent gardens that look out of a fantasy movie. The castle and country park are frequently called “Robert Adam’s Masterpiece”, and we can’t help but agree with that proclamation.
Culzean Castle and Country Park is an incredible attraction that anyone visiting Ayrshire should visit, with plenty of activities and points of interest. An afternoon rushes by from beaches, wild woodland play areas, and dramatic architecture and portraiture while exploring this castle on the Ayrshire cliffs.
Look at our complete guide for Culzean Castle and Country Park, which includes its bold history, how to get there, and the major attractions and hidden gems within.
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History of Culzean Castle
Like many castles built in Scotland, Culzean Castle was created after a promotion. The newly appointed 10th Earl of Cassillis requested that Robert Adam refine and build atop a basic structure that stood on the Ayrshire cliffs into a country home that was worthy of an Earl. Little did the Earl know that Robert Adam would create one of the most beautiful castles in Scotland.
Culzean Castle grew into the extravagant home it is today between 1777 and 1792. It added a large drum tower house, a circular saloon with sea views, and a series of immaculate apartments for the many guests that the Earl would entertain. Culzean Castle was a home and the wedding location for Margaret Eyre and Thomas, Viscount Kynnarid – a tradition that continues today.
This castle enjoyed a fairly relaxed participation in Scottish history, without any notable events occurring until 1945, when the Kennedy family gave Culzean Castle to the National Trust of Scotland to maintain the castle and country park and avoid its inheritance tax. One stipulation they specified was that the castle’s top floor was to be given to General Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. The great General was said to have stayed at Culzean Castle at least four times, once when they were Presidents of the United States!
Culzean Country Park today is a spectacular attraction for guests to visit while exploring Ayrshire, attracting over 300,000 visitors each year.
How to Get There
The easiest route to reach Culzean Castle is from Ayr. If you plan to drive to Culzean Castle, head south from Ayr along the B7024 and make a left along the A719. If you’re travelling from further away, like Glasgow, start driving along the M77 and A77 until you reach Ayr.
Those looking to travel using public transportation instead, you can take a Scotrail from Glasgow to Ayr, then to Girvan. From Girvan, you can take a bus to Culzean Castle.
Attractions at Culzean Castle
The National Trust for Scotland has kept the Culzean Castle in perfect condition, making it one of the best attractions visitors can look forward to while exploring South Ayrshire. The clockwork court is an adventurer’s dream, from the adventure playground to the sheer coastline the castle stands on.
Here are the top attractions that you should be keeping an eye out for while at Culzean Castle.
Explore Culzean’s Country Park
Before we talk about the beautiful interior of Culzean Castle, let’s first cover the wealth of hidden gems that are dotted around the Country Park that surrounds it. Culzean’s precarious placement on the edge of sheer Ayrshire cliffs may strike fear in visitors, but don’t let that fear stop you from enjoying gorgeous views out to Culzean Bay and beyond. You may even see the distant Isle of Arran, another famed tourist hotspot.
The Country Park is a haven for exploration, with guests able to wander the sandy coastline dotted with birds and shells or run wild amongst the woodlands surrounding Cuzlean. You can imagine David Kennedy and the Kennedy family’s freedom on these premises. A little closer to the castle and country house, flamboyant formal gardens await!
Walk through a walled garden with palm trees, lavender, and other perfume plants with refreshing aromas. As you navigate the beautiful gardens, you may come across the fruit-filled glasshouses that hold delectable fruits for the visitor centre and tea rooms.
Finally, within the parkland of Culzean Castle is a stunning swan pond home to several swans who’ve come to spend their winters in a warmer climate. Moreover, there is also a deer park nearby where guests can enjoy watching and interacting with the red deer of South Ayrshire.
Ascend Robert Adam’s Oval Staircase
Culzean Castle is often considered Robert Adam’s masterpiece, and the interior is the pinnacle of that statement. Some of the highlights you need to look out for are the famous Robert Adam Oval Staircase, which serves as the sizeable dramatic centrepiece of the castle. The Oval Staircase ascends the centre of the country home, with a beautiful red carpet that flies up the staircase.
Two lamps on either side cast a warm glow over the staircase. The castle also holds several beautiful rooms, including a blue drawing room to enjoy stunning views of the country park and more. The round drawing room is where the Kennedy Family gave impressive banquets and hosted parties with other royal individuals.
If you book one of the exclusive packages that lets you stay at Culzean Castle, you should look into the special guided tour throughout the
See Culzean Castle’s Flintlock Pistols
A unique detail that eludes many while exploring the beautiful Culzean Castle is the abundance of weapons and armour. Specifically, Culzean Castle has 716 used flintlock pistols adorned on their wall. Archibald Kennedy, 1st Marquess of Ailsa Craig, bought many pistols.
In addition to pistols, you can also see hundreds of swords and other melee weapons that have been added to the collection. Many of the weapons and firearms in this fine collection have been used in war, specifically from the Napoleonic War, the Jacobite Period in Scotland, and even the American Revolutionary War.
Let your Children Play at the Adventure Cove Playground
The Adventure Cove playground is one of the premier attractions that families can enjoy while visiting Culzean Castle. The Adventure Cove lets your children let their imaginations run wild as they crawl across nets, slides, tree houses and many more.
The Adventure Cove Playground mirrors the popular attractions at Culzean Castle, with attractions like the Cats Gate, the Orangery, and the Powder House. In addition to an Adventure Cove, children can also look forward to the Wild Woodland Play Areas, which take children through the treetops on an adventure they’ll never forget.
The Adventure Cove and the Wild Woodland Play area are open at 10:00. Enjoy a moment of respite and tucker out your kids before you carry on to your next attraction when visiting this fun attraction.
See the Ice House & Gas House
Before the invention of refrigerators, ice houses were the most common way to store winter ice from lakes over the spring, summer, and even autumn months. These innovative structures used a mixture of design and packed straw to insulate the area to the point where the ice house stops the ice from melting.
While exploring the areas around the west coast of Ayrshire, you may come across this ice house covered in vines, leaves, and overgrowth. The entrance and doorway are open for visitors, and as you enter, you can immediately feel the temperature drop.
Another historical attraction and hidden gem near Culzean Castle is the Culzean Gas House, a relic from when towns relied on coal gas for public infrastructure. The gas house contains the coal dispensaries that converted the coal into gas and the gas manager’s humble home nearby. Adding the Gas House as part of your guided tour is an excellent way to learn about how the Scottish people of Culzean lived in a bygone time.
Keep an Eye Out For Filming Locations
Culzean Castle has been the site for many major motion picture films, as you’d expect for such a beautiful castle. Movie lovers should watch for critical locations at Culzean Castle, Castle Gardens, and the surrounding Ayrshire cliffs.
Fans of Nicholas Cage will be happy to know that a few scenes were shot at Culzean Castle for The Wicker Man – as the castle for Lord Summerisle (played by the equally notable Christopher Lee) — the dramatic and sheer coastline grants Culzean Castle the ideal place for filming a dramatic scene.
A few documentaries have been recorded at Culzean Castle, like “Queen” and investigations into Culzean Castle’s more haunted history with shows like “Most Haunted”. If you experience a sense of deja vu while on your tour through the dining room or the fountain court, pull out your phone – you may remember a scene from a movie!
Stay a Night at Cuzlean Castle
That’s right; this illustrious and gorgeous castle could be your accommodation for a night or two! The Eisenhower Apartment at Culzean Castle is a beautiful house-sized hotel on the second floor. You can enjoy stunning panoramic views over Culzean Bay with the distant peaks of the Isle of Arran mountains.
Accommodation at Culzean Castle is filled with unique experiences you’ll take back home, including riding up to your lodgings in a 1920s elevator. Once you arrive, you can settle into the six expansive rooms, a circular drawing room, and a dining room from which the sandy coastline is a glance away.
Your booking will include breakfast and access to amenities like Wi-Fi, access to the bar/lounge, and a parking space. Culzean Castle is one of Scotland’s most unique and exclusive accommodations, so don’t miss to take advantage of when traversing the Ayrshire coast.
Try Scottish Treats from the Local Cafe
Culzean Castle has a home farm shop and kitchen committed to serving the best local treats to snack on while walking around the country park or the rest of Ayrshire. The Home Farm Kitchen is the best place for a meal, with delicious offerings including finger sandwiches, hearty soups, and scones – all washed down with a coffee brew.
There’s nothing quite like a stop at the Home Farm Kitchen at Culzean Castle, especially with the range of fruit (occasionally picked from the fruit-filled glasshouse), dried meats, cheeses, and whiskies and gins.
Make sure to leave Culzean Castle with a quick bite to eat at one of the best local cafes in Ayrshire.
Pick up a Scottish Novel at the Book Shop
While treating yourself to a selection of scones, why not pop by the Second Hand Bookshop at Culzean? This cosy little nook oozes the warm bookstore atmosphere, making you want to curl up and get lost in a novel. The Book Shop has a unique collection of second-hand books from all over the work, with several Scottish books hidden among the selection.
Whether planning to peruse a book you’re looking for at a discounted price or donate a novel you’ve just finished, this Farm Book Shop is always happy to have visitors. Don’t hesitate to pick up your next page-turner when stopping by Culzean Castle.
Enjoy a Beach Day at Culzean Beach
Head south along the Ayrshire coast, and you’ll eventually reach the grounds of the Swan Pond, home to beautiful bird life. But travel along with the stream, and you’ll find yourself hearing the sounds of waves crashing against rock and the crips sand underneath your feet. Culzean Beach is a magical part of Culzean Castle, secluded by the sheer cliffs that hold the castle aloft.
There’s nothing like a beach day when the summer sun shines. Children can race along the soft sands, explore small caves from the water-carved stone, and go rock pooling during low tide.
Indulge in an Aviary Ice Cream Parlour
Culzean Castle is the perfect summertime attraction, with the gardens and surrounding activities doing best during a day when the sun is shining, and there’s no rain cloud in sight. And when the where is blissful, there’s nothing better than enjoying an ice cream from Aviary Ice Cream Parlour in Culzean.
Aviary boasts delectable flavours of ice cream to enjoy with your friends and family as you explore the nearby Swan Pond.